Debate and Your Career

The research, analysis and disputation skills fostered in intercollegiate debate are valuable in virtually every occupation or profession. Here is what a number of former Cal Poly debaters say about how debating helped them prepare for life after college.

"As a business development director, I am responsibile for determining the growth pathways of my company. My debate experience helps me overcome objections and obstacles, thinking quickly in the face of an ever-changing business environment. More importantly, the ability to look at both sides of an issue and give a fair, objective opinion backed by facts is a critical skill in the business community."

Osman Uygun (B.A., Speech Communication, 1997) was the Business Development Director for Logic Plus, an engineering consulting firm located in San Luis Obispo, at the time this comment was submitted.

"Without a doubt, my experiences in intercollegiate debate have influenced my life more than any other activity I participated in. Working in the broadcasting industry, I use the skills acquired from debate on a daily basis. The ability or organize and articulate ideas clearly, think quickly, research effectively, and see both sides of every issue are skills that I directly attribute to debate. Participating on the debate team at Cal Poly provided me with the skills to succeed in college, succeed in my career, and succeed in life."

Bill Wisneski (B.A., Speech Communication, 1996) who holds a Master of Arts in Broadcasting from Washington State University, is an Emmy Award winning production coordinator, telewriter, and director for the California Community College Satellite Network.

"Debate has influenced both my private life and my career. In a time of personal disarray, it provided needed structure to my life. In my professional life, I have found that debate gave me the ability to work with a diverse group of people striving toward a variety of goals. Furthermore, the research skills I developed through debate have helped me in my graduate studies. I strongly encourage anyone who wants to enhance their abilities to participate in debate. The benefits are endless."

Steve Woodard (B.A., Speech Communication, 1994) holds a Master of Arts degree in Counseling and Guidance from Cal Poly and a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington, where he is the Early Identification Program Assistant Director for the university's Office of Minority Affairs.

"As a member of the Cal Poly debate team, I learned the importance of research, analysis and critical thinking. The debate program at Cal Poly gave me the opportunity to practice and develop these fundamental skills. My transition into law school was simplified because I had already acquired the ability to build arguments, advocate positions and articulate effectively. My career as a securities lawyer is aided by my ability to analyze issues, contIplate the other side's position and negotiate in a well reasoned manner. Without a doubt, being a member of the Cal Poly debate team was not only fun and exciting, but it allowed me to learn and acquire valuable skills which have aided me immensely throughout my career."

Roland T. Kelly (B.S., Business Administration, Financial Managment, 1994) holds a juris doctorate, summa cum laude, from Pepperdine University School of Law and is Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Jefferies & Company, Inc., a international investment banking firm.

"Being involved in the Cal Poly Debate program was the most worthwhile extracurricular activity of my college career. It provided me with the critical thinking skills essential for my position in the State Legislature. Debate was instrumental in developing my verbal and written communication skills. In addition, it exposed me to important social issues and taught me how to separate myself from my own biases and beliefs. I feel that debate opened my mind and provided me with the tools I need to suceed in my chosen career."

Trudi (Hughes) Sprague (B.A., Agribusiness, 1993) is a former a special consultant to the California Senate Committee on Finance, Investment, and International Trade.

"The experience and skill that I gained as a Cal Poly debater have been critical to my success as a Marketing Consultant. I have secured numerous consulting contracts due to my ability to clearly articulate complex issues and ideas, strategically position technologies, and promote product adoption through persuasive written and oral communication. Debate is not only a challenging sport, it is a trIendous education that I apply to my career and my life. There is no more important skill in the business world than the ability to think on your feet and articulate your ideas with conviction."

Julie (Kunnas) Blanton (B.A., Speech Communication, 1991) founded the Silicon Valley management consulting firm, JKB Consulting.

"My three years experience on the Cal Poly debate team gave me analytical and critical thinking skills that have helped me in pursuing a Masters degree in International Public Administration. I find that I am able to develop arguments, state my views, and think and speak clearly and persuasively. In addition, I am very comfortable speaking publicly and in a variety of situations, especially extIporaneously. Being on the debate team was one of the highlights of my college education."

Teresa Huffman (B.A., Political Science, 1991) is a graduate of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and the former Development Coordinator for the non-profit lobby group Friends Committee on Legislation.

"As a Cal Poly debater for four years, I learned much that prepared me for my career as a university professor. Each sIester I find myself using examples from my debate experience in every course I teach. Probably the most helpful lessons I learned were those in critical thinking. These skills help me to analyze speeches in public speaking classes, to read papers critically in all courses that I teach, and to conduct my own research. My debate research experiences taught me how to find anything in any library, something that many fellow graduate students had difficulty doing. Finally, the contacts that I made as a Cal Poly debater have been very beneficial as I have pursued my career."

Barbara (Wimpee) Spies (B.A., Speech Communication, 1987) holds a Master of Arts degree in communication from Miami University, and a PhD in communication from Penn State University. Barb is an Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, WI.

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