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Brent Brossmann wins Curtis Miles Community Service Award

February 10th, 2011

Communications professor Brent Brossmann received the annual Curtis W. Miles Faculty Award for Community Service last Thursday during Ignatian Heritage Week.

The award, founded by Curtis Miles in 1992 recognizes a faculty member who displays dedication to their cause within the community and supports the University’s mission through their work.

Last year’s recipient, faculty member Paula Britton, presented the award to Brossmann after Father Howard Gray’s lecture in the LSC Conference Room last Thursday.

Brossmann, who has taught and served as director of the debate team at John Carroll for the past 18 years, was selected to receive the award by the Faculty Committee on Research, Service and Faculty Development.

He has been fundamental in using the study and practice of debate as an educational device as well as an alternative to violence in the Cleveland area.

“I am convinced debate is educational for everybody,” said Brossmann, “it improves critical thinking, self-esteem and advocacy.”

Because of his passion, Brossmann has created several debate programs for underprivileged students and young adults. He coordinates a high school debate league, in which 75 local students currently participate. Within the program, volunteers also train teachers how to teach debate on a weekly basis.

The high school students involved with the debate program will compete in their first tournament next week.  Brossmann hopes that they will eventually have eight tournaments per year within the program, along with tournaments for junior high students.

Brossmann has the statistics to back up his belief that teaching debate has a positive effect on students.

Based on the 17 cities with debate programs in place for inner city students, there proves to be a direct correlation between debate and graduation rate. Those schools that offer a debate class have from a 71 to 95 percent graduation rate compared to the national average of 53 percent.

“Imagine if we could get that in Cleveland,” said Brossmann enthusiastically.

Another program headed by the recipient brings debate to the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Volunteers teach the art of debate to the young men. This program presents many challenges due to the fact that the inmates do not have access to resources like the Internet. With the dedication of JCU volunteers, the young men are able to participate in numerous impassioned, yet civil debates.

“We saw major improvements over the weeks,” said Brossmann. “It was a life altering experience for them [inmates]. By the end of the semester, they were talking about applying to college and other long-term aspirations.”

Although Brossmann’s debate programs are still young, they have been met with success so far.

“It has taken a lot of fundraising and dedication from our volunteers as well as the schools to make these programs a reality,” said Brossmann.

Of the Curtis Miles award, which Brossmann received because of his programs mentioned, he said: “I am flattered and humbled for the award because it represents the work of dozens of people. I appreciate everyone who made these programs a reality.”