Three members of the UNL forensics and debate team served as speech coaches and ambassadors at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China in May.
The trip – which was arranged to advance knowledge of speech and debate and to build international ties – was arranged through the University of Nebraska’s American Exchange Center and included student representatives from UNL, UNO and UNK, said Aaron Duncan, UNL’s director of speech and debate.
Recently, the Chinese government has begun encouraging the development of speech and debate programs within the country as a way to create better public speakers and critical thinkers. The UNL Speech and Debate Team was asked to visit to help convey its knowledge and understanding of the subject. For nine days in May, students attended multiple classes each day and speaking about a range of topics, including debate strategies, to argumentation theory and presentation skills.
UNL’s Derrick Stevens, Daniel Wheaton and Jeffery Garst each was partnered with a Xi’an Jiaotong student for a debate at the end of the session, Duncan said. Stevens, Wheaton and Garst were accompanied by Duncan and graduate assistant coach Allison Bonander.
“The biggest difference was that (Americans) have so much more free time,” Wheaton said. “They go to class roughly 40 hours a week, while I get antsy if a class goes five minutes beyond the allotted time. I think they enjoyed hearing from a student’s perspective.”
Duncan said the trip was informative for him, his students and teachers at Xi’an Jiaotong.
“We are hopeful that this visit will be the start of a long collaborative process between the two university speech and debate teams,” Duncan said.
Plans are being made for the two teams to engage in Internet debates and for UNL coaches to hold interactive online workshops with the X’ian Jiaotong team.
XJTU, a leading research university in China, is an international partner with the University of Nebraska. With programs in science, engineering, medicine, economics, management, art, law, philosophy and education, it has a student enrollment of more than 30,000.