Pacific to host national parliamentary debate championships

a student stands at a podium

University of the Pacific—reigning national champion of the National Parliamentary Debate Association—will host this year’s national tournament March 24-27 on the Stockton Campus.

Schools throughout California and across the country will compete, including University of California, Berkeley; Tulane University in New Orleans and Rice University in Houston, Texas. More than 150 students, coaches and judges are expected to attend.

Pacific will have six students competing as part of three teams, including four who were on last year’s national championship team.

“This is a big opportunity for Pacific to host,” said Jonathan Reyes ’23, a business administration major and debate team member. “This tournament is well-respected in the debate community.”

Reyes, who was on last year’s winning team, said they are rigorously preparing for the competition. “The process of preparing for nationals is tough, but it’s always worth it. The harder we prepare, the better we do,” Reyes said.

Pacific’s speech and debate team excels in competitions. In addition to their national title in last year’s tournament, the team also secured first place for season-long performance in the open division and won the top speaker award. The team has finished in the top 10 nationally for seven consecutive years.

Highlights from this year’s debate season include:

  • Reyes received the first-place overall speaker award in parliamentary debate at the Northern California Forensics Association regional championship,
  • Angelica Guzman received first place in the Lincoln Douglas open category at Pacific’s Paul Winters and Pat Kennedy Invitational, and
  • Emma Garber received first place for impromptu speaking at the Rice University Classic.

In parliamentary style debate, which the students are competing in for nationals, students work in teams of two to debate policies or socially significant topics which change every round.

“It’s like watching a logic puzzle play out,” said Pacific’s Director of Forensics Steven Farias. The debate style focuses heavily on participants’ ability to think and reason through arguments—invaluable skills students can apply outside of debate.

“It’s really helped me understand how to persuasively communicate something,” said political science major and debate team member Daneli Santillan ’25. “It also has helped me with writing and reading comprehension because there is a lot of research involved when you're trying to propose real world solutions.”

Students must also effectively learn how to problem solve as a team to be successful.

“You have to be on same page and establish a good working relationship,” Farias said. “That can be difficult in a competitive setting.”

This is the third time Pacific has hosted the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s national championship. It was previously held on the Stockton Campus in 2009 and 2013.

The competition is open to the public. Competition rounds will take place throughout the campus beginning Saturday, March 25 with quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds on Monday, March 27. Anyone interested in watching can contact Farias at (209) 471-6470 or

High schoolers can learn Pacific’s debate strategies and techniques first-hand in the Pacific Summer High School Institute. A competitive debate program is available during the two-week pre-college program in June.