Vanderbilt Debate team embarks on a global challenge: World Universities Debating Championship in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

The Vanderbilt University Debate team is gearing up to participate in the World Universities Debating Championship in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The tournament, scheduled for Dec. 26, 2023, to Jan. 5, 2024, is recognized as the largest college debate competition in the world, attracting more than 400 teams from educational institutions across the globe.

This is the third time Vanderbilt Debate will participate in face-to-face debates at the WUDC, having previously represented the university in 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand, and in 2022 in Madrid, Spain. The team’s participation underscores Vanderbilt’s commitment to fostering intellectual rigor and global engagement through the art of debate.

The four students selected to represent Vanderbilt in Vietnam are seniors Daniel Ardity and Maya Reddy and juniors Ainsley Gill and Zacarias Negron. They have been chosen for their academic achievements, unwavering commitment to Vanderbilt Debate and track record of success.

“We are immensely proud of Daniel, Maya, Ainsley and Zacarias. Their dedication to honing their skills and their exemplary performance within the team made them the natural choices to represent Vanderbilt on the world stage,” said John Koch, director of debate at Vanderbilt University. “We have every confidence in their ability to uphold the university’s legacy of excellence.”

One distinctive feature of the WUDC is the unpredictability of the topics; they are not disclosed until the tournament commences. Topics typically span a wide range of subjects, including politics, international relations, philosophy and popular culture. This requires participants to be knowledgeable in various fields and adept at thinking on their feet.

(Kamie Lightburn)

To support activities like WUDC participation, Kamie Lightburn, BA’94, and fellow members of the Vanderbilt Debate Reunion Committee unveiled the Endowed Fund for Debate at last month’s Reunion. This endowment will enhance the experiences of current and future debate team members by fostering team growth, enabling year-round student competition, covering international travel costs, supporting staff and faculty, and maintaining public debate initiatives and educational partnerships.

“In today’s polarized political landscape, it is of the utmost importance that we equip future generations with the skills and resources necessary to cultivate civil discourse,” Lightburn said. “My alma matter has always been at the helm of free expression and debate, and it’s a privilege to be able to give back and bolster the Vanderbilt Debate team, which is home to young trailblazers who have been and will continue to be a positive force in our society.”

The committee encourages others to join in by contributing any amount to support the newly established fund. By doing so, supporters provide exceptional students with opportunities to maximize their potential while contributing to Vanderbilt’s historic Dare to Grow campaign.

Dialogue Vanderbilt

In a reaffirmation of its commitment to free expression, Vanderbilt University launched Dialogue Vanderbilt in August 2023. The initiative will provide a range of programs to students, faculty and the public to promote civil discourse and better understand and address political polarization.