Achievements | Speech and debate team earns fourth Big Ten title

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Achievements | Speech and debate team earns fourth Big Ten title

UNL's speech and debate team collected its fourth-straight Big Ten Conference title. The team will compete in national tournaments in April.
Courtesy photo
UNL's speech and debate team collected its fourth-straight Big Ten Conference title. The team will compete in national tournaments in April.

The UNL speech team earned its fourth-straight Big Ten championship at the Conference Challenge Tournament, Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 at Northwestern University.

UNL led the field with a two-day point total of 165 points, ahead of second-place finisher Northwestern’s 101 points.

In addition to clinching a fourth team championship, UNL students captured six separate event titles. Senior Josiah BeDunnah of Lexington led the way with individual event wins in Dramatic Interpretation, Program Oral Interpretation and Prose Interpretation.

“This was the toughest conference tournament yet,” BeDunnah said. “I feel lucky to have had a great showing and I am so proud of our team.”

BeDunnah also placed first in Duo Interpretation with his partner, fellow senior Toni Karaus of Omaha. Karaus also had an individual success in Poetry Interpretation. Junior Grace Solem-Pfeifer of Omaha won the Impromptu Speaking event.

“I am extremely proud of our students’ performance this weekend,” said Aaron Duncan, UNL’s director of speech and debate. “Despite a blizzard raging outside our students remained focus on the task at hand and delivered great performances all weekend.”

The students of the both the speech and debate teams have been competing since September and are preparing for national tournaments in April, which will be held in Portland, Oregon, and Athens, Ohio.

UNL’s speech and debate program is part of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Other recent awards and honors earned by the UNL community include:


John Richmond, director of the Glenn Korff School of Music, is one of three Achievement Day honorees at his alma mater, William Jewell College.

“As you can imagine, I was surprised, humbled and truly honored to learn I was to be one of three 2015 Achievement Day honorees,” Richmond said. “The list of past honorees is really quite impressive. Jewell’s nickname is the ‘Campus of Achievement’ and their alumni magazine is called ‘Achieve.’ I simply don’t know of alumni recognition for a Jewell alumnus that could mean more to me than the William Jewell College Citation of Achievement.”

Richmond will accept the honor during their Celebration of Achievement March 4-6.

Richmond has been at UNL since 2003. He received his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in music education from William Jewell College in 1977, in addition to a master’s degree from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and a Ph.D. degree from Northwestern University.

Alison Stewart, professor of art history, contributed a chapter titled “Man’s Best Friend? Dogs and Pigs in Early Modern Germany” in the recently released book, “Animals and Early Modern Identity” (Ashgate Publishing).

Stewart’s chapter addresses dogs before they indicated fidelity. In the 16th century in Germany, dogs and pigs became what Stewart called, “emblems of indiscriminate and gluttonous eating and drinking” at a time when “humanists, along with town and imperial authorities and reformers across confessional (that is, religious) lines, addressed their heightened concern for social issues.”

“The animals were part of an attempt to instill manners, on one hand,” Stewart said. “But they also showed the realities of a society in transition toward becoming more civilized, on the other.”


Steven Cohen, a graduate student studying horn performance, played with Mannheim Steamroller on a movie special for the 2015 holiday season at Omaha’s Orpheum Theater. The 2014 holiday season marked the 30th anniversary of Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas tour and the 40th anniversary of the group’s Fresh Aire tour.

Catie Finkenbiner, a senior water science major from Omaha, won an Outstanding Student Poster Award at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting.

The meeting, which took place in December, drew more than 22,000 participants from across the world.

OSPAs are awarded to promote, recognize and reward undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students for quality research in the geophysical sciences. The awards are given to the top 3-5 percent of entrees in each section.

The complete list of winners is available at

Finkenbiner’s poster was titled “Improving the Operability of the Cosmic-ray Neutron Soil Moisture Method: Estimation of Soil Calibration Parameters Using Global Datasets.” Her research focuses on using available global datasets to calibrate the cosmic-ray probe to estimate field-scale soil moisture.

“I compared field soil sample data with data from the global dataset for sites we have information for across the globe,” she said. “The incorporation of this technique for soil moisture management has the potential to increase the efficiency of irrigation water use.”

Trenton Franz, assistant professor of hydrogeophysics in UNL’s School of Natural Resources, is Finkenbiner’s UCARE adviser.

Bryan Howard, a senior English, theatre arts and human behavior major in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film from Howell, New Jersey, won first place in the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas/Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Student Dramaturgy competition at the Region V festival in Minnesota in January.

His entry will be reviewed alongside the seven other regional winners from across the country by a panel of professional dramaturgs to compete for four spots in the national competition in Washington, D.C., in April. Those results will be announced in mid-March.

A dramaturg is a professional position within a theatre or opera company that deals with research and development of plays or operas and works on the historical and cultural research into the play or opera and its setting.

Twenty-eight Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film students attended the KCACTF Region V Festival, which ran Jan. 18-24 at Normandale Community College in Minnesota. They attended workshops, productions and events and received a backstage tour of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Other results from the festival included:

  • Desiree Bartels, a sophomore theatre major from Tobias, won second place in the Theatre Management Intensive.

  • Thomas Boyle, a senior theatre major from Omaha, Nebraska, and his partner Kayla Klammer, a senior theatre and dance major from Ainsworth, Nebraska, advanced to the semi-final round of the Irene Ryan Acting Competition.

  • Joe Shea, a senior theatre major from Blair, Nebraska, was awarded a certificate for his sound design for “Really Really.”

  • Katie Davis, a senior theatre major from Tuttle, Oklahoma, was awarded a certificate for her costume design for “Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

  • Kirstie Smith, a senior theatre major from Potter, Nebraska, and Boyle performed the final scene from “Really Really” as one of only six invited scenes.

  • Michael Barth, a freshman theatre major from Gordon, Nebraska, auditioned, was cast and performed in a 10-Minute Play Festival.

  • Jessie Mhire, a senior theatre major from Mount Vernon, Iowa, stage managed two of the plays in the 10-Minute Play Festival.

Will Preachuk, a computer science major, was among winners of Topplers’ 2014-2015 Domino Award for Computer Science.

More than 100 students from 44 schools participated in the national essay competition. Essays honored Richard Stallman, a pioneer in the open source movement; Paul Baran, a pioneer in the development of computer networks; and Barbara Liskov, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose work designing programming languages led to a development of object oriented programming.

Preachuk wrote about Stallman.

Winners receive an all-expenses-paid trip to see technology innovation at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in the spring.

This column is a regular feature of UNL Today. Faculty, staff and students can submit their achievements to be considered for this column via email to For more information, call 402-472-8515.

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