FAQ for Speech and Debate

How do I join the team?
Any full time undergraduate student enrolled at the university is welcome to join the team. While most of our students come to us having competed in high school forensics, previous experience is not required. Over the years we have had students without high school experience who went on to become national finalist or win national championships. Students of all ability and experience levels are welcome. To join please contact Dr. Aaron Duncan at aduncan3@unl.edu or feel free to drop by our team room. The best time to join is at the start of the school year because our season kicks off in late September.

What events does UNL participate in?
We currently participate in 11 individual speech events and Lincoln Douglas Debate (college LD is a single person policy form of debate). There are many similarities but also important differences between college and high school speech and debate. For more information about college speech and debate please see the rules for each available here on our website.

How prominent nationally is the speech & debate program at UNL?
UNL has a rich tradition of success in intercollegiate speech and debate dating back to 1871. The team has had seven individual national champions since 2000 in four different events. The team has finished among the top 20 teams in the nation every year since 1997 and in the top 10 in the nation every year since 2007.

How many students participate on the UNL Speech & Debate Team?
The number of students on the team varies from year to year about generally our numbers are between 30-35 students.

Is high school experience a requirement for participation?
No, while high school experience can be helpful it is not required. All we require is a strong work ethic and a willingness to try new things and have new experiences.

How much time does it take to participate in Speech & Debate?
Your time commitment is based on your personal goals. Our coaching staff will work with you at the beginning of each year to identify your personal goals. After discussing your goals we will work together to find a plan that helps you achieve them. The amount of time a student spends on team will vary depending on the student’s motivation, and level of interest. In addition to attending the squad meetings, we expect students to coach each of their speech events a minimum of at least 30 minutes each week. Debaters spend an equivalents amount of time conducting research and participate in practice rounds.

How many tournaments can I expect to attend each year?
The amount and type of travel is determined jointly by the individuals on the team and the coaching staff. Students are not asked to travel at times that they prefer not to travel. The coaches make decisions about travel based upon student interest and level of preparedness. While our speech travel schedule contains roughly 8 travel dates each semester we ask students to attempt to attend only four of those tournaments. Our debate team travels five times a semester and we ask students to attempt to travel to three of those tournaments.

How many classes are missed for tournament travel?
Participation on the speech generally means not having to miss any classes in the fall. In the spring travel to our national tournament does require students to miss one week of classes. Members of the debate team occasionally will miss a day or two of class for travel for far away tournaments and will also miss a week of school for nationals in the spring, but otherwise we attempt to miss as few classes as possible.

Can I participate in other activities while being on the speech and debate team?
Absolutely, while being on the team does require a significant time commitment, students are encouraged to participate in other activities that will provide them with a well-rounded, broad-based college education.

Is it going to cost me money to be on the team?
Absolutely not! Because of the generous support of our university, UNL will provide you with the majority of your supplies, and pay for all of your travel expenses including housing and a small stipend for meal money. The only expenses students encounter would be the cost of their wardrobe and any supplemental meal money they require. Our philosophy is that no student should be discouraged from competing because of financial concerns. We are happy to work with students to make sure they can compete regardless of their personal financial circumstances.

Can I receive college credit for participation in Speech & Debate at UNL?
Yes, a member of the team can receive academic credit for participation in the program. Students actively competing on the team enroll in COMM 290 for 1-2 credits per semester.

Are scholarships available for participation in Speech & Debate?
Yes, we have scholarships for students interested in either speech or debate. For more information about scholarships and how to apply please click on the scholarship links available on our homepage.

Who coaches the team?
We are lucky to be housed in the Department of Communication Studies at UNL. The team is coached by our Director of Speech & Debate who also serves as a faculty member in the department and four communication studies graduate assistants. We also have several alumni and friends of the team who volunteer their time to help work with students.

What if I have further questions?
Feel free to contact Dr. Aaron Duncan at aduncan3@unl.edu.