Regis debate team enjoys a successful season

Meet Bella Willhite and Hans Gebauer, seniors at Regis University, and the team leaders of the Regis debate team. On the weekend of Oct. 7, the duo led the team to victory at the 2023 Rocky Mountain Debating Championship. Willhite's and Gebauer’s success marks the first win for the Regis debate team for the 2023 season.

The win at the Rocky Mountain Debating Championship adds another victory to the long list of the team's successes. But at a debate tournament, there is much more to gain than a victory.

“It was the final round of the tournament,” Willhite said. “And I had moment where it felt like everything I had learned in class at Regis came together in a way that nobody else in the round saw them.”

Having debated together for the past four years at Regis, Willhite and Gebauer have developed a strong debate partnership, readying themselves to take on the roles of team leaders.

“What really makes this year stand out is the role Bella and I have taken on as team leaders,” Gebauer said. “It feels really powerful to be trusted.”

For the 2023 season, the Regis debate team is the largest it has been. Rob Margesson, associate professor of the Communication Department and debate team coach, has high hopes for this season. Margesson has been at Regis for 19 years cultivating the Regis debate team.

“This is an interesting year,” Margesson said, “we have really different levels of experience, from the U.S. National Debating team to no experience in competitive debate.”

Margesson himself didn’t begin debating until his freshman year of college at Humboldt State University in northern California. After that, he coached debate at Colorado State University before finding his way to Regis. From there he has spent the past two decades coaching the Regis debate team. To Margesson, the foundation of the Regis debate team lies within the students. The secret to a strong debate team is partnerships, and the willingness of the most dedicated debaters to work with new members – if Regis wins a tournament, they all win together.

“We have a lot of raw talent right now,” Margesson said. “We have a lot of really smart and articulate debaters that we are going to keep working to be as good as they possibly can be."

Paige Krum, first-time debate team member and sophomore at Regis, plans to continue debating at Regis because of the experiences of debating in a tournament. While initially overwhelmed, Krum found that the engaging structure and content of a debate tournament is what compels her to keep debating with Regis.

“I am passionate about debating,” Krum said. “It keeps me thinking and on my toes which helps me engage in my classes.”

For both the new and returning members of the Regis debate team, the 2023 season looks promising. And for Willhite and Gebauer, their passion for debate will not disappear once they graduate from Regis this spring.

For Willhite, she has applied for a Fullbright position in Taiwan, centered around cultural exchange and teaching debate there. Gebauer hopes to continue coaching debate the high school level.

“As a young person discovering the world around them, debate was such an important part of that,” Gebauer said. “I think it’s a really important activity, and I want to see it thrive.”