Senior Cam Wade Named to NPDA All-American Team

MACON – Mercer University’s debate team has the top novice team and for the fourth consecutive year the top novice speaker in the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA).

Niyati Patel

Freshman Niyati Patel, an international affairs and Spanish double-major from Warner Robins, and sophomore Chirayu Salgarkar, a biomedical engineering and mathematics double-major from Lawrenceville, won the novice division at this year’s NPDA championship, held virtually March 25-27.

Patel earned the Dan Henning Award for top novice speaker, continuing an unprecedented run for the University’s debate program by following fellow Mercerians Matt Thompson, Cam Wade and Yasmeen Hill in winning the award over the past four years.

“Winning the Dan Henning Award means the hard work I put into improving was not for nothing. I have a long way to go before I’m at a level where I’m truly satisfied; however, this accomplishment gives me the stamina needed to continue,” said Patel.

Salgarker was named fourth-place speaker in the novice division.

Chirayu Salgarkar

Wade, competing this year as a senior, was the first Mercer debater to be named to the NPDA All-American Team, which recognizes top seniors who meet a significant GPA requirement and who have demonstrated leadership and service in the NPDA community and in their individual college communities.

A women’s and gender studies and English double-major from Savannah, Wade won the James “Al” Johnson Top Speaker Award at nationals in 2021 and the Dan Henning Award in 2020.

Furthermore, Wade was named fifth-place speaker at this year’s nationals, competing as part of a “hybrid” team along with San Diego State University’s Marnon Navarro. Wade and Navarro advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating teams from traditional debate powerhouses William Jewell College, Whitman College, Concordia University, University of the Pacific and McKendree University.

Cam Wade

“Debate has easily been one of the most amazing and eye-opening opportunities I’ve ever had at Mercer,” said Wade. “I’ve enjoyed the actual debating itself, but also getting to be in community with extremely talented debaters and schools like Berkeley, San Diego and Rice. Making it to quarterfinals and winning All-American truly feels like a fever dream.”

This year’s NPDA championship consisted of 84 individual speakers and 42 teams representing 16 of the top debate programs in the nation.

As a team over the course of the 2021-2022 season, Mercer finished fourth nationally in the junior varsity sweepstakes thanks to the work of juniors Ashley Pemberton, a journalism and media studies double-major from Macon, and Madeline Smith, a biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) and Spanish double-major from Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Overall, Mercer finished 14th nationally in cumulative points earned during the NPDA season among hundreds of programs nationwide.

“Mercer debate has been tested and proven time and time again as one of the very best debate programs in the country,” said assistant director of debate and former Mercer debater Lindsey Hancock Warden. “I am incredibly proud of the way these students worked together to produce yet another set of exemplary outcomes throughout this year and at this national tournament. While these students have spent hundreds of hours researching, writing and practicing for debate, their victories are truly reflective of the University as a whole. Through their Mercer coursework and experiences, they have gained key knowledge and skills that they apply in the debate space to unmatched success. As their coach and as a Mercer alumna, I could not be prouder of a university community that produces extraordinary students who truly embody our mission to teach, to learn, to create, to discover, to inspire, to empower and to serve.”

Warden coached the team in this tournament with assistance from Dr. Vasile Stănescu, director of debate; Dr. Cameron Kunzelman, coordinator of fellowships and scholarships; Dominic Ekezie, a sophomore from Atlanta majoring in law and public policy; and Donald Warden, a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the University of Memphis and longtime friend of Mercer debate. Additionally, San Diego State coaches Adeja Powell and Mikay Parsons assisted the team of Wade and Navarro.

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