Debate Faculty Bios

Applications for the 2018 Debate Division will be open on Monday, October 23rd

Six Week Faculty

Daniel Fitzmier


  • 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 Debate 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. Dr. Fitzmier has received the James J. Unger Award more than any other coach – having been awarded that honor in four of the last seven college debate seasons. He was voted the National Debate Coach of the Year in 2013, and has coached fifteen teams to the Final Four of the National Debate Tournament in his sixteen years of coaching as an assistant, graduate student, and director.


Jeff Buntin


  • Jeff Buntin coaches debate at Northwestern University. During his tenure, Northwestern’s teams have won the NDT twice, reached the finals three times, received four Copeland Awards, and won virtually every major invitational tournament and round robin. He is widely regarded as one of the leading neg strategists and researchers in college debate, and is an ideal instructor for anyone looking to improve at research, file construction, and any aspect of debating on the negative.


Garrett Abelkop


  • Garrett Abelkop is an Assistant Administrator at Chattahoochee High School and the former Head Debate Coach at Chattahoochee, where he led Hooch to top national finishes including winning the Greenhill, Michigan, and Ohio Valley tournaments. Before Chattahoochee, Garrett coached the University of Kentucky debate team to the quarterfinals of the NDT. Garrett debated for Michigan State in college, where he was a frequent top-five speaker, a first round NDT debater, and a three-time NDT elim participant. In high school, he debated for Chattahoochee finishing in second place at the TOC.


David Arnett


  • Before arriving at Kentucky, Dave was the Director of Debate at the University of California, Berkeley for twelve years where he coached 12 teams to first rounds. He has coached two NDT finalists, one CEDA national championship team, three Copeland Award winners, and the winners of almost every major college tournament including: Harvard, The Dartmouth Robin, Wake Forest, Kentucky, Northwestern, USC, and Fullerton. Dave was selected the Ross Smith National Coach of the Year in 2009 and voted runner-up for Coach of the Decade. He was voted the 2015 ADA coach of the year. He coached two teams to the octo finals of the NDT this past season, the first time Kentucky had accomplished this feat since 1994.


Sarah Lundeen

Geoff Lundeen

Donald Grasse


Four Week Faculty

Tara Tate


  • Tara Tate has been a nationally successful high school coach since 2000 with successful programs at Glenbrook South HS (IL), Colleyville Heritage HS (TX), and The Blake School (MN). Tara has enjoyed national success with numerous championships at most of the major high school national invitationals. Her team won the NSDA National Championship in 2014, was runner-up for the national title in 2013, and finished third in 2012. She has had numerous teams in the elimination rounds of the TOC, including the finals. She is the past President of the National Debate Coach Association and is widely regarded for her teaching methods with younger debaters. Tara has led our sophomore lab for the past six years.


Eric Oddo

Katie Weston

Dave Weston


Aaron Vinson

  • Debate Coach at New Trier High School – Aaron was previously the Head Policy Debate Coach at Princeton High School. He debate at Miami University where he qualified to the National Debate Tournament four times. In the last ten years coaching at Glenbrook North, Princeton, and New Trier, Aaron has coached teams in the elims of most major national tournaments. He has previously taught at the Miami Debate Institute, the Spartan Debate Institute, and the Michigan Debate Institute. This will be Aaron‘s fourth summer working at Northwestern.


Previous Guest Lecturers

Dr. Chris Lundburg

Peyton Lee

Seth Gannon


Arjun Vellayappan


  • Arjun Vellayappan graduated from Northwestern in 2015. In his senior year of debate, Arjun and his partner Alex Miles won the 69th National Debate Tournament and were awarded the Copeland Award for the second year in a row. He also was an NDT finalist with partner Peyton Lee in 2013 and quarterfinalist in 2012 and 2014 while consistently gathering top ten speaker awards at every major tournament. Arjun won 13 major tournaments while in college including the Wake Forest tournament all 4 years, prompting a motion to change the trophy name in his honor. In addition, he was a highly successful high school debater and proud NDI alumni from Lexington, reaching finals of the Tournament of Champions and winning the Harvard Round Robin as a senior. He is about to start working at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago and this will be his fourth summer teaching at the Northwestern Debate Institute.


Layne Kirshon


  • Layne debated for Northwestern from 2010-2013 where he won the Copeland Award in 2012, was in the Semi-finals and Finals of the NDT in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and was the 2nd speaker at the NDT in 2012. In high school he was in the Semi-finals of the TOC in 2009 and 2010. He is currently pursuing a PhD in economics.



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Typical Day  –  6-Week Policy Debate  –  4-Week Policy Debate Residential Program  –  4-Week Policy Debate Commuter Program  –  1-Week Policy Debate  –  Debate at Northwestern  –  Faculty Bios