The National Symposium for Debate Flagship Session is the premier offering for NSD's Summer Institutes. We offer a rigorous curriculum centered on the systematic instruction in the theory and strategy of debate, lectures on topics of concern to academic fields such as political science, critical theory, and philosophy, and the development of speaking and rhetorical skills. Our curriculum embraces all skill levels – from those with no prior debate experience to veteran national circuit debaters. For a main camp session, NSD's Flagship has no match. Click here to see why NSD does it best. Read about our premier session below!

Talent. Instruction. Determination. Success. NSD Does It Best.

An overview of our curriculum is available on the home page located by clicking here. 

Three Week Curriculum

NSD’s main session will remain our flagship institute: our premier camp focused on national circuit debate where the country’s best circuit debaters gather each summer to master their craft. The flagship institute now features a three-week curriculum. It is undeniable that national circuit LD has become a dramatically more complex activity over the last few seasons. The activity now demands that students wishing to compete at a high level master an unprecedented range of substantive content, debate strategies, and technical skills. For the past several years, we have seen a consistent increase in requests from students at every experience level for coverage in the curriculum of a wider variety of debate issues and skills at an increasing level of depth. Enabling our students to attain mastery in this new debate environment requires a more robust, longer running curriculum.

While we feel the need to expand our core curriculum, we do not want this to trade off with either the opportunities for students to work with faculty one-on-one, or the opportunities for students to focus on their areas of interest in additional, specialized lectures and workshops (both of which are opportunities that we know students—rightly—value highly). Our new three-week structure allows us to expand the core curriculum while also adding in more time for students at every level to work with faculty one-on-one and in small group workshops.

A three-week institute also makes room for a rigorous camp curriculum with wider and deeper coverage of the issues most important for today’s debate students, but it also gives students something they badly need at debate camp: time. With more time in our schedule, students have the chance to digest what they are learning, as well as to bond with their peers and make the connections with each other that are such a valuable, enriching, and competitively critical for students at camp. This means a three-week camp can simultaneously be more rigorous and more fun.

Accordingly, unlike old models of camp instruction which featured two-week curricula with optional third weeks, our flagship institute features a unified three-week curriculum designed to be experienced in its entirety. We recognize that the price for an added third week will be a concern for some students, and we have attempted as much as possible to keep the added cost of the third week low.

While our typical student at the flagship institute this summer will attend for three weeks, we recognize that—especially in this transitional year—some students may find it difficult to attend a three-week program. So, we will offer a very limited number of spots for students who wish to attend the flagship institute for two weeks (at an adjusted two-week price). Please note that, logistically speaking, capping the number of two-week attendees is required, so if you think this option is important for you, then we strongly advise that you submit your registration for camp immediately.


Students are grouped into labs based on experience level, and these groups form the heart of the NSD experience. All NSD labs maintain a 1:4 instructors to student ratio, and this calculation does not include additional administrative staff. NSD treats all students as equally important by assuring individualized attention to each and appointing veteran national circuit instructors to work in every lab.


Another unique feature of the NSD flagship is our move away from a traditional system of lab and modular lectures to a system of labs and “rotations”. Students will still do the bulk of their learning in traditional labs, but will receive outside instruction in rotations. Rotations consist of three 2-hour blocks of time (one a day for three days) during which labs receive instruction on some topic by two instructors who are not their lab leaders. Rotations will happen in lab groups, but from outside instructors who specialize in the content area. We believe rotations capture the benefits of the old lectures (introducing students to new staff, and allowing the staff to speak on their strongest topics) but retain the unique benefits of lab (hands on instruction, small size, and the ability to effectively and immediately reinforce topics with drills and homework).


At NSD, each student will be assigned a mentor that they will see daily over the duration of camp. Meeting in either small group or individual group sessions, mentor time will be the concluding portion of the day where students are able to ask questions they may have had from lab that day, do drills, or be taught new and exciting topics that they're interested in learning about. In this time, students are able to make closer connections with their staff members and have somebody watching and checking in on their progress during their camp experience. 

Elective Seminars

While we believe that teaching in lab is the most effective way to teach, we acknowledge that there is value in being able to teach more specific topics for shorter periods of time, which led to the creation of Elective Seminars. These are one-off, two hour seminars (constituted of a mixture of lecture, discussion, and drills), taught by single instructors to lab-sized groups but not in actual labs, since students choose which seminars to attend. Staff propose the topics they would like to teach in elective seminars and so all seminars are taught by staff who are passionate about the subject they are teaching.

Practice Rounds

All students attending NSD will have at least 10 practice debates observed by instructors, who will provide feedback on what students should do to improve. Some of these rounds will occur in the annual NSD Camp Tournament, which provides a competitive opportunity for students to showcase the skills they have learned over camp.

Fourth Week Curriculum

All too often, students leave camp having done some extra practice, but without much concrete to show for it. Extra practice is a valuable aspect of camp, but it becomes significantly more valuable when it is coupled with a curriculum that guides students to produce preparatory materials that they will actually want to use during the season. This is the guiding thought that informs our curriculum for the fourth week.

In our fourth week, each student will be able to choose two “special topics” preparation labs that fit their needs. This will allow students to identify areas of debate where they would most like assistance improving their preparation before the start of the season. For example, a student might choose to focus on preparing for Kantian framework debates. In this case, the student can expect that in their preparation lab they will write and solidify their understanding of a few different types of Kantian framework, write detailed answers to common Kantian framework justifications, write detailed responses to these common answers, and so on.

In each of their preparation labs, students will be able to work intensively with expert faculty in order to produce preparation that they will use during the season. Preparation labs will be small groups led by faculty members that specialize in the given topic area, and they will meet at length each day so that students have ample help gaining mastery in their chosen topic areas.

Each student will leave the week not only having gained in-depth knowledge of their topics, but also having prepared files that they have perfected with guidance and feedback from faculty on each of the two areas of debate of their choosing. This intensive period of focus means students will get the chance to gain a competitive edge that would normally take months of coaching to achieve.

In addition to their preparation labs, students in the fourth week will be sorted into drill groups that focus on their technical skills. These drill groups, in conjunction with practice rounds, will help students improve their technical skills and solidify their understanding of how to execute the preparation they are working on in their “special topics” labs.

Check Back Often for Staff Announcements!


Tom Evnen, Executive Director

Swarthmore College, BA

University of Chicago, MA

Tom debated for four years for Lincoln Southeast High School in Nebraska. Tom twice cleared to elimination rounds at the Tournament of Champions. His senior year, he was a state champion and finalist at the TOC. Tom has coached debate at the Hockaday School (TX), University School (FL), Oxbridge Academy (FL), and La Jolla (CA). Tom’s students have cleared to elimination rounds at the Tournament of Champions thirteen times, including four quarterfinalists and two semifinalists. Tom has also coached two students to championships and one to finals at NFL/NSDA Nationals. 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, Harvard, Stanford, Valley, and Yale.

Click here for more


Becca Traber, Associate Director

Reed College, BA

Yale University Ph.D. Candidate

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 14 students to the TOC and 4 students to TOC outrounds. 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. This will be her third summer with NSD.

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Benjamin Koh

New York University, BA'17

Columbia University MA'19

Benjamin Koh debated at Loyola High School in Los Angeles and qualified to the TOC and NSDA Nationals. He was the Head LD Coach at Byram Hills High School for three years, coaching finalists at Scarsdale, Yale, the Penn Round Robin, and TOC as well as championships at Walt Whitman, the Ohio State Tournament, and NCFL Nationals. He has coached 5 TOC outround appearances and 13 TOC qualifications. Now a MA candidate in American Studies in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University, Ben is doing his academic work in the intersection of Asian-American Studies and Disability Studies. He is also on the planning committee for the Texas Debate Collective and is Director of NSD Philadelphia. 

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Chris Castillo

University of Houston, BA

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. 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. Chris was awarded the Bronx Achievement Award for his contributions to the debate community, and has recently coached the champions of St. Mark's in Dallas, TX, and the UT Austin Tournament. 

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Many more staff members will be announced soon!

The NSD Flagship Institute is located at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Easily accessible from the Minneapolis,- St. Paul Airport (MSP), the University of Minnesota provides a collegiate and communal atmosphere that helps foster a community and work environment so as to create a positive experience for NSD students. The West Bank Campus, where NSD is held, is surrounded by a vibrant and safe community with many restaurants and attractions within walking distance of the campus.

Students will be staying in Middlebrook Hall, located in the heart of the West Bank Campus.The dorm rooms are air-conditioned. The extra-long twin beds are made with sheets, a pillow, pillowcase and blanket by University staff prior to check-in. A towel, a set of sheets and a pillowcase, a pillow, and a blanket are provided for each student. There is a front desk attendant on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Report maintenance or housekeeping needs to the front desk. Students and staff can exchange linens at any time at the front desk.

NSD provides students with Lunch and Dinner services. Lunch is provided in the Coffman Union, a short walk from the dorm, which has several popular restaurants (Chik-fil-A, Einstein’s, Panda Express) as well as a host of university provided food options served cafeteria style. Dinner is held at the Middlebrook Dining Hall, in our dorm, which provides made-to-order and other hot food options. Students are able to get snacks and sundries throughout the day in the Blegan Hall Market, which is in the same building where the majority of instruction occurs.

Breakfast food is not provided by NSD. Students and staff should bring granola bars, pop tarts, cereal, fruit or other ready-to-eat breakfast food to campus with them. Additional food can be purchased at the campus mini mart stores as needed. Sinks and microwaves are available on each floor, but no toasters or hotplates are allowed.

Student Supervision is provided by NSD Executive Directors, Administrative Staff and faculty. Students are expected to attend all activities unless they are feeling unwell, in which case they should contact our Camp Administrators. Attendance is monitored by staff. There is roll call in the morning and room checks at midnight.

General security is provided by the University of Minnesota Police Department as well as the 24-hour dorm staff in Middlebrook Hall that are always available to NSD and it’s students.

Computer access and library use are available. We strongly encourage students to bring their own laptops. University of Minnesota computers are also available for use in the computer labs and the Cyber Café in the dorm and throughout the library. Printing costs $.05 a page and is at student and staff expense. The campus is wireless, but bring an Ethernet cable and USB flash drive for use as needed. Students may not add to or tamper with the computer systems on campus.

There will be Free Days on Saturdays. There are no classes until after dinner. Students can walk to restaurants and stores near campus, go bowling or play pool at the Coffman Memorial Student Union, play pool, or play other games of choice. Students who leave campus sign out with a friend or friends, noting their destinations. On campus meal arrangements are the same as on other days of NSD.



NSD top lab was by far one of the best experiences of my life. Not only were my debate skills expanded, but also my mind. I think that I learned more with Tom and Becca in three weeks than I did in an entire semester at school. One of the things I really appreciated is that no matter what type of debater you wanted to be they were right there with you and helping you along the way.

- Niko Battle


The National Symposium for Debate’s top lab is arguably the most prestigious Lincoln-Douglas debate lab in the country. Each summer, many of the debate's most successful debaters prepare for the coming year of competition by participating in NSD’s top lab. The lab teaches a curriculum designed to comprehensively prepare students to succeed in the current debate environment, helping students reach an elite level of mastery of their core debate skills while also teaching them how to employ these skills in relation to the latest trends in debate. Each year, top lab students leave camp having achieved technical aptitude, mastery of debate strategy, and a set of innovative ideas and projects that they depend on during the upcoming season. This year, only a few months into the competitive season, all but one student from this past summer’s top lab had already qualified to the Tournament of Champions. 

This summer, the NSD Flagship Top Lab will again be led by NSD Executive Director Tom Evnen and Becca Traber. Tom and Becca each have numerous years of experience both coaching and teaching at the highest levels of competitive debate and an educational background that makes them apt to teach the highest levels of debate; Tom has a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and Becca is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science/Political Theory at Yale University. Over the years, Becca and Tom have anchored 7 highly successful top labs together; they approach lab each summer with a deep understanding of how to teach effectively together and with a curriculum that they have worked for years to adapt, refine, and update. 

Each year, the senior instructors in top lab are joined by two of our most capable and successful younger teachers. In 2017, TOC Semifinalist Grant Brown and 2016 New York City Invitational Finalist Zoe Ewing taught in Top Lab. In 2015, Tom and Becca were joined in teaching by TOC Quarterfinalist and Big Bronx Champion Shivane Sabharwal from Mission San Jose (CA) and  TOC Octafinalist and UT Austin Champion Sean McCormick from Strake Jesuit (TX). The previous summer, TOC Semifinalist 2015 Big Bronx Champion and TOC Octafinalist Varun Bhave from Torrey Pines (CA) and 2014 TOC Finalist Chris Kymn from Loyola High School (CA) were top lab’s 3rd and 4th instructors.

For the most elite students in the country, NSD’s top lab has no match. If you think you might be a candidate for top lab and are interested in learning more, please email Tom and Becca will be happy to answer questions and talk about the exciting things they have planned. Stay tuned for staff and curricular announcements in the future! 

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NSD top lab taught me a variety of debate concepts and skills that have helped me significantly during the season. The top lab leaders provided me and the other debaters personalized instruction that catered to our individual needs. This personalized education allowed me to develop my skills in reading and answering kritiks which has and contributed to my success this year. The rigorous curriculum and engaging assignments provided in top lab accelerated my growth in debate.

- Kyle Kopf


NSD Flagship is accepting applications now!

Main Session (6/24 - 7/14): $3,895

Main Session + 4th Week (6/24 - 7/21): $4,895

Applications will be open until May 30th.

When you apply, you will be creating membership in a portal which will be our gateway to communicating with you for the rest of camp. You will not need to fill out detailed medical information or debate experience in the initial registration, that will come later! Over the course of the spring, we will ask for additional information from you in order to best tailor camp to your needs.

Click here to apply now!


We understand that sometimes it isn’t possible to attend camp for the full three weeks. If you have a conflict or would like to discuss attending camp for a subset of time, please email

We value our ability to make camp accessible to those who wish to attend. If you would like to apply for financial aid, please email for more information. You will be asked to provide information supporting your application, including 1040 tax forms. Financial Aid applications are due May 1st, but the earlier the better.