Liz Fetherston win top collegiate debating prize

Liz Fetherston, a senior majoring in Spanish, was named best individual debater at one of the largest and most prestigious events in college parliamentary debate.

Competing at the Mile High Swing Tournament against more than 200 students from 35 universities, including 22 of the top 25 college parliamentary debate teams, Fetherston and took home the top individual prize. And she's got the big glass trophy to prove it.

"I was pretty surprised and really happy," she said.

Fetherton started debating her senior year at Sprague High School in Salem, and got involved in Oregon's debate and speech team, also known as Forensics, her freshman year. 

She said debate is an "incredibly empowering experience" that gives people tools and vocabulary to articulate opinions on a huge range of subjects. And it's a laboratory to test ideas and policy options. 

The Mile High Swing Tournament is the biggest collegiate debate tournament outside nationals. It includes two tournaments in one weekend. Based on her performance in the two tournaments, Fetherston was named the event's top overall speaker.
The award is confirmation of Fetherston's intelligence, hard work, and superior debating skills, said Trond Jacobson, acting director of Forensics at the UO.
"This is a collective assessment by the leading debate instructors that Liz is one of the best college debaters in the country, perhaps the very best," he said.
Fetherston said winning the award felt good too because there aren't many young women at the top end of the college debate.

"It's important to mentor and be a role model" to young women debaters, she said.

That's why she and her fiance and debate partner, Kehl van Winkle, serve as debate coaches at Thurston High School in Springfield, and mentor debaters at Clark Community College in Vancouver, Wash.

Fetherston is set to graduate UO at the end of winter term with a degree in Spanish and a certificate in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching. She plans to pursue a master's degree in education, possibly at Oregon. Her career goal is to become a high school teacher, so she can coach the debate team.

"By far, it's the most educational extracurricular activity you could join," she said.

Tim Christie