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ASU summer debate institute benefits students of all backgrounds


Adam Symonds

Adam Symonds, ASU forensics team director

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June 28, 2017

The Arizona Debate Institute, hosted by Arizona State University, is the largest summer debate institute for college students in the nation. This year marks the 40th anniversary of its founding.

Adam Symonds, ASU forensics team director, believes participating in the summer institute can enhance any student’s ability to succeed and can even benefit students who may not interested in a major or career that focuses on public speaking or public relations.

“The institute is ideal for folks that want to learn highly technical public speaking and detailed methods for research,” said Symonds, who is the ASU forensic team director and a lecturer in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. The institute is run by the ASU Forensics Team, a division of the school. 

The first half of this year’s institute will take place online between July 15–30; the remainder will take place on the Tempe campus from July 30–Aug 6. 

According to Symonds, students who participate in the Arizona Debate Institute become “better” — better in research ability, at understanding politics, at understanding philosophy, in competitive skills in debate, and at understanding health-care policy in the United States (which is the 2017–2018 debate season's tournament topic). 

“The ADI promotes a skill-set for research and speaking that is interdisciplinary in nature,” he said. “Exercising those abilities in the debate context helps students in whatever field or career they pursue, because they become better advocates that are well-researched when they put forth their positions.”

Since its inception, the Arizona Debate Institute has served as the central place for students to work on the following debate season's topic, refine their skills, and meet competitors from around the country. The institute is the both the only national summer workshop or institute option for collegiate policy debate and the only option at ASU.

The students that compete in debate and come to the institute most often pursue careers in legal and political fields. Lawyers and political workers can choose to pursue either research intensive paths, speaking intensive paths, or a blend of both. 

The institute is unique from other speech and debate opportunities for students in one other way — it is the only institute that offers policy debate instruction for college students from a variety of different schools under one roof.

Typically, college policy students learn only from the coaches at their own institutions. “The ADI has some of the best debate coaches in the United States on their faculty,” Symonds said.

“The ADI is one of the best values among college summer debate institutes and the most cost-effective institute in the nation,” Symonds said. The institute is also fortunate to have access to the ASU library, the 17th largest in the country.

The institute has had an average of 75 students participating each summer over the past 40 years. 

“The success of our alumni proves the Arizona Debate Institute works,” Symonds said. “ADI students have achieved success at all levels, enjoying local, regional and national successes.”

Symonds received his doctoral degree in communication from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and became the director of the ASU Forensics Team in fall 2008. The ASU Forensics Speech and Debate Team has won both team and individual championships in the last three out of four years.

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