KU Debate Wins Major National Tournament at Gonzaga

KU debate turned in a dominating performance at a tournament hosted by Gonzaga University October 28-31. The KU team of sophomores Jacob Hegna and Henry Walter won first place at the tournament while top ranked Harvard University finished 2nd. Two other KU teams finished in the top 5 teams. The KU duo of seniors Chris Birzer and Mac Cook took 3rd place and sophomore Sion Bell and junior Quaram Robinson finished in 5th place. Quaram Robinson was the 2nd place individual speaker at the tournament. A fourth KU team of freshman Saif Bajwa and senior Amit Bhatla qualified for the elimination rounds at the tournament.

KU’s performance was particularly impressive given the depth of the national field competing at the tournament. Other schools debating at the tournament included Arizona State, Baylor, California State-Berkeley, California State-Fullerton, Dartmouth, Emory, George Mason, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Harvard, Indiana, Kentucky, Mary Washington, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Puget Sound, Rutgers, Southern California, Texas, Texas-Dallas, UNLV, Washington, Wyoming, Wake Forest, Weber State and West Georgia. There were 79 total teams competing at the tournament. Eighteen of the top 20 teams in the country were in the tournament and every team ranked in the top 10.

After two days of competition involving all 79 teams, the top 32 teams qualified for single elimination competition on the final day. Entering elimination rounds Bell/Robinson were the 5th seed, Hegna/Walter the 10th seed, Birzer/Cook the 11th seed and Bajwa/Bhatla the 29th seed. In the round of 32 Bell/Robinson defeated Michigan State, Hegna/Walter defeated Oklahoma, and Birzer/Cook defeated Central Oklahoma. Bajwa/Bhatla were knocked out of the tournament by Harvard. In the round of 16 Bell/Robinson defeated Weber State, Hegna/Walter defeated Baylor, and Birzer/Cook defeated Southern California. In the quarterfinals Hegna/Walter defeated Berkeley and Birzer/Cook defeated Michigan while Bell Robinson were knocked out by Harvard. Hegna/Walter and Birzer/Cook met each other in the semifinals and Hegna/Walter advanced to the finals as the higher seeded team based on one tenth of a speaker point difference in the preliminary debates. Hegna/Walter met Harvard in the final round and Kansas took home the championship trophy. KU assistant coach Brendon Bankey said, “We are thrilled with the performance of all of the debaters. This was the first time in more than 25 years that KU has had three teams in the final eight of a major national tournament.”

KU took home some other awards as well. KU coaches Brett Bricker and Scott Harris received the top coaching award and KU assistant coach Brendon Bankey won the Halloween costume contest for his portrayal of Kenneth Bone.

The latest College Debate Rankings http://collegedebateratings.weebly.com/2016-17.html have three KU teams ranked in the top 20 teams in the country.  Bell/Robinson rank 6th, Hegna/Walter 9th and Birzer/Cook 12th. Two other KU teams rank in the top 35 with Katz/Fry ranked 30th and Bajwa/Bhatla ranked 34th.


Front row:
Quaram Robinson, Sion Bell, Chris Birzer, Jacob Hegna, Henry Walter, Jacob Justice
Second row:
Chris Fry, Saif Bajwa, Amit Bhatla, Will Katz, Mac Cook, Brendon Bankey, Scott Harris, Brett Bricker

Dr. Mitchell McKinney


The Jayhawk Family wants to share some exciting news about one of our PhD alums, Dr. Mitchell McKinney.

As you might know, Mitchell has had an extraordinarily busy few years. For the past two years he has been the Chair of the Department of Communication at Missouri and for three years prior to that he was the Director of Graduate Studies. This fall he has been named the Provost’s Faculty Fellow for Academic Personnel at Missouri. Mitchell has been an extraordinary chair for the department at Missouri, and with a calm and steady hand guided their department through the very public challenges they faced last year. For those of you who know Mitchell, you know he did so with compassion, integrity, and with an ability to keep his department focused on working together as a system and providing an inclusive education.

Through it all Mitchell has remained focused on his scholarship with another book coming out soon, and a continued list of journal articles, and book chapters. He has recently been highlighted in the spring/summer issue of Illumination, a showcase of MU scholarship sponsored by the Office of Research at MU, for his research on political debates (see link below). And his expertise was highlighted at a recent Dole Institute of Politics evening program highlighting the 10 Greatest Moments in Televised Presidential Debate History, along with Dr. Mary Banwart. The Dole Institute has a video of the event if you would like to hear Dr. McKinney in action.

The Institute for Leadership Studies Continues to Grow


The Institute for Leadership Studies (ILS) was created at KU in the fall of 2015 with the purpose of expanding the academic and research foci on leadership studies, and to provide a collective for drawing together the related research across the KU campus.

It is the mission of the ILS to create capacity for thriving in the face of challenge, conflict, and change. The ILS seeks to do that through innovative curricular and research-based programming. Tasked with expanding the curriculum at KU in leadership studies, the ILS currently offers the Leadership Studies Minor, formerly housed in the Department of Communication Studies. The transition of the Leadership Studies Minor courses from COMS to the ILS — which was effective in the fall 2016 semester — has been a smooth process due to the support of Suzanne Grachek and Dr. Tom Beisecker in COMS, and Dr. Amy Leyerzapf in the ILS. Forthcoming academic programs include an online certificate in Leadership Strategies & Applications, the creation of cross-disciplinary graduate certificates in partnership with other units on campus, and a peer-based mentoring program to support KU’s retention goals. Dr. Amy Leyerzapf in the ILS is also organizing an initiative to showcase research in leadership studies at the statehouse. She has commitments from faculty at other colleges and universities across the state to join together at the capitol in the spring and showcase the importance of higher education across Kansas and to illustrate ways in which Kansans benefit from our research.

ILS engages students across campus and from all disciplines in learning to do the work of leadership by developing a core set of leadership habits and a core set of leadership competencies. Academic programming in the ILS is intentionally designed for students to have opportunities to develop the habits of self-awareness, connecting to purpose, contribution, active reflection, and lifelong learning. And, while the curriculum is closely grounded in the theory of Adaptive Leadership (Heifetz, 1994; Heifetz, Glashow & Linsky, 2009), it is further designed to help students develop the capacities of managing self, diagnosing the situation, skillfully intervening, and energizing others.

In addition to the development of leadership studies at KU in general, the ILS is expanding its women and leadership initiative. The ILS Women’s Initiative builds on the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute (KWLI), which brings together each year 20 international women and 6 Kansas women from small/rural communities for a year-long leadership education and development program. The KWLI is funded through grant dollars and support from visionary KU Endowment donors. In addition to the KWLI, the Women’s Initiative is partnering with KU undergraduate students to create a statewide women’s leadership conference to be held at KU in the spring of 2017, developing a women’s leadership graduate certificate, and building a research collective on women’s leadership. As part of that effort, Drs. Banwart and Woszidlo will present outcomes based on longitudinal data collected with the KWLI at NCA in November, and earlier this fall Dr. Banwart was invited to the Harvard Kennedy School’s conference on Adaptive Leadership to present preliminary results of the study.


KU Representation at OCMC

“This conference experience was unlike any other I’ve attended. I loved the focus on graduate work. I think this conference is a great way to get to know established and upcoming scholars in the field, and to know where the discipline’s research is going.”
– Abigail Kingsford, Communication Studies Masters Student

The Organizational Communication Mini Conference (OCMC) is a small
sub-disciplinary conference run by graduate students for graduate students. The purpose of the OCMC is to feature and support graduate students pursuing research about organizational communication. The two-day event provides burgeoning scholars in the field with the opportunity to present their dissertations, theses, and other research projects.  All presenters receive feedback, and socialize with peers and established Organizational Communication faculty across the nation.

KU Communication Studies graduate students Abigail Kingsford and Chris Melvin with Dr. Angela Gist attended this year’s OCMC hosted in Evanston, IL by Northwestern University.

At the conference, Abigail presented her thesis prospectus about how millennials are socialized into working. She found the conference really useful in directing the scope of her project. After numerous conversations during the poster session, she decided to switch her focus to include blue-collar workers as well as
white-collar workers to investigate the differences in assumptions about work between the two groups and how organizations helped to prepare them for their first full-time jobs. At first she was unsure about a few aspects of her project’s value before the conference, but she now credits the conversations with other professors and graduate students from other universities for building her confidence and invigorated her to be excited to keep going forward.

Though not presenting this year, Chris attended to see the presentations and network with other people in the discipline, and activity not to be undervalued!

OCMC was lasted hosted at the University of Kansas in 1998. We are proud to be part of this disciplinary tradition! Next year’s conference will be held at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Click here to find out more about OCMC 2016: http://ocmc2016.soc.northwestern.edu/

Below: Abigail Kingsford’s poster outlining her research


KU Debate Opens Season in Impressive Fashion

The KU debate squad opened the season September 17-20 with teams competing at two national tournaments, in Kansas City and in Atlanta, and the teams performed extremely well at both tournaments. The KU duo of Sion Bell and Quaram Robinson took first place at a tournament hosted by the University of Missouri- Kansas City and the KU team of Jacob Hegna and Henry Walter took 3rd place at a tournament hosted by Georgia State University.

Quaram Robinson, a junior from Round Rock Texas, and Sion Bell, a sophomore from Baltimore MD, began the season where they left off last year. They ended the season last year finishing as the National Runner Up to Harvard at the National Debate Tournament and began this season by winning the season opener at UMKC. They defeated the University of Southern California in the final round to win the first major tournament of the year. They rolled through the tournament undefeated finishing with a 12-0 record. They defeated teams from Baylor University, the University of Iowa, the University of Oklahoma, Binghamton University, Georgia Mason University, the University of Central Oklahoma, Weber State University and USC. Robinson won the first place individual speaker award and Bell was the 6th place speaker.  The KU team of Brandon Boyce and Alondra Garcia-Arevalo, freshmen from Emporia KS, advanced to the quarterfinals in the Junior Varsity division to begin their college careers.

Meanwhile other KU teams were competing in Atlanta.  The team of Jacob Hegna, and Henry Walter, both sophomores from Overland Park KS, advanced to the semifinals of the tournament before losing a 2-1 split decision to the University of California at Berkeley. In their run to the semifinals they defeated teams from Northwestern University, Georgetown University, the University of Pittsburgh, Emory University, George Mason University and two teams from Wake Forest University. A second KU team, Chris Fry, a sophomore from Overland Park, and Will Katz, a junior from Topeka, advanced to the final 16 of the tournament. They pulled a major upset over the 3rd seeded team in the tournament from Emory University to reach the final 16 but were matched up against Hegna and Walter who advanced over them. A third KU pair, Chris Birzer, a senior from Leawood KS, and Mac Cook, a senior from Shawnee KS, advanced to the elimination rounds before losing a 2-1 split decision to Northwestern. A fourth KU team, Amit Bhatla, a senior from Shawnee, and Saif Bajwa, a freshman from Overland Park, won five of eight debates but just missed qualifying for the single elimination rounds. Chris Birzer was the 20th individual speaker at the tournament.

                Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU said, “We are thrilled at the excellent start to the season. We have a number of talented and hardworking debaters and we have hopes for an outstanding season.” The debate team will travel to 20 tournaments around the country between now and the National Debate Tournament in March. KU will be hosting the National Debate Tournament at the end of the 2016-17 season at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park, KS March 23-27. KU has qualified to the National Debate Tournament for 49 consecutive years.​
banner team brett


KU Debate Team National Runner Up

– From Coach Scott Harris –

The KU debate team of Sion Bell, a freshman from Laurel Maryland, and Quaram Robinson, a sophomore from Round Rock Texas, finished 2nd at the 70th National Debate Tournament in Binghamton New York.  KU lost in the Championship Debate to Harvard University. The final round took place at the same time as the Men’s NCAA Basketball championship game. They are the 15th KU team to advance to the Final Four of the NDT and the 6th KU team to reach the championship debate.

The final round was the culmination of four days of competition in which the field of 78 teams was narrowed to Kansas and Harvard.  Each team in the tournament debated in eight preliminary debates and the top 31 teams Debate Team 2016

qualified for single elimination debates. Bell and Robinson began the tournament with 5 consecutive wins over the University of Southern California, George Mason University, the University of California-Berkeley, Wake Forest University, and Trinity University. They then lost back to back debates to a 2nd team from the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Kentucky before bouncing back with a win over Northwestern University in the final preliminary debate. They advanced to the elimination rounds with a 6-2 record as the 13th seed. In the first elimination round they defeated a team from Emory University to advance to the Sweet 16 and the final day of competition.

In the sweet 16 they met the 4th seeded team from the University of California-Berkeley in a rematch and defeated them for the second time in the tournament.  In the Elite Eight they had a rematch with the 5th seeded team from Berkeley that had defeated them in the preliminary rounds and this time KU emerged victorious to advance to the Final Four. In the semifinals they defeated the University of Michigan, the top seed at the tournament and the team that had entered the tournament as the 2nd ranked team in the country.  In the championship debate KU lost to the Harvard team that was the top ranked team in the country. Bell and Robinson had entered the NDT as the 17th ranked team in the country.

A second KU team composed of Chris Carey, a senior from Westwood Hills Kansas, and Amit Bhatla, a junior from Lenexa, went 5-3 in the preliminary rounds and qualified for the single elimination debates. In the preliminary rounds they defeated the University of Texas, Indiana University, the University of Wyoming, Central Oklahoma University, and the University of West Georgia. They lost in the first elimination round to the Berkeley team that Bell-Robinson would later defeat in the Elite Eight.

Quaram Robinson was recognized as the sixth best individual speaker at the tournament. Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU said, “We are incredibly proud of the performance of the debaters at the NDT. Quaram and Sion had an amazing tournament with 6 wins over teams ranked in the top 10. Making it to the final round was a testament to their talent and hard work. I am very grateful to the hard work of all the assistant coaches who helped them on this remarkable run.” According to Assistant Coach Sean Kennedy their performance included some historic achievements. Sean claimed, “They are the first team not ranked in the top 16 going into the tournament to make it to the final round since rankings began in 1973; they are only the 2nd team of two non-males to debate in the final round and Quaram is the first black woman to ever compete in the final round.”

It was announced during the tournament that the University of Kansas will be the host for next year’s National Debate Tournament to be held March 23-27, 2017. Coach Brett Bricker stated, “We are very excited at the prospect of bringing the NDT to the University of Kansas for the first time.”

KU teams also performed well at other national tournaments.  The team of Jacob Hegna, a freshman from Austin Minnesota, and Henry Walter, a freshman from Overland Park Kansas won the National Junior Division Debate Tournament, a national championship for debaters in their first two years of college competition. It is the third consecutive year that KU has won the NJDDT Championship. The team of Chris Fry, a freshman from Overland Park Kansas, and Will Katz, a sophomore from Topeka Kansas took 3rd place at the tournament.  The team of Lainey Schrag, a freshman from Overland Park, and Tyler Woodcock, a freshman from Leavenworth finished in 5th place. At the Cross Examination Debate Association national tournament the team of Hegna-Walter finished in 9th place.

COMS 342 Raises Money For Great Cause


This semester, $627 was raised for The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center in Lawrence by graduate student Haley Vellinga’s COMS 342: Problem Solving in Teams and Groups class.

The class was split into 4 teams and each team raised the money through four different fundraising events. “Team Grade A” held a dodgeball tournament at the Union. “Team Jayhawk” held a percentage night at Buffalo Wild Wings. “Team Impact” partnered with Premier Martial Arts in Lawrence and held a Self Defense workshop. “Team J-ELM” partnered with the Lawrence Community Center and held a swimming event.

This is the first semester Haley Vellinga has taught this class. A previous instructor, Phil Wagner, had similarly partnered with The Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center in the past, and Haley decided to continue the tradition of focusing and advocating for this cause.

In the upcoming Spring semester, she and her class of COMS 342 students will have a chance to double their efforts when she will teach two separate sections of the class. That’s eight teams of undergraduate students all working towards the same cause. That’s the power of Problem Solving in Teams and Groups, the COMS 342 class. The real-world solutions that these students are learning is of great value for the here and now as well as the future.

The names of the COMS 342 students that participated are:
Meredith Brownell, Brooke Buckner, Maddie Dobyns, Kagen Fell, Joey Hurley, Mercedes Jellison, Megan Lindemann, Uzzie Martinez, Amy Melby, Spencer Painton, Lindsey Peterson, Cathy Readman, Jared Singer, Cameron Smith, Michael Stigler, Madisyn Warinner, Jessica Washington, and Ezekiel Welch


Lambda Pi Eta Making Strides to Become More Active

The Lambda Pi Eta Chapter at the University of Kansas is making strides to become a more active chapter, both in membership and also involvement at the university and in the local community. Lambda Pi Eta is a nationally recognized honor society that recognizes, fosters, and rewards outstanding scholastic achievement while stimulating interest in the communication discipline. LPH represents what Aristotle described in The Rhetoric as three ingredients of persuasion: logos (Lambda), meaning logic; pathos (Pi), relating to emotion; and ethos (Eta), defined as character credibility and ethics.

The chapter has long been established at the University, but involvement and activity was revived in the spring of 2014 when Dr. Jay Childers became the faculty advisor. In the spring of 2015 Dr. Angela Gist volunteered to be the new faculty advisor for Lambda Pi Eta. At that point, Cassandra Bird, a doctoral student and Assistant Basic Course Director, was also appointed as the graduate advisor. Dr. Gist’s experience in working with the University of Missouri Lambda Pi Eta Chapter has proven to be beneficial in rebooting and energizing forward movement of the organization. As a result, membership has grown exponentially, from five students last spring to twenty-two students this fall. Ally Northrup, President of Lambda Pi Eta’s Alpha Mu chapter and Jacob Elberg, serving as Vice President, are the current initiated members. The following new members will be initiated on November 30th, 2015:

Gabriel Alaniz
Natalie Baldinger
Abigail Cauble
Chelsea Cullen
Patricia Donahue
Bailey Fee
Matthew Frederick
Alexandria Hernandez
Mary Holden
Daniel Jenab
Roon Johnson
Miriam Levine
Erin Martin
Ian Mirsch
Thomas Murphy
Jonathan Shafer
Sydney Studer
Taylor Tobin

Currently, the organization is identifying ways in which they can become more involved on campus and in the local Lawrence community. Members participated in the Student Involvement & Leadership Center’s (SILC) Information Fair on Daisy Hill for the recruitment of new members and to inform freshman of the exciting opportunities available in the Communication Studies department. Additionally, members are volunteering at the Linkugel Speech Competition, a bi-annual speech competition that students from the Speaker Audience Communication course (the introduction to public speaking course) participate in to promote public speaking and civic engagement. Lambda Pi Eta is also identifying a local Lawrence non-profit organization to support by hosting a  philanthropic event to either raise money and/or supplies as a way to connect and give back to the local community.​


Colloquium Series speaker Dr. Angela Gist


Dr. Angela Gist, an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies, was recently featured as a guest speaker in the departmental colloquium series. Dr. Gist received her Bachelors from Ohio University in Journalism and Advertising, her Masters from University of Georgia in Mass Communication and Advertising, and her Doctorate from the University of Missouri in Organizational Communication. Dr. Gist is in her second year of teaching and research at the University of Kansas and has quickly become very involved in the local campus community. Her research interests broadly focus on organizational communication, with a more specific focus on social mobility, social class, and power.

Dr. Gist’s presentation, entitled “Qualitative and Theoretical Inquiry of Working-Class Dignity Violations in Organizations”, focused on the experiences of the working-class. Themes of her research included the linguistic infantilization of the working-class unemployed, classed disproportionate (dis)respectful social interaction, and the inherent inequality that is embedded into the institution of work.

The first of the two studies that she presented took a critical ethnographic approach to further explore a blue-collar unemployment support organization. “The findings of this study critique the organizational culture revealing that the organization operates on an implicit assumption that infantilizes the working-class unemployed and produces tension-filled, productive-destructive results in the experiences of the working-class job seekers”, says Dr. Gist.

Additionally, Dr. Gist discussed a research project that she co-authored with Dr. Kristen Lucas from the University of Louisville, that focused on a duel-path model by which managerial practices negatively impact dignity.

“I am joining an interdisciplinary scholarly conversation that seeks to empower marginalized voices.  As a critical interpretive scholar, the work I do ultimately seeks to ethically foreground the stories and experiences of individuals with lower social class status, so that we can all have a better understanding of their standpoint.  I hope to impact organizational communication by nuancing the knowledge we have regarding identity differences and by illustrating the way engaged scholarship can positively construct and improve local communities”, says Dr. Gist on the impact of her scholarly work in the organization communication field.

Communication Studies has hosted the colloquium series since the fall semester of 2008. Speakers are selected by the Colloquium Committee and come from a wide range of research backgrounds and interests. The goal of hosting the Colloquium Series is to learn from fellow scholars, enrich interdisciplinary relationships, and celebrate research that continues to impact our discipline and others.

We would like to thank Dr. Gist for sharing her research. Additionally, many thanks to those that have presented in the past and those that we look forward to hosting in the future!

If you would like to find more information on the Colloquium Series, please visit this link.

(Pro)Social event speaker Dr. Angela Gist


On October 23rd, 2015, Dr. Angela Gist, an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies, was the guest speaker for a (Pro)Social event. (Pro)Social is an organization that works to promote social support among graduate students in Communication Studies during their time at the University of Kansas.

As an organizational communication scholar, Dr. Gist has researched the power of networking communication in both online and interpersonal contexts. She presented several networking tools and practices that will aid individuals as they seek to build their social networks and make connections that will prove beneficial once graduate students are on the job market. She covered online tools, such as LinkedIn, building a personal website, and how to brand yourself online. Additionally, she shared personal practices of connecting with others and maintaining professional relationships. “Networking has the power to transform your career by leveraging professional relationships as opportunistic resources”, Dr. Gist said.

Natalie Hoskins, a doctoral student and president of (Pro)Social said, “As someone who is currently on the job market, I enjoyed Dr. Gist’s presentation and found it to be very useful. Her LinkedIn advice helped me fine tune my self-presentation online. However, the biggest takeaway for me, was learning that the seeds of social networking need to be planted far in advance of when you actually wish to reap what you sow. You can’t expect to make meaningful connections overnight.”

Dr. Gist’s genuine enthusiasm and passion for helping those around her succeed in developing and implementing valuable networking skill sets truly helped those in attendance reflect on the importance of networking and gain new knowledge on effective ways to do so. Thank you, Dr. Gist!