Bioethics team, debate student gain national recognition

Chelsea Pennington, News Writer

Samford’s emphasis on critical thinking gained national attention this week, with the bioethics team and debate team winning runner-up in the National Bioethics Bowl and debate team member Natalie Bennie being selected as a member of the national debate team.

IMG_0006On April 10 and 11, Samford competed at the National Bioethics Bowl in Tallahassee, Florida. In preparation, the team met twice a week for an hour with the three coaches, philosophy professor Wilton Bunch, communication studies professor Michael Janas and director of the University Fellows program Bryan Johnson.

“With the team you would go and present an initial presentation, and they would critique it, and then you would go and revise it, so we did that a couple times. Then it got down to it where you had to memorize your case because you don’t have notes or anything during the competition…it’s a pretty strenuous process,” freshman English major Bailey Bridgeman said.

Their hard work paid off when the team beat schools such as Dartmouth and Florida State University, only losing to University of Alabama in Birmingham by eight points in a tie-breaker for the national championship.

“But it felt really cool, because it put Samford on the map,” Bridgeman said.

In addition to the ethics bowl team’s success, last week junior communication studies major Natalie Bennie was selected to be one of two members on the national debate team.

“It’s really encouraging to be recognized as somebody with debate success in a program as small as Samford, and for Samford to be recognized as a successful and elite program is really remarkable,” Bennie said.

The process and work put into it was also rigorous, and included an application, an interview, videos of past debates and recordings of speeches on certain debate prompts.

“All in all it was based off of cultural sensitivity, cultural awareness and debate skill,” Bennie explained.

Bennie is the second Samford student to be chosen, with James Radford selected in 2003. Her partner is the president of the University of Denver debate team.

Team membership includes a national tour of Japan with debates, workshops and other engagement opportunities with debate students and community members.

“It’s a really quick paced activity, and quick thinking and critical thinking are definitely emphasized in it, which I love. It makes it a difficult activity, but I think it’s an activity that complements the kind of learning we do at Samford,” Bennie said.


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