October 24, 2012

Simon scholarship will honor debate team

CARBONDALE, Ill.-- Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and the Department of Speech Communication have established a scholarship program to honor the University's championship debate team.

The "Paul Simon Debater" annual scholarship will come from the Institute's privately raised funds in honor of the late U.S. Sen., and Institute founder Paul Simon's commitment to debate and civil discourse.

Benjamin W. Campbell, a senior in political science from Springfield, Mo., is the first recipient of the $5,000 scholarship.

"It sometimes gets overlooked but SIU is home to one of the nation's leading championship debate teams," said David Yepsen, director of the Institute. "For years, SIU's teams have routinely bested other, larger schools in national competitions and contests. It is fitting that we honor that team -- and Senator Simon -- by supporting the team's students through an annual scholarship to one of the team members. Paul loved nothing more than the civil argument of the Senate floor. I think he'd like the fact we're helping students learn those skills while bringing credit to themselves and the university."

Todd Graham, director of debate, said, "I can't think of a better person than Ben to be named as our first Paul Simon Debater. He's a dedicated student, an outstanding debater, and as gracious as any person as you'll ever meet."

Nathan Stucky, speech communication department chair, said, "We're delighted to have the support of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute for our successful Saluki debate program. Our debaters carry on a tradition of academic excellence that stretches back over many years. These debaters are smart, socially engaged students who do a fabulous job representing the best of what SIU Carbondale can be."

The SIU debate team has a long history of successful debate. Saluki debaters have won national championships in each of the previous three decades. Their most recent national championship was at the 2008 National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence. They've also had a team in the final four each of the past five national championships, a record no other university has ever accomplished, Graham said.

All debate team members will be eligible. The award recipient will be from a selection committee that includes the debate coach, speech communication department chair, and the Institute director -- or their designees.

In return, the "Simon Debater" and other members of the team will hold a debating-skills workshop offered to students volunteering at the Institute, political science ambassadors and honors students at SIU Carbondale.

"The Institute helps students prepare for careers in public service and politics. Being able to handle yourself on your feet is an important skill and having the best-in-the-nation students teaching their peers will be a fun way to provide that help to our future leaders," Yepsen said.

The Institute will also begin a fund-raising effort to raise money to provide for the scholarship on a recurring basis. Anyone wishing to donate to the Simon Debater program may contact Matt Baughman, Institute associate director, at baughman@siu.edu

or at 618/453-4001 for details. The debater scholarship is one of several student scholarship or internship opportunities provided by the Institute.