PLU Student Wins International Debate Competition


Kate Hall and Matt Aust showing their trophies after winning the Pan-American Universities Debating Competition at La Verne University, California. This is the PLU Speech and Debate Team’s first international win. Photo courtesy of Mandi LeCompte.

By Siobhan Chachere ’19

After a long day of competition, two members of the Pacific Lutheran University Speech and Debate Team were relaxing at the awards ceremony, waiting for the results of the 2017 Pan-American Universities Debating Championship at La Verne University, California.

Kate Hall was expecting to hear which team would receive the award for fourth overall, instead she heard her name announced as the first-place winner of the Spanish-speaking division. She then made her way on stage to claim her trophy alongside her teammate Matt Aust, senior, as the first PLU Speech and Debate Team members to win an international debate championship according to the PLU press release.

Kate Hall, senior, double-majors in communications and Hispanic studies at Pacific Lutheran University. Hall has been a member of the public relations sector of the PLU Speech and Debate Team since her first year as a PLU student. However, she said becoming a member of the team by participating in debate was not something she had ever considered.

This changed for Hall when the prospect of Spanish-speaking debates became a reality.

“If it wasn’t for the Spanish speaking competitions, I would have never debated,” Hall said.

In her sophomore year of high school, Hall began to explore her passions. After enrolling in a Spanish class, she discovered that the language was something she enjoyed.

“I loved the language,” Hall said. “I loved that it was similar to English, but sounded so different and that I understood and had access to this secret club.”

This class was taught by Kelsey Beaman, a PLU alumni from the class of 2007, who inspired Hall in many ways. Hall said that Beaman’s impact on her is what led to her eventual enrollment at PLU, and to her passion for the Spanish language.

In a class Hall took during her first year at PLU, her professor, Justin Eckstein, Director of Forensics and head coach of the debate team, made participation on the team extra credit for students.

Eckstein suggested that Hall become involved in the public relations department the following year, and Hall found it very suitable as the concentration of her communications major was in strategic communications.

“A huge part of the recognition our team gets is from Kate’s work and how hard she works to make things run smoothly,” Molly Petersen, first-year at PLU, said about Halls contributions. Petersen said that Hall’s position on the public relations team was a perfect fit, and accounted for many of the team’s accomplishments.

In fall of 2016, Eckstein mentioned to Hall that he wanted the team to compete in Spanish-speaking debates because Matt Aust was returning from his study-away trip in Ecuador. Eckstein told Hall she would be the perfect teammate for Aust.

Hall agreed to participate and, after competing in a Spanish-speaking competition at Willamette, Ore., she said she really enjoyed getting to practice her Spanish in new settings with new people.

When the 2017 Pan-American Universities Debating Championship presented itself, Hall and Aust were excited to participate.

Hall said that one of the most interesting parts of this competition was getting to know the people she competed against. There were teams from the United States, Columbia, and Venezuela.

“The competition was a valuable cultural exchange,” Hall said. “It provided a space for people to come together that would have never met otherwise.”

Hall and Aust varied in their placements throughout the rounds of the tournament; one time placing fourth, another time placing second. Hall said she was surprised to make it into the semi-finals.

During those final rounds, Hall and Aust faced teams from Cornell University and the University of Denver. According to Get Involved Colgate, the debate followed the British Parliamentary format. Hall said that the competition was incredibly intense and that she was proud of her team for holding their own.

“There were moments of frustration and moments of happiness,” Hall said.

Finally, Hall’s team was announced the championship winner and Hall said the emotions and excitement she felt were overwhelming.

“I was about to cry, Matt hugs me, and we look at each other and say, ‘we just won’,” Hall said.


Kate Hall competing at the Pan-American Universities Championship at La Verne University, California, on March 12, 2017. She won first place in the tournament. Photo courtesy of Mandi LeCompte.

Hall said she loved getting to compete and win giant trophies, but this award was important to her because it acknowledged her ability as a Spanish speaker and represented her passion.

“This award shows my huge journey of knowing nothing to winning a debate in Spanish,” Hall said.

Hall has applied for graduate school at Kent State University, and hopes to be accepted into their Spanish translation program.


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