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Application of Knowledge

Defending National Champions
Tennessee Speech and Debate Society

Thompson Boling Arena is filled to the rafters with banners lauding the multiple national championships. Neyland Stadium is adorned with testimony to national championships in football. They would need a lot more room for all the championships won by the Tennessee Speech and Debate Society (TSDS).

The TSDS is home to the University of Tennessee’s national championship debate team, a student-run organization that has won 14 consecutive national championships over the past five years. TSDS also has a longstanding history of pursuing debate excellence and an ongoing effort to educate students on skills required in both their academic and professional careers, as well as for their own individual capacity of self-advocacy.

Several times each year, the team travels across the nation to compete at collegiate debate tournaments to demonstrate the talent and of UT students in their performance of argumentation, policy presentation, and overall rhetorical skills in persuasion. The team won two top team awards and a multitude of individual student awards including two tournament division championships in 2021, making it a stellar year.

TSDS also seeks to better the campus community outside of pure debate and in the past this has included bringing national figures to campus, providing volunteer opportunities, and partnering with other student organizations to create spaces for civil discourse and learning. It is dedicated to providing students the skills necessary for their academic, career, and personal success as better scholars, debaters, and individuals. 

Membership on the team is available to everyone at the University of Tennessee. We work with students from all skill levels and capabilities to participate. If you’re interested in reaching out, please do so at or 989-984-4696.

May it Please the Court
Mock Trial Team

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Mock Trial team is a student-run and student-coached undergraduate trial advocacy team. Our organization is made up of 25-40 students from all majors who compete as attorneys or witnesses. The Mock Trial team competes in tournaments around the nation in the fall and competes in the American Mock Trial Association’s Tournaments in the spring. Tennessee Mock Trial often makes it to premier championship rounds, something only 28 percent of teams nationwide achieve. Currently, Tennessee Mock Trial is ranked 101st in the nation (out of 700+ teams) and is one of the highest-ranked student-run teams in the nation. The organization strives to home their skills in the process of litigation.

This past competitive season (2020-2021), the American Mock Trial Association held all our competitions online. As such, our organization moved completely online, competing, and practicing through Zoom. While this was a drastic change, team members were able to adapt to this change and embrace the value of online mock trials. While the pandemic interrupted the normal tour, it also created some opportunities. The team was no longer limited by geography and had the chance to scrimmage and compete against top teams across the nation that they ordinarily would not have faced. The team utilized the new technology to enhance their trial advocacy skills. In the end, this paid off. The team finished first in regional championship competition against teams like Northwestern University, Brown University, and the University of Georgia and earned a bid to compete at the Opening Round Championship Series.

The Mock Trial team is looking forward to competing in person and transplanting the advocacy skills learned on Zoom to in-person tournaments. The team has competed at four in-person competitions and have taken home 8 outstanding attorney/witness awards, and one first-place award (with a perfect record)!

Team “See Rock City” competed at the University of Mississippi and won first place with a perfect (8-0) record. Award winners include Outstanding Witnesses Evan Mukerji and Lakin Breedin. Bella Reed won two outstanding attorney awards, one on the prosecution and one of the defense side of the case. 
Row 1 (L to R): Megan Engle, Thomas Murphy, Mackenzie Ganey, Reem Wolde. Row 2 (L to R): Natalie Parisi, Lilly Highfill, Evan Mukherji (Captain), Lakin Breedin, Bella Reed (Captain)

Model United Nations

The Model United Nations club at The University of Tennessee is composed of engaged students who travel across the United States to compete in collegiate conferences against other universities. College students convene to participate in crisis simulations, with topics varying from historical and realistic simulations to fictional and hypothetical crises and disputes. Outside the conference, the travel team visits cultural sites and attractions in the various host cities. The travel team attends a half dozen conferences throughout the academic year, with destinations ranging from local southern counterparts (such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) to national competitions (predominantly in Washington D.C. and Chicago).

Model UN team at training conference held by Elon University this year. (From left to right, back row: Tycho Barnard, Lucas Weires, Jack Robert Huffman, Amritha Thiruveedula, Brent Maples, Andrew Nessari. From left to right, front row: Ahmad Bahar, Nik Bergman, Maxwell Barnard, Peyton King, Sam Konsavage, Casey Mcdonald-Risner, Caleb Lantz, Sophia Milen.)

The organization also holds the Volunteer Model United Nations (VolMUN) conference; VolMUN is a high school conference hosted by the UT organization and staffed by the team’s members. High school students from across Tennessee and surrounding states visit Knoxville and compete for the best delegation award. The delegates discuss contemporary world issues and collaborate to create possible answers to global problems. Ultimately, the conference provides the UT student members with an opportunity to experience Model UN from the organizers' and mediators' perspectives while teaching high school students the importance of cooperation and teamwork.

The Model UN team joined by high school participants during VolMUN conference. This was the last large gathering before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Model United Nations at UT has persevered and thrived. The team adapted to Zoom-based conferences during the spring of 2021 (for both travel and VolMUN) and adjusted to the new electronic methods as they prepare for the return of in-person competitions. The club is excited to return to the road. The organization is a community of friends working to increase their debate prowess.

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