Southeast Debate Team Places in Top 5 at National Championship


The Southeast Missouri State University debate team finished fifth in the virtual Education Debate Association’s (NEDA) National Debate Tournament March 27.

The team of sophomore Olivia Fensterman of Edwardsville, Illinois, and junior Jaina Ryanne Bemis of Alton, Illinois, placed fifth out of 43 teams at the NEDA National Debate Tournament. Additionally, Fensterman was recognized individually with the “Top Speaker” award.

Dr. Lesli Pace, chair and associate professor in Southeast’s Department of Communication Studies and Modern Languages, said it is exciting to see Southeast’s debate team succeed at the national level.

Pace said, “We have a long tradition of debate at Southeast, and it is thrilling to see ongoing success.”

The Southeast debate team practices throughout the semester to develop critical thinking skills and determine the most effective strategies for arguing either position of a topic. The resolution for this year’s NEDA National Debate Tournament was “The United States Federal Government should significantly increase regulations of the Big Five tech companies.”

Participating in debate encourages students to become better informed citizens, said Pace.

“Debate rounds energize a student’s mind and reinforce academic practices and a work ethic that can lead to better performance in the classroom and in work life after graduation,” she said.

For more information about the Southeast debate team, visit