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Students gain valuable experience, scholarships in annual speech and debate competition

Applications for 2024 Regents' Cup now open


Photo credit Pixabay

October 03, 2023

Arizona State University student Chase DiBona thought competing in the Regents’ Cup would be a good way to improve his oratory skills, but the rewards he gained were so much more.

“I was already a member of the mock trial team here at ASU, and this seemed like a great opportunity to develop my public speaking skills,” he said of the annual speech and debate competition sponsored by the Arizona Board of Regents that he participated in in 2022.

That year, DiBona and his debate partner, fellow ASU student Claire Mullings, won in the Oxford Debate category and each received a $15,000 scholarship. The topic of their final round was whether or not the current political system is able to effectively maintain checks and balances on each branch of the government.

“It was absolutely a life-changing experience. I was stunned when I found out that we had won, for sure,” said DiBona, a junior in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU double majoring in civic and economic thought and leadership and justice studies.

“I can definitely say that the scholarship has helped me massively as I've pursued my education. I'm incredibly thankful to the Board of Regents and the sponsors of the Regents' Cup for their generosity,” he added.

The fifth annual Regents' Cup will take place on March 23, 2024, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. It will be centered around the theme Democracy, Justice, and the Rule of Law. Applications are now open and any student from ASU, University of Arizona or Northern Arizona University may apply, regardless of former debate experience. The application deadline is Oct. 16.

The Regents' Cup celebrates civil discourse and freedom of expression at Arizona’s public universities and honors participants for articulating different points of view in an environment where competitors remain civil and respectful.

Students compete in Oxford Debate or persuasive storytelling, sharing true stories from personal experiences.

The board awards generous scholarships for winners: $15,000 for first place; $12,000 for second; and $5,000 for third. All other team members receive a $500 scholarship.

Portrait of ASU student .

Chase DiBona

Students may use scholarship funds at their discretion to support and advance their education. Students are also eligible to receive internship or course credit.

The winning university team receives a trophy called the Regents’ Cup, designed, sculpted and cast in bronze by accomplished artist and former Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers. Bowers said he designed the trophy to incorporate the delicate features of a lily pad and the sharp points of an agave cactus to represent opposing viewpoints.

University teams are selected in October, and on-campus coaches prepare students for the competition in March.

Beyond developing public speaking and debate skills and winning a substantial scholarship, DiBona said he benefitted in other ways.

He learned to analyze two sides of an issue and prepare arguments supporting each side, helping him understand differing values and perspectives. 

“Initially I wasn’t sure if I would have the time to compete in the Regents' Cup, but I’m glad I ended up joining, because it has proven to be an incredibly rewarding opportunity. I think people should do it because of the connections, opportunities and skills you gain from the competition,” he said.

Portrait of ASU student .

Acacia Wastchak

Acacia Wastchak, a senior Barrett Honors College student majoring in international trade and a first-year master’s student in global management, participated in the Regents’ Cup in 2021 and 2022.

Wastchak already had some public speaking experience, but felt that the opportunity to compete with students from various backgrounds and all three of Arizona’s universities was “too exciting to pass up.”

“I learned a lot about how to tailor a speech to a specific audience as well as the ins and outs of high-level public speaking. All of this made me a better public speaker, which will ultimately benefit me in my career, as I hope to become a U.S. diplomat,” she said.

Omar Aljubouriy, a junior criminal justice major, competed in the storytelling category last year, sharing his unique perspective on liberty and the U.S. Constitution as an asylum seeker from Iraq.

“The Regents’ Cup taught me more than I thought it would. Of course, I polished my storytelling and became more confident, but I learned different perspectives my peers had on liberty and the Constitution. The students who competed were incredibly diverse, and learning about their beliefs was the most valuable lesson,” Aljubouriy said.

Jenny Brian, Barrett Honors College faculty chair, has been a Regents’ Cup coach for four years.

She said ASU won the Regents’ Cup in 2019 and 2021, while UA won in 2022 and 2023, adding that over the past four years, ASU students have been awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships.

Portrait of ASU student .

Omar Aljubouriy

“The competition is special because it really is a meaningful celebration of civil discourse, and it is the students who model for all of us the free and respectful exchange of ideas,” she said.

Brian said students discuss difficult topics in a complicated and nuanced way, anticipating counterarguments and responding thoughtfully while being judged by influential figures from across the state and the country — including former elected officials, local and national journalists, federal judges, university professors, and executives from groups such as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and the Arizona Community Foundation.

“My students gain so much from the competition. Not only have they learned a lot about the topics, but they have developed research skills, critical thinking skills, communication skills, and they build professional and peer networks at the tournament,” Brian said.

“The Arizona Board of Regents dedicates remarkable time, resources and energy to celebrating our students, and it is a powerful experience for the judges, moderators and students. As a coach, it is such an honor to help students find their voices and then watch them be almost unbelievably impressive.”

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