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Perspective: A Simple Appreciation

In-Person Celebration is Not Overrated

March 27, 2023 – February was busy. Our team was preparing for our spring calendar, which is always the busiest season at NAUDL. First, I was privileged to speak on a “D&I Dialogues” panel for The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, of which I am a proud alumna, on the role healthy debate plays in building a more inclusive, equitable future. I then had plans to travel to New York City to meet with some of our newest partners and champions of debate (more on that in the coming weeks) – but, before that, our staff would gather with nine Urban Debate Network alumni, all now in college, for our Alumni Ambassador Orientation. Our longstanding Alumni Ambassador program gathers a prestigious and diverse group of dynamic and motivated leaders who are looking to give back and stay connected to the urban debate community. Their main role is to support competition and community-building efforts at the annual Urban Debate National Championship (UDNC).

As I think about it, I am a little bit in awe that not one of these engagements involved me logging in to a Zoom account – and while I know it may seem a little overused these days, the importance of “the return to in-person events” for our organization and community is worth sharing.

On the programming level, NAUDL works with our partner leagues — and the leagues work directly with our student base during the majority of the year. So, we are often not face-to-face with those who we hope are ultimately impacted by our work. Further, on the community engagement level, supporting debate is not like supporting your high school basketball team; weekend tournaments aren’t generally attended by the public and scores are not readily available on an app. As such, competitions and celebrations like the UDNC, and the preceding Annual Dinner, are THE time that we shine a light on our work. These outings are where students are exposed to and engaged with their Urban Debate Network peers across the country; where our leagues and coaches are actually interconnected; where supporters and partners see our mission come to life; and where we can recognize those who go the extra extra mile in making a difference for thousands of collective students each year.

These events provide NAUDL the opportunity to build stronger relationships with the network, forging personal connections to staff members, coaches, current and soon-to-be alumni.  For these groups in particular, actually attending a NAUDL-hosted event in-person provides a frame of reference to NAUDL as more than an acronym or a logo that appears on emails and league materials. It provides an opportunity for students to connect with our organization as a living entity, with a staff that has enormous pride, passion and commitment to the network – and that is priceless.

To learn more about the Annual Dinner or the UDNC to be held this March in Dallas, visit our designated web pages. To congratulate our 2023 Award Winners (Coach of the Year and Debater of the Year and Finalists), follow NAUDL on our social channels.

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