Arts & Humanities

USU Debate Team Wins National Championship Debut

By Vanessa Richards |

From left, Giuliette Reese, Gracie Beecher, Liz Baxter and Esther Keller of the debate team celebrate their national championship win.

After an intense day of competition, the Utah State University Speech & Debate Team won the College Public Forum League National Championship. The championship took place virtually on May 4 and featured the country’s best novice college debate programs.

USU’s winning team included debaters Liz Baxter, Gracie Beecher, Esther Keller, Giuliette Reese, and Coach Gordon Peer.

The victory marks the team’s impressive debut for their first novice partner debate, joining the handful of other national championships the team has won over the last 25 years.

“As for me, there is no greater professional joy than helping bring a national championship to my alma mater. The operative word is ‘help,’ as it was mostly the work of our four wonderful students. They devoted time and effort,” Peer said. “Most years, college debaters can take comfort in their growth without any specific award. This year, the team was lucky enough to see both happen.”

The competition included its own set of challenges; the debate team arrived on campus the morning of May 4 ready to compete but found Old Main locked. With some help, they got inside the building only to discover the power was out. With the clock ticking, they raced to find a space in the Taggart Student Center just in time to compete.

Jennifer Peeples, department head for communication studies and philosophy where the team is housed, said: “This team also has earned my ‘overcoming obstacles award.’ Instead of being rattled by the experience, the team turned around and won.”

This year was a successful trial run for the online debate program as well as for Peer, an alumnus of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Peer teaches geography and world civilizations at Green Canyon High School and coached their award-winning debate team. He will continue to coach USU’s team in place of Donnie Owens, who is leaving to pursue a doctorate at Penn State University.

“After coaching on the high school level for 10 years and then working at the National Debate Office in China, I knew USU would be the perfect community to support champions,” Peer said. “We hope to continue growing as we compete on the varsity level next year.”

The Speech & Debate Team is open to all USU students, regardless of major. For more information, please visit:


Vanessa Richards
Technical Communications Assistant
College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Jennifer Peeples
Communication Studies and Philosophy Department Head
College of Humanities and Social Sciences


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