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They called him “Mumbly Matt.” Now, the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) has chosen University of Nevada, Reno senior Matt Hogan as one of three college students in the nation to represent the United States March 19 in the annual “United States versus Irish Debate.”
“They used to make fun of me because I was mumbly, quiet and shy,” the Carson High graduate said. “So, I took my first debate class as an elective in high school to prove to myself that I could communicate better. Now, people can’t get me to shut up.”
The first-generation political science major now exudes confidence, but also humility and graciousness. He proudly states that he is a “first-generation, low-income” college student, who has worked full-time while attending the University while maintaining a 3.86 grade point average. The McNair Scholar also took one year off after graduating from Carson High to work and save some money for college.
“Matt’s very personable and has real charm,” said Phil Sharp, director of Nevada’s debate program. “He’s going to be a crowd favorite. His debate style is oriented toward a public audience.”
Because of this, Sharp likes the United States’ chances of upsetting the Irish this year, since the winning team is chosen by a crowd vote, not judges. Usually, the Irish debaters are more entertaining and are “graduate and Ph.D. students with about 10 years of college-debating experience,” according to Sharp.
The U.S. debaters are always undergraduates, usually seniors, chosen by the NPDA based on three criteria: sportsmanship and diplomacy, forensic and academic achievement, and effectiveness in public debate.
The U.S.-Irish debate is held each year at the beginning of the NPDA’s Championship Tournament, which is always held around Saint Patrick’s Day and is being hosted by Texas Tech in Lubbock this year. This is the second consecutive year that a Nevada student has been chosen to represent the United States. Last year, David Pena, then a Nevada senior, was chosen for the honor.
In addition to participating in the U.S.-Irish debate, Hogan will be teaming up with Nevada junior Max Alderman to compete in the regular portion of the NPDA Championship Tournament, one of the two major national collegiate debate tournaments held annually. Last year, Alderman, a Reno High graduate, teamed up with Nevada’s Pena to take first place in the tournament, beating out 232 of the nation’s best college debate duos.
Pena has since graduated, but Alderman and Hogan plan to carry on the torch and will also represent Nevada at the other national tournament a week later, the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence held at Azusa Pacific University in California. Pena and Alderman also took first at that tournament last year, becoming only the third team in the history of collegiate parliamentary debate to win the sport’s two most prestigious prizes in the same season. Four other Nevada debaters will be joining Alderman and Hogan at the first tournament, and two others will be joining them at the second tournament. Sharp is proud of his nationally recognized debate team.
“This is one of the strongest, close-knit teams in the country,” said Phil Sharp, director of Nevada’s debate program. “The 15 team members rely on each other and spend gross amounts of time together. They are resources for each other in and outside of debate.”
Sharp said his team is also very well liked by the national debate community.
“I know it would make our University administrators cringe, but they affectionately call our team ‘UN-er’,” he said. “They are all just really pleasant and have a reputation for being inclusive and friendly.”
You can join Hogan and the other Nevada debaters for a piece of cake and wish them “the luck of the Irish” before they leave to represent Nevada and the United States at a Send-off Celebration at 9:45 a.m., this Friday, March 12 at the University’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, in the Rotunda Lounge. And by the way, you can also wish Hogan “Happy Birthday.” He’ll be debating the Irish on his 24th birthday.
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