Barking Bulldogs team earns spot in the National Debate Tournament

From left: Aaron Lowe, Tom Boroujeni, Primavera Leal Martinez, and Aranveer Litt.

By Tom Boroujeni and Benjamin Kirk


The Fresno State Barking Bulldogs capped off a banner year by announcing the debate team of Aaron Lowe and Aranveer Litt were invited to the National Debate Tournament. The annual tournament was to be held at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia but was canceled due to COVID-19. 

“This is an incredible achievement for both Aaron and Aranveer, as well as our university and the debate team,” said Tom Boroujeni, director of debate, Department of Communication.  “Aaron and Aranveer, I am extremely proud of your hard work and dedication. Congratulations on this incredible achievement! You make us all proud.”

While Lowe and Litt were unable to compete, they did receive their silver mugs which are traditionally given to participants at the tournament. They are the second team in the history of Fresno State to qualify for the nationals.

Aranveer Litt and Aaron Lowe
Aranveer Litt and Aaron Lowe show off their mugs which are traditionally given to participants at theNational Debate Tournament.

The Lowe and Litt team also won the All-American Debater of the Year award from the Cross Examination Debate Association. The award was given to 24 debaters nationwide who represent the best of intercollegiate debate by demonstrating competitive success, academic success, good conduct and contributions to their squad. 

“It is an honor that two out of 24 recipients were from Fresno State. Aaron and Aranveer both represent the best that the debate community has to offer,” said Boroujeni.

In addition, Lowe received the 2019/2020 Varsity Debater of the Year at Fresno State. He will be inducted into the National Communication Association’s honor society Lambda Pi Eta and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Lowe will receive his B.A. in communication this year and he was accepted to several master’s programs.

Behind every winning team are fantastic coaches. This year, the graduate student coach Primavera Leal Martinez was recognized as the Cross Examination Debate Association’s Matt Grindy Outstanding Graduate Student Coach. The award recognizes both the pedagogical and competitive contributions to the growth and development of policy debate by a graduate student coach, who is balancing their obligations to their schoolwork and that of their program. Martinez was also named the 2019/2020 Outstanding Debate Coach of the Year at Fresno State. She will be inducted into the National Communication Association’s Lambda Pi Eta honor society.  

“Primavera has been an amazing coach and an incredible student,” said Boroujeni. “All of this success would not have been possible without [her].”

From left: Aaron Lowe, Tom Boroujeni, Primavera Leal Martinez, and Aranveer Litt.
From left: Aaron Lowe, Tom Boroujeni, Primavera Leal Martinez, and Aranveer Litt.

In the last tournament of the semester prior to COVID-19 cancelations, Lesly Salvadar Leon and Sarah Saelee participated in their first varsity tournament at CSU Long Beach. Salvadar-Leon has been selected as the 2019/2020 JV debater of the Year at Fresno State. Payton Polanco and first-time debater Christen Cogdell won five of their six preliminary rounds at that tournament and advanced to the Quarterfinals where they defeated CSU Northridge on a 3-0 decision advancing to Semis. Unfortunately, they lost their Semifinal round to Southwestern on a 2-1 decision and placed third in the tournament. Payton was selected as the 2019/2020 Novice Debate of the Year at Fresno State.

The 2019-20 debate season was one for the history books. The Barking Bulldog policy debate teams won four tournament championships and finished in the top three 10 times.

“Overall, this year has been the second most successful year in the history of the team,” said   Boroujeni. “The debaters put in an incredible amount of work and it paid off. I am incredibly proud of them.”

CEDA honors debaters who maintain strong academic records in addition to their competitive accomplishments. To be eligible for any level of national scholar recognition, a student must have attained at least a junior standing, competed in 18 rounds or more on the current topic, and met the minimum grade point average for that specific award. Aaron Lowe and Demetria Wack were two of the 27 recipients of CEDA’s National Debate Scholar summa cum laude award. Christen Cogdell was one of the eight recipients of CEDA’s National Debate Scholar magna cum laude award and Aranveer Litt was one of the nine recipients of CEDA’s National Debate Scholar honorable mention. All of the debaters would have been eligible for this award, but they do not yet have the minimum junior standing. In fact, Fresno State’s debate team has one of the highest team GPAs in the nation.

Hunter Sansom
Hunter Sansom

Hunter Sansom is this year’s Dean’s Medalist for the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. She is one of the nine students who will be considered for the President’s Medal. Hunter was also the Communication Department’s undergraduate student of distinction and its Dean’s Medal nominee for the College of Arts and Humanities. Hunter has been involved on the campus in many different capacities, including the  ASI Senator for the College of Arts and Humanities. She has presented a paper at the Western States Communication Conference for the second year in a row. Hunter is expected to graduate with Summa Cum Laude distinction and is planning to pursue her MA is Communication. She has been accepted into multiple graduate programs with significant scholarship offers.

Demitria Wack will be graduating this semester with her B.S. in Psychology, minor in Criminology and Certificate of Legal Studies. She is expected to graduate with Summa Cum Laude distinction. Demitria is a Bulldog Pride Scholar, as well as a Smittcamp Family Honors College Scholar. She was selected as the Department of Psychology Outstanding Undergraduate Student and was the department’s nominee for the Undergraduate Dean’s Medal in the College of Science and Mathematics. She served as the President of ASI during the 2018/2019 academic year. She has been accepted into the London School of Economics, University of Cambridge, University College London, and University of Sussex. She is planning to attend the London School of Economics in the Fall to study International Social and Public Policy.

Scott Chapman is graduating this semester and he is planning to pursue his MA in Communication. He is currently taking a graduate course as an undergraduate student. He was also accepted to present his paper in the Western State Communication Conference.

Cameron Ervin, one of the Barking Bulldog debaters, is graduating this semester with a B.A. in Philosophy and a B.S. in Political Science. He is a Smittcamp Family Honors College Scholar and expected to graduate with Summa Cum Laude distinction. He has been accepted into USC, University of Texas – Austin, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern University, and wait-listed for University of Chicago and Harvard Law Schools. He has accepted a scholarship and will start his JD program in fall at Duke Law.

The Fresno State Barking Bulldogs is made up of five, two-person policy debate teams who travel to tournaments and 10 members who support the teams through research. The team aims to enhance students’ skills in policy construction, argumentation and advocacy. The program strives to compete at the highest levels of national competition while continuing to exercise an “open door” policy for students with little or no debate experience.

Posted by

The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.