St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf finds success at state, national debate competitions

Members of the St. Olaf Debate Team, shown with the awards they picked up at the state competition, include (left to right) Sarmad Chaudhry ’21, Muhammad Lucman ’19, Leander Krawinkel ’21, Carly Fitzgerald ’18 (co-president), Matthew Erickson ’19 (co-president), Ava Bowman ’21, Cole Thompson ’21, and Sivuse Mbingo ’21.

Oles know how to have a good debate.

After receiving an armful of awards at the state level, the St. Olaf College Parliamentary Debate Team earned a trip this year to nationals in Nashville, Tennessee.

At the state level, St. Olaf’s team as a whole won 2nd place in both the State Tournament Debate Sweepstakes and the Limited Sweepstakes. They also picked up the Minnesota Collegiate Forensics (MCFA) Lapanta Quality Award at the Minnesota Forensics State Tournament, a difficult award to get.

Sivuse Mbingo ’21, Leander Krawinkel ’21, and Muhammad Lucman ’19 earned 1st, 4th, and 5th place, respectively, in the state competition. The three, along with Matthew Erickson ’19 and Carly Fitzgerald ’18, competed at nationals, where the teams held their own.

Krawinkel, a first-year religion and history major, says that being a member of the St. Olaf Debate Team has given him added enjoyment in classes and assignments, both in and outside of his areas of study. The fast-paced environment of Parliamentary debate, the style the team participates in, has taught him and his teammates how to effectively prepare an argument and deliver a convincing speech, a skill that proves useful even in everyday life.

“Debate really helps you to enable your skills [in school],” says Krawinkel, an international student from Switzerland. “Being that English is my second language, it helped me a lot in taking notes because the debate argument is almost structured like a classical essay.”

The team, one of the more than 200 student organizations at St. Olaf, meets twice a week for practice and competes regularly. They also find ways to engage with the campus community, such as an on-campus debate on the national opioid epidemic that they held on April 12 in collaboration with the St. Olaf Institute for Freedom and Community.

The art of debate cultivates a deeper appreciation for knowledge, Krawinkel says.

He notes that he used to hold the common belief that “debate is not really accessible, that it is the sport of the few, [or] for geniuses. I think that is very wrong. I think debate is for everyone who wants to get better in school, who wants to share knowledge, who wants to find new areas of interest.”

Watch Leander Krawinkel ’21 explain how the debate team has impacted his life: