External Affairs Division

Valdosta State University Wins Inaugural Regents Cup Debate Series

Atlanta — April 15, 2024

Two women holding trophies
Valdosta State University (VSU) debate team members Gabby Lorentz, left (holding trophy), and Raegin Jones pose with Chancellor Perdue and the judges after the VSU team was named the inaugural winner of the University System of Georgia’s (USG) Regents Cup Debate.

The Valdosta State University (VSU) debate team on Thursday took home a unique, handcrafted wood trophy as the inaugural winner of the University System of Georgia’s (USG) Regents Cup Debate Series.

Individual students also won honors, including the University of Georgia’s Ansley Warnock as individual debate champion; VSU’s Raegin Jones as individual runner-up; the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Andrew Dowdy as an individual semi-finalist; and the University of West Georgia’s Willow Roark also as an individual semi-finalist.

Other participating institutions included Georgia College and State University and the University of North Georgia.

“Higher education must cultivate a student’s ability not only for advocacy but for civil discourse,” USG Chancellor Sonny Perdue said. “We’re trying to create a culture of not only learning to better communicate our ideas, but to also listen to others and their ideas. In hosting this debate series, the Board of Regents has demonstrated its commitment to this idea as well as its support of students who communicate and articulate from different perspectives. As we look to grow the debate series, I’m proud of our participating teams this year and congratulate our winner.”

In all, nine students from six USG institutions participated in the event, hosted on Middle Georgia State University’s Macon campus. Intended to highlight how USG students can communicate and articulate from different perspectives in a persuasive, respectful way, the students competed in four rounds of debate, followed by semi-final and final rounds, using the International Public Debate Association structure.

The students were presented with topics before each round and given 30 minutes to prepare initial arguments. The format encourages debaters to “think on their feet” and develop strong refutation skills. Debate topics included global economic development, agricultural subsidies and the impact of artificial intelligence. The final round saw a debate over prioritization of ocean exploration over space exploration.

The event’s guest judges included USG Regent Erin Hames, state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (D-Dawson), former USG Regent Robert F. Hatcher Sr., MGA Community Liaison Charles Richardson, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College Foundation Chief Operating Officer Jodie Snow, Mercer University School of Law Dean Karen Sneddon and former Gov. Nathan Deal.

The winning team received a handcrafted wood trophy made by Ronny Just, a retired Georgia Power manager and craftsman who views his work as “memorializing wood that matters into things that last.”

Just created the trophy’s signature look using historical wood from a red oak on UGA’s North Campus, a 100-year-old live oak from the famed Sweetheart Circle at Georgia Southern University, a pecan tree that was planted in 1889 when the Georgia State Capitol was dedicated and black walnut from North Georgia.

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