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Miriam Kohn ‘17, Chris Perkins ‘17 win Pan-American debate tournament

April 12, 2017
group of students

University of Rochester Debate Union coach Bexley Brown and members Dan Lemire ’17, Ben Frazer ’18, Graeme McGuire ’18, Miriam Kohn ’17, Chris Perkins ’17, and Bri Terrell ’20. (Photo: Miriam Kohn)

Miriam Kohn ‘17 and Chris Perkins ‘17 recently were named Grand Champions of the 2017 Pan-American Universities Debating Championship. The tournament was held in March at the University of La Verne in La Verne, California, and drew attendees from schools in more than 30 countries throughout the Americas.

Kohn and Perkins are the president and vice president, respectively, of the University of Rochester Debate Union, an intercollegiate debate team that competes around the United States and internationally. Unlike many collegiate-level debate teams, the UR Debate Union is open to any student with interest and does not hold tryouts or require high school experience. Kohn joined the team in the fall of her freshman year with no debating background. She and Perkins have been debate partners for four years and have accomplished much.

“Competing successfully as a debate partnership requires fine tuning the best balance of responsibilities,” says Kohn, a linguistics major from Portland, Oregon. “You can’t reasonably write every argument or call all the shots as half the team.”

Perkins echoes this assessment. “Consistency is key to winning tournaments,” says the computer science major from Kiln, Mississippi. “Our long partnership has allowed us to achieve that needed consistency.”

Kohn and Perkins also competed as individuals, with Kohn placing seventh in the individual English speaker division and Perkins placing ninth. Other members of the Debate Union also took home victories. Former team president Syed Reefat Aziz ‘17 placed as the top English as a Second Language speaker for the second year in a row. Reefat’s debate partner and novice team member, Tahsin Himi ‘20, received two first-place rankings in the preliminary round and ended the tournament as one of the top 10 ESL debaters.

Kohn and Perkins will go on to compete in their final debate at the 2017 US University Debating Championships next month in Denver. They hope to end their undergraduate careers on a high note.

“I want to have as much competitive success as possible,” Kohn says. “I want to give my last tournament my best shot.”

“I’d rather not name specific goals,” says Perkins, “but generally speaking, my goal is for nationals to be a fitting end to my now seven-year debate career.”

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Category: Student Life