Wiley College Awarded Grant to Create HBCU Speech and Debate League

‘Home of the Great Debaters’ to help HBCUs create forensics teams

(Marshall, Texas) Wiley College has been awarded a grant through the Charles Koch Foundation to create a Historically Black Colleges and Universities Speech and Debate League, or HBCU League, that will assist in the creation of competitive forensics teams at HBCUs. The league will offer assistance in team development and management, league tournaments, and will culminate in an HBCU National Championship Tournament.

“We are thrilled to support Wiley College’s effort to share its wonderful debate tradition with HBCUs throughout Texas and the country,” said John Hardin, Director of University Relations at the Charles Koch Foundation. “These debate programs are a model for the civil dialogue that is necessary for our society to grow and flourish.”

The program will be headed by Christopher Medina, the Director of Forensics at Wiley College, and the head coach of the famed Great Debaters. “Debate is probably the most powerful educational activity ever created; this activity does more than educate, it saves lives,” said Medina. “This activity is a profound pedagogy that provides students with skills and educational opportunities which can be used throughout a student’s life, regardless of their chosen career path.”

Ailey Pope, a Wiley alumna who participated on the College’s debate team, said the program taught her valuable skills that she uses in her job in the nation’s capital as a community liaison for U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (MO). “Wiley’s debate program taught me critical thinking skills, as well as how to deal with pressure, think on my feet, and form solutions, “ said Pope. “Working in the U.S. Senate has been a great opportunity for me to use these skills. I use them every day.”

Wiley alumnus Sean Allen echoes Pope’s praise for the value of debate education. “Wiley College somewhat catapulted me into who I am today,” said Allen, who earned a master’s degree at Hofstra University after graduating from Wiley and is now the Director of Forensics at historically black Tennessee State University. “Every single opportunity I have had, I credit to my participation in the speech and debate program at Wiley.”

Allen said he strives to be a role model to inspire more students of color to join a debate program, and sees Wiley’s HBCU League filling a void in the debate education community. “I am glad to see this new league and l Iook forward to the HBCU Nationals so we can celebrate the accomplishments of speech and debate on the HBCU circuit and in the HBCU community.”

Though Medina will helm the new league, he looks forward to partnering with the HBCU community. “Our goal is to create an organization that is open to all HBCU students, provides an equal playing field, and though coordinated at Wiley College, is governed by the member schools.”

The first HBCU National Championship Tournament will be held on the campus of Wiley College in January of 2018.

About Wiley College:

Wiley College, founded in 1873 in Marshall, Texas, is a historically black, primarily liberal arts, residential, co-educational, Baccalaureate degree-granting institution affiliated with The United Methodist Church and the United Negro College Fund.

About the Charles Koch Foundation:

The Charles Koch Foundation supports research and educational programs focused on advancing an understanding of how free societies improve well-being. This includes support at over 300 universities and colleges around the country, in addition to other organizations working to advance our understanding of the institutions that foster societal well-being.

Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White is Director of Digital Strategy for the Tom Joyner Foundation, a writer and editor.