Your favorite teacher. Your closest mentor. 

For over a decade, the National Symposium for Debate has been lead by debate's finest educators. Head by an elite group of teachers and coaches, the National Symposium for Debate is committed to providing an exemplary camp experience for its students. Here are the 8 people who lead it. 

Tom is an immensely cerebral coach, with a vast knowledge of debate strategy, tactics, and the literature base underpinning the activity. His intense dedication to his student’s wellbeing and success is evident in the champions coached; he draws on a decade of experience in both graduate studies and coaching students to victory in the highest levels of competition to mold the merely good into great.
— Ram Prasad, 2013-2014 TOC Bid Leader and 2014 Stanford Champion


  • 13 years experience coaching debate and 7 years of directing debate institutes
  • Coached TOC Outround participants nearly every year of his coaching career including the 2014 Finalist
  • Coached 2 NSDA Nationals Champions and 1 Finalist
  • Winner of the 2016 Michael Bacon Coaching Award
Tom perfectly combines the experience of a person with graduate philosophy study and the vision of debate champions past and present. He could find, consider, and break down any and every question I had, turning the complex into the extremely accessible. Tom was an effective and welcoming teacher, able to understand the optimal approach to every situation.
— David Branse, 2015 TOC Finalist

Tom Evnen has a B.A. in philosophy from Swarthmore College, and an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Chicago. Over the last 13 years, he has worked as a full time classroom teacher, a director of debate, and an assistant debate coach, and has consistently been one of the most successful national circuit debate coaches in the country.

As a high school student in the early 2000s, Tom debated for Lincoln Southeast High School in Nebraska. Tom twice cleared to elimination rounds at the Tournament of Champions. His senior year, he was the state champion and a finalist at the Tournament of Champions.

Since then, Tom has worked as an active debate coach and educator for over a decade. He was been a full time teacher and debate coach at the Hockaday School (TX), and has also coached at University School (FL), Oxbridge Academy (FL), Lake Highland (FL), and La Jolla (CA). Tom’s students have cleared to elimination rounds at the Tournament of Champions thirteen times, including four quarterfinalists, two semifinalists, and a finalist. Tom also coached students to the final round of LD at the NFL/NSDA National Tournament for three years in a row, and were victors in two of those three years. In addition, Tom’s students have reached finals or won championships at Apple Valley, Blake, Bronx, the Bronx Round Robin, Emory, Greenhill, the Greenhill Round Robin, Glenbrooks, Harvard, Stanford, St. Marks, Valley, and Yale. 

Tom met his wife when they were in high school, where she was a policy debater on his team. They now live in Nebraska and are the proud parents of two sons, Benjamin and Jonathan.

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Becca Traber is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. She constantly looks for new ways to help you grow as a debater and as a person. She is committed and puts great care and thought into every aspect of her teaching, and the results speak for themselves.
— Michael Harris, 2013 TOC Top Speaker


  • Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Yale University

  • Taught 10 total Top Labs the past 8 years

Becca is a coach for Lake Highland Prep as well for several independent students. As a debater for the Kinkaid School, she earned eleven career TOC bids, won Berkeley and was a finalist at TFA state tournament and the TOC. As a coach, she has coached 20 students to the TOC and 4 students to TOC outrounds. At invitational tournaments, her students have accumulated over 50 TOC bids and have reached semifinals or finals at Apple Valley, Bronx Science, Emory, Glenbrooks, Harvard, Valley, Lexington, Sunvitational, Yale, Blue Key, Scarsdale, Crestian, Blake, and Berkeley. Her students have also excelled at local and regional competitions, winning two Florida State Championships and qualifying every year to both CFL Nationals and NSDA Nationals. She has taught a total of 10 top labs at TDC, NDF, and NSD.  

She has served as a board member and Director of Faculty Development at the Texas Debate Collective, a nonprofit debate institute committed to rectifying inequities in access to debate. Outside of debate, Becca is a PhD candidate at Yale University in political science, specializing in political theory. Her research is at the intersection of deliberative democracy, the study of social movements, and the philosophy of race and gender. Her expertise allows her to create innovative debate arguments from continental philosophy, analytic moral theory, and critiques of domination. She earned her undergraduate degree at Reed College in political science, writing a thesis on radical democracy and AIDS activism. 

“Chris Castillo is a coach of the highest quality. Whether it was coming up with well thought out arguments against newly broken cases, or just generally being a motivator/ work horse, Chris Castillo is - in my opinion - the best coach on the circuit.
— Sean McCormick, TOC Octafinalist (2016)


  • Head LD Coach at Strake Jesuit for 9 years
  • Coached debaters to Finals at every Texas TOC bid tournament
  • 16 years as a Coach, Judge, Tournament Director, and Institute Director
  • Winner of the Bronx Achievement Award

Chris has been the Head LD Coach at Strake Jesuit in Houston, TX for 9 years. He has coached champions at Grapevine, UT Austin, Greenhill, Victory Briefs (now Harvard-Westlake), Bronx Science, and Berkeley. His students have competed in late outrounds at nearly every major tournament including the Glenbrooks, Bronx Science, Apple Valley, Harvard, Greenhill, and TOC. He has coached students to finals at every TOC bid tournament in Texas along with at least semifinalists at 8 different TOC Octafinal bids.

Chris has worked for 16 years as a coach, judge, tournament director, and institute director. For 11 of those summers he has worked as a teacher at summer institutes. A staple of the community and a common sight at nearly every one of the major tournaments, Chris was awarded the Bronx Achievement Award for his contributions to the debate community, and this year alone has coached the champions of St. Mark's in Dallas, TX, and the UT Austin Tournament. 


“Jenn is a wonderful coach and friend. She is compassionate about what she does, and it really shows. Moreover, she doesn’t just instill information. She pushes students and challenges any presuppositions they have. It was truly a transformative experience to be taught by Jenn.”
— Alex Yoakum, 2014 TOC Qualifier


  • Active in the National and Texas Debate Circuits for 15 Years
  • Coached nearly every student to the Texas Forensics Association State Tournament
  • Focused on Coaching Students from Small, Travel-Restricting Programs

Jenn Melin has been active in the national and Texas debate communities for fifteen years. As a student, she qualified for the TOC, NFL (now NSDA) Nationals, and TFA State.  She was the champion of the Vestavia Hills TOC Bid Tournament, a Greenhill Round Robin participant, the runner up at the Southwest and Dark Horse Round Robins, and a TFA State out round participant.

As a coach her students have been in out rounds of virtually every major national tournament. She has coached champions of the Grapevine and University of Texas TOC Bid Tournaments. Jenn has qualified thirteen different students to the TOC, with a significant number of those qualifications coming from small Texas programs with travel restrictions. She has qualified almost every student she’s ever coached to TFA State; culminating in a record setting fourteen LD qualifications in a single year. She coached the 2016 Grapevine runner-up.  Her students have participated in out rounds of both TOC and TFA. Three different students of hers have achieved top 20 NSDA/NFL Nationals honors. Jenn has also coached a UIL 5A State Champion. Additional accolades include numerous participants in the Bronx, Greenhill, MBA, Valley, and Vassar Round Robins.

Jenn has taught at NSD, VBI, UNT, UTNIF, and Capitol Debate Institute. She previously directed curriculum for UTNIF and VBI, and this will be her second year directing NSD Texas. 

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Benjamin Koh is a phenomenal educator who truly cares about his students. He not only provides excellent strategic assistance but makes sure that all of his debaters feels supported. He is someone that the debate community should be grateful for.
— Nathan Cha, 2014 TOC Octafnialist


  • Coached the TOC Finalist (2014), TOC Double-Octafinalists (2014, 2015), TOC Octafinalists (2014, 2016), and NCFL Champion (2016)
  • Taught the Top Lab at the Texas Debate Collective and NSD Philadelphia
  • Planning Committee Member for the Texas Debate Collective 
  • MA Candidate in American Studies at Columbia University

Benjamin Koh debated for 4 years at Loyola High School in Los Angeles where he was the team captain his senior year. His junior year he qualified to Nationals in policy debate and to the TOC in Lincoln-Douglas debate his senior year. For three years he was the Head Lincoln-Douglas Debate Coach at Byram Hills High School where he revolutionized the team and brought it to national prominence, maintaining a streak of Byram Hills TOC qualifiers for four years and coaching a TOC Double-Octafinalist and a TOC Octafinalist from the team in back to back years. In his private coaching, Ben has worked with multiple students to national success across the country including in Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio. His private students have been in outrounds of the TOC, championed the Ohio State Tournament along with the 2016 National Catholic Forensics League Tournament, one of the largest championships in the country. 

In high school, Ben began stuttering in debate rounds, which greatly restricted his ability to perform and speak. Through debate, Ben was able to overcome the majority of his stutter and now continues to work closely with other debaters with speech impediments and is an advocate for debaters with speech impediments to pursue debate. His experiences are written in an 2014 NSD Update article located here. 

Ben graduated from New York University with a BA in Social and Cultural Analysis and a Minor in Media, Culture, and Communications. He is currently pursuing a MA in American Studies and eventually hopes to pursue a Ph.D.with a concentration in Asian-American and Disability Studies. In addition to working at the Flagship session the past 5 summers and directing the Philadelphia institute, Ben is on the planning committee for the Texas Debate Collective, a non-profit institution in Austin, TX for low-income students to have access to high quality summer debate instruction. He has taught the Top Lab both at TDC and NSD Philadelphia. 

“I was very fortunate to have Kris Wright as my coach for my entire debate career. Kris not only knows a great amount on strategy and diverse content, but he is also a master strategist when it comes to getting student to understand difficult concepts. Through his unique teaching style and humor, Kris will surely make your camp experience and the things you learn memorable.”
— Dino De La O, 2016 University of Houston Champion


  • Director and Co-Founder of the Texas Debate Collective, a non-profit debate camp for low-income students 
  • Member of the 2010 Teach for America Corps
  • Coached debate for over 13 years in both policy and Lincoln-Douglas Debate
  • Former Teacher at Law Magnet Barefoot Sanders in Dallas, TX

Kris Wright has a B.A. in Philosophy and Government, and a M.A. in Women's & Gender Studies from the University of Texas, Austin. He was a 2010 Teach for America corps member, and has coached Lincoln-Douglas debate for over thirteen years. He has coached for Marcus, Westlake, Southlake, University School, and, most recently, the Law Magnet, where he also coached policy debate. In addition to still coaching students at the Law Magnet, Kris also coaches individual students in other areas of the country. On the Texas circuit, Kris' students have reached finals of UIL State in LD and won the tournament in Informative Speaking. At the more competitive TFA State, his LDers have reached semifinals four times and won the tournament in 2009, while also winning top-speaker.

On the national circuit, he has coached students to qualify to the TOC, with bids from major tournaments including Greenhill, St. Marks, Bronx, Apple Valley, Valley, Emory, and Harvard. His students have reached finals of TOC-qualifying tournaments eighteen times, and to elimination rounds of the TOC, including a semifinalist.His students have been invited to national round robins, including Greenhill, Kandi King, TDC/Strake, Harvard and the Sunvitational. Kris also coached Policy debate at the Law Magnet for four years. His policy teams qualified to NSDA Nationals seven times from the same district as Greenhill. Multiple Law Magnet policy teams also reached elimination rounds of TFA State, including the 2016 TFA State Champions. He ahs also qualified multiple teams to the TOC, including an octofinal appearance in 2016. His teams were also invited to some of the most competitive round robins, including Greenhill, College Prep, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Oklahoma.

He has extensive experience as a curriculum director and/or instructor at many summer debate camps, including as a co-founder of the Texas Debate Collective (TDC). This will be his third year at NSD.  

Working with Ben Kessler has been a wonderful experience; he teaches honestly and compassionately. He has always been there to help me push myself to articulate my ideas a little bit better or learn a little bit more about each topic - even when I would otherwise not have seen how to improve
— Kaley Pillinger, 2016 TOC Octafinalist


  • Finished career in Semifinals of the Tournament of Champions and Winning the NCFL National Championship
  • Ranked 2nd Nationally
  • Coached 16 total bids, including champions at Bronx Science, Columbia, Princeton, and Villiger

Ben Kessler debated for Stuyvesant High School and earned 15 bids to the Tournament of Champions, where he semifinaled. Ben also championed the Blake Tournament, the George Mason Invitational, the Columbia Invitational, and the NCFL Grandnational Championship. Since graduating, Ben has coached teams from Hunter High School in New York. In 3 years, his teams have cumulatively amassed 27 bids to the Tournament of Champions, where 2 of his teams have advanced to the octafinal round. His teams have also championed the New York City Invitational, Columbia Invitational, Princeton Invitational, and Villiger Invitational, been invited to the Harvard Round Robin 5 times, and been ranked in the top 10 in the country every year he’s coached.