Debater earns national title: JCU student receives eighth place in U.S. competition

April 30th, 2014



When sophomore Brigette Mendes came to John Carroll University, she immediately started looking to join the debate team. One day at lunch, she happened to sit down at a table where debate was the main topic. She learned that one of the other students at that table was already on the debate team. Mendes joined shortly after.


“The debate team at John Carroll is very different than other colleges,” Mendes said.


There are three to five teams going to each competition, which means at most ten members. Each member works hard to keep up with the larger schools.


“We are like a tiny little family, which is definitely nice to have,” said Mendes.


On the weekend of March 14-16 at the American Debate Association National Championship tournament in Fairfax, Virginia, Mendes received the eighth highest score in individual speaker points from the judges.


Although this is a remarkable achievement, Mendes said it speaks to how much she has improved.


“It shows I am improving on the things I have been working on this year,” she said. “It is not as big of a deal to me that it is at a national tournament, but the accomplishment shows to me that I am in fact accomplishing my own personal goals, which is more valuable. It shows I am getting better every day.”


When asked about what she loves about debate, Mendes smiled and said, “Everything.”


“It gives me a sense of confidence and self-worth,” she added. “It has helped me decide what I want to do with my future and helped me to decide to major in political science. I love the fact that I learn so much and that there is never a boring moment in debate.”


According to Mendes, “The friends I have made in debate are like family, and some of my most important friends are from the speech and debate teams.”


However, her favorite part about debate is the adrenaline rush during rounds.


“There is something special about being completely focused in on one thing, feeling good about yourself, getting on a role and eventually falling in love with it,” she said. “When I am giving a speech, I get a rush of adrenaline and confidence, and I never feel better about myself than in that moment. There is never another moment when I feel better, smarter, happier and more alive than when I am giving a good speech,” Mendes said.


Brent Brossmann, professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communications and Theatre Arts and coach of the debate team, said, “Brigette is funny and spunky in a lot of ways. She has gone through a tremendous amount of growth. To finish as well as she did and only be a second year debater is really impressive.”


Brossmann also talks about how exciting it has been for him to watch Brigette grow and mature. “Last year she was our youngest debater, and spent the year trying to figure things out.”


However, according to Brossmann, this year Brigette has become one of the hardest workers on the team by constantly working on research.


“She has really grown a lot, and it has been fun to see.”


Although this debate year has brought obstacles and challenges to the team, Mendes said the van rides, staying in hotels, and dinners at the end of the day have created many lasting memories for her. “Not only do we get to work on our arguments together, we really get to know each other, spend time together, and especially hear many of Brent Brossmann’s stories,” she said.


Mendes plans to continue to work on her skills and improve each day.