Mercer Debaters Win Junior Varsity Division of National Warmup Tournament

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MACON – Mercer University sophomore debaters Madeline Smith and Ashley Summer Pemberton won the junior varsity division of this past weekend’s National Warmup tournament held virtually and hosted by McKendree University.

Smith, a biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) and Spanish double-major, and Pemberton, a journalism and media studies double-major, opted to participate at the junior varsity level despite being eligible for the novice division in only their second intercollegiate competition.

“In only Madeline’s and Ashley’s second debate tournament, they won the junior varsity division at an event designed to prepare debaters for nationals,” said Dr. Vasile Stanescu, associate professor of communication studies and director of debate. “I am very proud of both of them.”

In the varsity division, junior Cam Wade, a women’s and gender studies and English double-major, and freshman Matt Thompson, a chemical commerce and French double-major, reached the octofinals round. Wade and Thompson recently won the 15th annual Mile High Swing.

Dr. Stanescu was aided by volunteer assistant coaches Jaz Buckley, former National Parliamentary Debate Association national champion and top speaker who is pursuing her law degree at UCLA, and Sophia Maier, another former Mercer debater who is pursuing her Ph.D. in communications at Penn State.

Mercer’s next debate tournament will be the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) Championship to be held virtually March 6-8.

About the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Mercer University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences serves as the academic cornerstone of one of America’s oldest and most distinctive institutions of higher learning. The oldest and largest of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges, it is a diverse and vibrant community, enrolling more than 1,900 students, dedicated to learning and service through the practice of intellectual curiosity, respectful dialogue and responsible citizenry. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers majors in more than 30 areas of study, including more than a dozen pre-professional academic tracks, with classes taught by an outstanding faculty of scholars. In 2015, Mercer was awarded a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society that recognizes exceptional achievement in the arts and sciences. For more information, visit