Alix Dahl is Our Summer Debate Camp Director of Residential Life

Summer debate camp will be starting on June 20th, and we are excited to see our awesome staff assembling for the 12th annual MDAW session! 

Alix Dahl was the Director of Residential Life last year, and is returning this year:

Alix Dahl Group II

Alix (standing far right) with the students during our 4th of July Celebration last year.

My name is Alix Dahl. I have been a debate couch for four years at Roseville High School. I debated in high school, and then when I graduated my old coach was moving on. My coach asked me if I would be willing to be an assistant couch, and here we are!

Day to day, I make sure that students were where they were supposed to be, in addition to organizing daily activities and the Fourth of July festivities.

I really love working with kids, and I’m going to school to be a teacher. It’s really cool especially having worked with many of the same kids over the years to see how they grow and change and become adults. It lets me see the impact of debate in a really hands-on way.

I think that it’s really important that we make space for students. Traditionally debate has been a very upper class, white, male activity. And I think that the MDAW helps reduce that and make room for students who would otherwise be excluded, and they can bring their own experience and narratives to debate.MDAW foto 4

This is my favorite story from last year: there was one girl who was having a bad day. So all of the girls on her floor got together and made her this really nice card, put together this care package, and ran down to the lobby for her singing Shake it Off. It was really nice. I think that says a lot about the type of students who participate in this community.

I think it’s invaluable to make sure that camp is valuable to students of all kinds, and that we are reaching out to students of all kinds because our job is to be sure that all students are safe and having a good time.

Debaters Finish Spanish Debating Season At Augsburg College

Spanish Debate has wrapped for the season!

Highland Park Senior High Spanish teacher and debate coach Paula Boe saw her students benefit greatly from their participation in Spanish debate:

“I am so proud of all the Debaters I have had the privilege to work with over the past 3 seasons. It has been a wonderful experience for them and for me. I appreciate all the positive ripple-effects the opportunity to participate in Spanish Speaking Debate continues to have for the students at HPSH.”

Congratulations to all our debaters and to the six teams that attended the third and final tournament held on the Augsburg College campus:

Photo credit to Armand Langston Hayes Photography.

Debating Entirely in Spanish, Debaters Finish Second Spanish Debate Tournament

This year’s Spanish Debate Program is going strong, with two tournaments down and one left! 91 students attended over the course of the first two tournaments, with students speaking only in Spanish during each round of debate.


Debaters from Highland Park preparing before the start of the first Spanish tournament.

For students who speak conversational Spanish at home, engaging with complex Spanish texts helps them improve their academic Spanish — which has an additional benefit for academic English skills, since gains in one language transfer to other languages. Spanish Debate connects second or third generation immigrant students, who may speak mostly in English, to their traditional language and culture and to family members who may not speak English.

It was great to see dozens of excited students piling off of buses on the Augsburg Campus, ready to debate each other on whether drone aircraft should be used for surveillance purposes. And as they filtered back into the assembly hall at the end of the day, hungry for dinner and ready to cheer for each other during the awards ceremony, it was clear that it had been a good day.

Debaters from Clara Barton won 1st and 2nd place in Principiante division. In Avanzada division, South St. Paul High School won 1st place and Roosevelt took 2nd.

The last tournament of Spanish Debate will be held on May 11th. Good luck to everyone!

For a version of this article en español see below:

Debatir totalmente en español, estudiantes terminan Segundo Torneo de Debate en español

El Programa Debate español  de este año va fuerte, con dos torneos abajo y una más que queda! 91 estudiantes asistieron a lo largo de los dos primeros torneos, con estudiantes solamente hablando en español durante cada ronda de debate.

Para los estudiantes que hablan español conversacional en su casa, con la participación con textos en español complejas les ayuda a mejorar su español académico – que tiene un beneficio adicional para las habilidades académicas en inglés, ya que las ganancias de un lenguaje se transfieren en otros idiomas. El Debate Español conecta a los estudiantes de segunda o tercera inmigrante generación, que hablan la mayoría en Inglés, con su lengua y cultura tradicional y con sus familiares, que no hablan Inglés.

Fue genial ver a decenas de estudiantes emocionados bajándose de los autobuses en el campus de Augsburg, listos a debatir entre ellos mismos sobre si drones deberían ser utilizados por razones de vigilancia. Y cuando regresavan al salón al final del día, hambre para la cena y listo para animar el uno al otro durante la entrega de premios, estaba claro que había sido un buen día.

Estudiantes de Clara Barton ganó 1º y 2º lugar en la división Principiante. En la división Avanzada, South St. Paul High School secundaria ganó el 1er lugar y Roosevelt tomó 2do.

El último torneo de debate español se llevará a cabo el 11 de mayo. Buena suerte a todos!

The Great Surveillance Debate Is Approaching!

Surveillance-Debate-Image-Social-media-promosupdated2 On Tuesday, June 14th, our annual Mayor’s Challenge debate will take place. Four of our talented high school debaters – Minneapolis’ Hodan Osman (Edison High School) and Malik Akintola (Roosevelt High School), and St. Paul’s Ella Harker (Como High School) and Carlos Alderete (Johnson High School) – will take to the public podium to debate whether or not Apple should have allowed the FBI special access to its phones.

We are proud that this year’s Mayor’s Challenge is sponsored by Civic Eagle – an app that helps you share your voice by melding civic engagement and social networking – and Twin Cities Public Television. TPT will provide the venue as well.

Our debaters will be judged by a prestigious panel including Mayor Coleman, MN’s Chief Inclusion Officer James Burroughs, and University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Law Mark Kappelhoff.

To register for the Mayor’s Challenge: The Great Surveillance Debate, or to purchase a sponsorship visit our website HERE!

Our four talented debaters will open your mind and provide a rich discussion on this important policy issue. We hope to see you there!

Minneapolis Foundation Grant Creates New Scholarships for Summer Debate Camp

We are gettting closer and closer to the June 20th start date for the 12th annual Minnesota Debate and Advocacy Workshop (MDAW)  — our summer debate camp for middle and high school students held on the Augsburg College campus — and many pieces are coming together to make this summer a great one for our campers.

Scholarships make it possible for many of our campers to attend camp, and the Minnesota Urban Debate League is thrilled to have been the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Minneapolis Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Fund and its 612 Youth Engagement Project!

Camp is a mix of fun activities and learning opportunities -- Director of Residential Life Alix giving a ride to a camper last year.

Camp is a mix of fun activities and learning opportunities — Director of Residential Life Alix giving a ride to a camper last year.

The Minneapolis Foundation’s support will be invaluable in sending more kids to camp this summer to learn about next year’s debate topic, and strengthen their research and argumentation skills through labs, seminars, group activities, and guest speakers. Furthermore, the grant will allow debaters to participate in our brand new Advocacy Unit for high school students!

An essential part of the MNUDL’s mission statement is to empower students to be “critical thinkers and active citizens who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities.” The Advocacy Unit puts the spotlight upon this core part of our work.

Through the new unit, students will learn how to best use their debate skills to be effective change-makers in the community. Focusing on social justice and advocacy, students identify an issue they are passionate about and work with instructors to create and implement an action plan to make a difference on that issue.

Huge thanks to the Minneapolis Foundation and to the MNUDL’s amazing Administrative and Program Assistant Genesia Williams for being the mastermind of the Advocacy Unit and for all the work she put in to make the support of the Minneapolis Foundation Youth Philanthropy Fund’s 612 Youth Engagement Project a reality!

We’re excited for summer! Only a few more months to go!

To learn more about how to register your child for camp, follow the link below:

MDAW button

Middle School City Championships!

Photo by Armand Langston Hayes Photography.

Photo by Armand Langston Hayes Photography.

Last week our special invitational Middle School City Championships took place at Murray Middle School. Teams from 15 of our participating schools attended the big day to determine this year’s top Middle School debaters!

Each year, the City Championship brings together different Conferences so that students from schools who don’t usually have the chance to debate against each other have that chance and can test their metal against the best of the best.

It was great to conclude this year’s Middle School debate season on such a high note and to see students from across the Twin Cities come together to celebrate their passion for debate, to compete, and to recognize everyone’s accomplishments this year. Students from different schools crowded into the classrooms to watch the exciting final rounds between each division’s top competitors.

Students, coaches, community coaches, and hundreds of volunteers have worked hard to make this season the success it has been.

When asked, debaters had different answers for what their favorite part of the year and the biggest thing they learned this season was. Whether they responded that they enjoyed the opportunity to argue freely, to prove why other arguments are wrong, or to learn more about surveillance technology such as Stingray cell site simulators, everyone’s enthusiasm for our sport was clear during the long rounds of applause and cheering at the awards ceremony.

Special congratulations to Franklin Middle School for being our Rookie division champions, to Seward Middle School for being Novice champions, to Ramsey for being JV champions, and to Sanford for being Varsity division champions!

Thank you to everyone who came together this year to empower middle schools students through debate!

University of Minnesota Middle School Conference Championships

Our three-day middle School Tournament is onto it’s last day today!


Debaters from Battle Creek and Highland Park right after finishing a contentious round of debate.

The 156 young debaters who attended over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday have been busy and the classrooms and hallways of  the University of Minnesota have been filled with students running between rounds and participating in vigorous debate.

On Tuesday, Clara Barton Open School’s debate team debated hard and won 1st in all four divisions! On Wednesday, Varsity division 1st place was won by Highland Park, Novice division was won by Battle Creek, and Seward won Rookie division.

More than 50 volunteers committed their time to judge debate rounds and provide useful feedback and encouragement to the middle school debaters. We are also thrilled that many U of M Department of Communication Studies students participated as judges through the departments Engaged Department Grant!

The tournaments would not have been possible without everyone’s time and help!

Today is the last day of the U of M Tournament, and in a couple of hours 80 bright young minds will be hard at work uncovering good arguments, snooping out weak ones, having fun with friends between rounds, and cheering for each other during the award ceremony.

It’s going to be a fun day!


Volunteer Spotlight – Carlos

We are thrilled that our High School debaters often volunteer to act as judges for our Middle School Debate season. We were able to sit down with Johnson High School debater Carlos to talk about his perspective as a high school debater making the transition to judging middle school debaters:

Carlos photo__1456353944_141.224.147.37My name is Carlos. My experience with high school debate was, I’d definitely say, very changing for me. I had to step it up a bit because last year’s participants were really good.

I started debate because a lot of people and teachers especially consulted me on doing debate, because I’m an outgoing person and I speak my mind most of the time. It was a good choice. It really was. It was a way to actually get my voice out. I like the fact that you learn from it and that you do something with it, that’s what I really like.

And I’m also judging middle school debate now. It’s my first time, but it’s kind of hard. It’s tough because when I’m there hearing them out I want to say something, and then it kills me not to say something.

I feel like it’s a really tough job because you have to listen well, pay attention, write things down… and as you go along you have to kind of remember things about the kids, and how they do. But I have to say from first experience you can learn from it really quick.

As a judge, I think you should think of yourself as one of them, really, so then they trust in you and they do a better job and then they say things better. And then you yourself, you get better. As my first experience, now, I got comfortable with them, it really eased me up as a first-time judge.

Now that I’ve been in both shoes, I can tell that judging can really help you win as a debater and improve, and know what judges might be looking for.

Everyone should try being a judge!

Engaged Department Grant Creates New Volunteer Opportunities

Thanks to the Engaged Department Grant Program, the MNUDL will be partnering with the University Of Minnesota’s Department Of Communication Studies to connect more university Communications students with volunteering opportunities at debate tournaments. The grant is designed to inspire greater community engagement within the department’s curriculum – creating this wonderful opportunity for students studying communication to bring their studies full circle and act as volunteer judges for middle school debaters.


Program Director Travis Ormsby discussing policy debate with U of M students.

Young debaters will benefit from the knowledge and experience of the participating students. Furthermore, the Engaged Department Grant will allow university students to apply their studies and experience in a position of authority to help provide our young debaters with a fair, constructive and fun debate experience.

Ron Greene, Chair of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota and member of the MNUDL’s Advisory Board, explains that the “partnership will increase the available opportunities for middle school students to debate by increasing and diversifying the judging pool as well as improving the argumentation skills of undergraduates by holding them accountable for comprehending, analyzing, and evaluating the quality of the arguments delivered by middle school students.”

For middle school debaters, being able to speak authoritatively to an adult audience is a profound experience that inverts much of their educational experience – rather than listening to adults, the adults listen to them!

We hope to see great success and growth in this unique connection between the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College that will benefit hundreds of students of all ages for years to come.

Volunteer Spotlight – Sidd Singhal

Sidd Singhal volunteers with the MNUDL as a tournament judge. We spoke with him about why he believes it is important to support debate as a volunteer: 


SiddProfile PictureI got involved as a volunteer because I wanted to give back, and debate was the place where I had the most to give. I felt that I was adding an impact in a unique way, and it’s been a passion of mine to be able to volunteer and share my passion for debate.

I started debating my freshman year of high school in Lexington, Massachusetts. My sister was involved, and I thought it would be a fun activity.

My writing was influenced by debate, and my interviewing skill in general. I have to make decisions every single day in my work, and debate gave me those skills. You understand evidence, how to make arguments, and you can think quickly.

Before coming to Minnesota, I was involved in the debate league in Dallas. In addition to helping students at the tournaments, I would also talk with students once a month about business concepts and other things related to debate. I found that whole experience incredibly rewarding. I stayed involved all three years I was in Dallas.

I worked really closely with a couple of students as a mentor there. And by the time I had left, the one student who had started as a rookie was a debate champion and was the first person in his family to go to college.

It’s been great to be a part of this community and to help give the gift of debate to young people. Some kids don’t have this community and when they gain it, you see how their life changes. Having something to do that you feel proud of is so important when you are a teenager, and debate provides that.

It’s great to share my passion and see the spark getting transferred. Seeing the growth in debaters as they take feedback and improve over the year, who reach out to me afterwards to say thank you for the feedback and the judging, that’s great. It’s a way to get them passionate about something that is so transformative. Being able to contribute to all that as a judge has been great.

I’ve just loved being involved. I think it’s great to see all the things that the league is doing.