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Parson is One of Top Four Debaters in the Nation


On April 21, junior, communication and religion major Maggie Parson continued Otterbein University’s long tradition of competitive academic debate success by finishing as one of the top four debaters in the nation, in Lincoln-Douglas debate at the National Forensic Association’s National Tournament. Lincoln-Douglas debate is policy debate in which one person affirms the resolution and one person negates the resolution.

Otterbein University began its tradition in 1898, when the team participated in the school’s first intercollegiate debate with Denison University. That tradition remains alive and well. 

Each year, when the debate topic is released on July 1, debaters rush to their computers to find out what the topic is and to begin preparing for collegiate tournaments.  During the year, the Otterbein team attends approximately five tournaments each semester. In order to qualify for the national tournament, debaters must participate in elimination rounds at a qualifying tournament during the regular season. 

Parson qualified at Marshall University’s tournament and went on to win Central Michigan University’s tournament and place in the semi-finals of The Ohio State University’s tournament.

There were 89 debaters from across the nation participating in the national tournament, which took place April 18-21, 2014. Participating debaters represented schools such as The Ohio State University, Truman State University, Miami of Ohio University, St. Anselm’s College and Lafayette College. 

Parson was eliminated in the semi-final debate on a 3-2 decision to the eventual national champion. Her semi-final placement is the best that Otterbein has ever finished in the tournament. Almnus John Boyer was an octa-finalist in 1997 and 1998; alumnus Fahmiya Ismail was an octa-finalist in 2009; alumni Jessica Hansen and Manal Farah were double octa-finalists in 2010; Holly Takach was a double octa-finalist in 2011; and Maggie Parson was an octa-finalist in 2013.

In addition to Parson, this year’s team included freshman William Needleman and sophomore William Sipe, who also represented Otterbein at the national tournament and contributed to the team’s eighth place finish overall.  Team members share research, work on strategies together and practice against one another.  The team is coached by Dr. Nichelle McNabb, who provides instruction and inspiration to the students.

"Dr. Nichelle McNabb is more than an amazing coach, she is an amazing person. Her commitment to this team is the reason I was able to achieve what I did. She continually encourages me to never be truly satisfied. I never thought I could do this, but she made it possible,” said Parson.