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Debate Faculty Bios

“They {lab leaders} were phenomenal. All of them showed intricate debate experience, passion for the activity, and were intensely supportive of our work as debaters.”

-2022 Cherub

“I loved my lab leaders, they all had different field of expertise in debate but they all were welcoming and friendly…and it always felt like they knew what to do and were always willing to answer questions and help even if it was small or seemed obvious.”

-2022 Cherub

I liked my lab leaders a lot…They allowed us to learn through thought provoking discussions and little application practices that all proved extremely useful in the end.”

-2022 Cherub
Daniel J. Fitzmier – NHSI Debate Institute Director

Daniel J. Fitzmier is the Director of Debate and a Senior Lecturer in Northwestern’s School of Communication. Over the course of his career, he has coached 10 different teams to the Finals of the National Debate Tournament, including the National Champions in 2015, 2011, 2005, 2003, 2002, and 2000. He has also coached seven Copeland Award-winning teams, the award given to the team with the top overall performance each debate season. He has coached two Top Speakers at the NDT and is the only coach to ever coach more than one woman to win that award. Dr. Fitzmier has received the James J. Unger Award more than any other coach – having been awarded that honor in four of the last eight seasons. He was voted the National Debate Coach of the Year in 2012 and has coached fifteen teams to the Final Four of the National Debate Tournament as well as seventeen top five Copeland finishers in his seventeen years of working as an assistant, graduate student, and director. The summer institute in 2023 will mark the thirty-fourth Northwestern Debate Institute at which he has served as the director or instructor.

LaTonya Starks – Faculty

LaTonya Starks began her debate career as a sophomore at Morgan Park High School, located on Chicago’s south side.  She is a Chicago Debate League alum, as well as one of the first CDL teams to qualify for the National Forensic League Championships.  Upon graduating from high school, LaTonya was recruited by Scott Deatherage, then the Director of Forensics at Northwestern University, to debate at Northwestern.

LaTonya is a graduate of Northwestern University and a four-year member of the Northwestern Debate Society.  She was the first African-American woman to debate for four years at Northwestern, and Northwestern Debate Society’s First African American female coach.  LaTonya has coached teams to three National Debate Tournament Championships, numerous Copeland Award winners, as well as to many appearances in the Finals and Semifinals of the NDT.  She has previously worked for the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues and as the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Debate League. LaTonya has had the honor to judge many of the finest debate minds in the nation and takes great pride in the fact that she is just as often a preferred judge for teams who want to run 10 off case arguments as she is for teams who run arguments about blackness, race, gender and sexuality.

Flynn Makuch – Faculty

Flynn Makuch debated with success at Glenbrook North HS, including winning national tournaments and reaching the elimination rounds (top 16) at the Tournament of Champions multiple times. They then received a scholarship to debate at the University of Texas-Austin, where they also achieved national success, including multiple appearances in the elimination rounds of the National Debate Tournament. Flynn went on to coach several universities and high schools to national success, including Emory University, Glenbrook South HS, and many more. Flynn also taught debate in China for a year, before returning to take their current job at Chicago Debates, a non-profit organization that seeks to establish and support policy debate teams in public middle and high schools across the city of Chicago. Flynn also is an assistant coach for Northwestern.

Joseph Weideman – Faculty

Joe Weideman debated for four years in high school at Iowa City High, and four years in college for Northwestern University. In High School he was a two time qualifier to the TOC, making him the first Iowa City High debater to attend the tournament in over a decade. When debating for Northwestern he was a four time qualifier (3 time attendee because of COVID) to the National Debate Tournament. Joe reached elimination debates every year, and the quarterfinals in his junior season. He was a first round at large bid recipient in his final two years of college, and was third in the Copeland race his senior year. Joe has coached two teams to TOC elimination debates. This is his fifth year as a lab leader at Northwestern.

Michael Lee – Faculty

Michael Lee is an incoming freshman at Northwestern. He debated PF for Middleton HS on both the Wisconsin and National Circuits. During his junior year, Michael reached quarterfinals at Wisconsin state and elimination rounds at St. James and Millard North. As a senior, Michael founded and coached a debate program at Kromrey Middle School and mentored a team to the state championship.

I loved the camp environment during and outside of lab. I connected with people from all over the country and the campus is BEAUTIFUL, and it is very easy to navigate. We had a good balance of fun, free time, and debate.

– 2017 Cherub

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