Staff for MDAW 2015

2015 Minnesota Debate and Advocacy Workshop Faculty and Administrators

Dr. David Cram Helwich, Camp Director: Dave is the Director of Debate at the University of Minnesota. He has been actively involved in debate for over 20 years, including the last 15 as a full-time college coach, where he has cleared teams at almost every major intercollegiate tournament, including the NDT. He also has considerable high school and collegiate institute experience, including founding two high school debate workshops (MDAW and the Wyoming Forensics Institute) and serving as a lab leader for the past 15 summers.

Thorn Chen: Thorn (Hongwei) Chen previously coached for Humboldt High School in Saint Paul and at Stuyvesant High School in New York where he led teams to elimination rounds at the New York State Tournament and NFL Nationals. He also worked as a lab leader at The New York Urban Debate League’s Coalition Institute and Training Initiative (CITI). In high school, Thorn was a New York State Finalist and reached elimination rounds at national tournaments such as Emory. He continued to debate for Dartmouth College was in the elimination rounds of several tournaments including CEDA Nationals and Cap Cities. Thorn is currently working on his PhD in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota.

Amber Kelsie: Amber is a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh, debated at Dartmouth, and has previously coached Urban Debate League teams in New York City as well as directed New York’s Urban Debate League summer institute. Some of Amber’s favorite arguments are performance based as well as kritiques based on identity politics. We are delighted to have Amber as a part of our team!

Rohan Sadagopol: Rohan will be returning for his 6th summer at the MDAW. He currently coaches at Minneapolis South and is a debater at the University of Minnesota. He previously debated and worked for Edina. In his time at South and Edina, he has coached teams to elimination rounds and speaker awards at most tournaments attended, including qualifying teams to both NFL Nationals and the TOC. As a debater for the University of Minnesota, he advanced to elimination rounds at the NDT. He enjoys teaching through sports and music analogies, with any student in his lab sure to learn that practice is truly not a game.

Mike Steffan: Mike will be returning for his 5th summer at MDAW. While in college, he debated for the University of Minnesota’s new debate team. He has coached debate for seven years, four at Wayzata High School and three at Patrick Henry High School. While at Wayzata, he helped coach teams to TOC bid rounds and out rounds at several national tournaments. As head coach of Washburn High School, his debaters qualified to the National Urban Debate League championship this April 2015.

Middle School Camp

David Song, Program Manager: David Song is the Program Manager of the Minnesota Urban Debate League, and will be the lead teacher for the Middle School camp. David served on the Illinois High School Association’s Debate State Final Committee from 2009-2013 and also served as the Debate Chair on the Board of the Illinois Speech and Theater Association (now Illinois Communications and Theater Association), a professional educators’ organization housed at Illinois State University. David was the Director of Debate at Oak Park and River Forest High School and policy debate coach at Evanston Township High School.

Art of Persuasion

Faculty information coming soon.

Residential and Community Life

Alix Dahl,Head of Residential Life, Alix is an ESL-Education and Political Science major entering her Senior year at Hamline University. She debated for Roseville High School and has served as their Varsity coach over the past three years. Alix is also an alumni of MDAW and is excited to join the staff for her third year.

Ayaan Natala, Junior Residential Assistant: 2014 graduate of Central High School

Blaize DePass, Junior Residential Assistant: 2014 graduate of Wayzata High School

Administrative Staff

Amy Cram Helwich, Executive Director: Amy is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Urban Debate League, and the administrative director for camp. Amy is the person to talk to about scholarships, registration, and general questions about camp. During camp, Amy is the person to talk to you if you are having trouble reaching your child or if you want to take your child off campus for a dinner out or other appointment. This will be her sixth MDAW. Amy has over 13 years in non-profit management and youth development, prior experience including: Women’s Foundation of MN, Children’s Safety Centers, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration, a B.S. in Political Science, and debated in both high school and college.

David Song, Program Manager: David Song is the Program Manager of the Minnesota Urban Debate League, and will be the lead teacher for the Middle School camp.  David comes to the MNUDL after five years of programming experience managing debate competitions and teacher training with the Chicago Debate League, during which the nation’s largest urban debate league doubled in size. David served on the Illinois High School Association’s Debate State Final Committee from 2009-2013 and also served as the Debate Chair on the Board of the Illinois Speech and Theater Association (now Illinois Communications and Theater Association), a professional educators’ organization housed at Illinois State University. David was the Director of Debate at Oak Park and River Forest High School and policy debate coach at Evanston Township High School. He has coached six students to the Illinois High School Association All-State Team; coached students to team awards at the National Forensic League Nationals; qualified seven teams to the University of Kentucky Tournament of Champions; and coached students who  finished first place overall as individual debate speakers at national competitions at Harvard University and the University of Michigan.