In his second year as Trinity University’s director of debate, William Mosley-Jensen has been named 2016 Coach of the Year by the National Debate Tournament.
Also an assistant professor of human communication at Trinity, Mosley-Jensen said he is the youngest collegiate debate director to receive the award, named in honor of George Ziegelmueller, who served as debate director at Wayne State University for more than 30 years. Zeigelmueller was known for his dedication to his students, his university, to the forensics profession, and to students learning about public debate and public issues. The award was instituted in 1999.
Mosley-Jensen, who took four Trinity debate students to the national finals in Binghamton, N.Y., in April, said he had no knowledge he was being considered for the award. “It was a real shock,” he said. Joining him were seniors Maggie Solice and Nathan Rothenbaum, junior Austen Yorko, and first-year student Drew Sposeep.
Debate season begins in the fall and continues until the early spring. The national debate tournament finals are scheduled to coincide with the NCAA basketball season known as “March Madness.” Although the debaters begin with 78 teams (basketball begins with 64), groups are pared down to the top 32, the Sweet 16, and so on.
Trinity finished in the top 32 and was encouraged by victories over what Mosley-Jensen called “very good teams” from the University of Vermont, Rutgers, and Kentucky. In addition, he said Trinity and Harvard tied for having the most difficult schedule. This year’s topic was based on a foreign policy question about whether the United States should reduce its military presence in areas such as northeast Asia or the Persian Gulf.
The world of debate is a “tight-knit community” that requires students to immerse themselves in research, Mosley-Jensen said. The four Trinity students who attended the national tournament conducted research and practiced speeches and “arguments” nights and weekends for four to five hours a day. They spent their 2016 spring break on campus and in the Ruth Taylor Theater Building preparing for the national tournament. “One of the students told me, ‘Spring break was the hardest I worked all year,’” Mosley-Jensen said.
Since the Zeigelmueller Coach of the Year Award was announced at the beginning of the national tournament, Mosley-Jensen said, “It recharged me” and it provided momentum to the student debaters. They “started out of the gate with four victories.” Mosley-Jensen said the award was gratifying but also humbling. He thanked the Trinity debaters “for making my job so easy. They are smart, dedicated, and push me to excel.”