Director: Ben Kessler

NSD’s brand new Public Forum camp offers a rigorous, innovative, and personalized approach to debate curriculum, focused on building and refining fundamental skills to allow debaters to succeed year-round. Our curriculum embraces all skill levels and includes lectures on specific debate skills, workshop periods for refining technique, constructive lab periods for organized research and further practice, a mentorship program for individualized instruction, and plenty of practice debates. In everything we do, we strive to create a close-knit environment where our students can work closely with the faculty in small groups. Click here to return to the home page and read about why NSD does it better. Look below to learn more about the PF session!

NSD’s curriculum does it differently than most camps. Time in a camp day is limited, and two weeks is a short time, so our curriculum is designed to ensure we aren’t wasting anyone’s time. Lots of camps fill time with needless lectures that staff throw together the night before. At NSD, we prepare a few lectures ahead of time on only essential, key skills and the current topic. Almost the entire remainder of camp time, whether in lab or in an individualized mentorship session, is dedicated to applying these skills through practice rounds and drills. This way, every single student leaves camp with tons of experience honing fundamental skills.

The extra practice round and drill time we offer also allows us to ensure that students can actually apply the concepts they’ve learned from lectures. Often, students will understand what they have to do in theory, but will struggle executing high-level speeches or may not even be noticing where they’re getting tripped up. The only way to solve these problems is through consistent practice with an instructor offering feedback, which is why NSD PF’s curriculum makes sure to devote enough time to drills and rounds.


Students are grouped into labs based on experience level, and these groups form the backbone of the NSD experience. Small lab pairings, led by experienced instructors, ensure individualized attention and encourage a sense of camaraderie. Lab time is different from most camps, where instructors have students do topic research while they sit at the front of the room and wait to see if anyone has questions. At NSD, instructors take a hands-on approach and will constantly involve students in drills and practice debates. These drills will correspond to lectures and will ask students to apply the skills they learn in lectures. This way, students can make sure they fully understand and internalize the skills they are taught.


The lectures we offer will each taught by two faculty members, break down different essential skills into half-hour seminars. Each lecture is tailored to be accessible at different experience levels and helps students develop and distill techniques that they can later practice repeatedly during lab time and mentorship time. Each lecture will educate debaters about skills that are crucial to success (casing, rebuttal, summary, final focus, analysis) and provide a depth of insight that will help even the best debaters improve.


Each student at NSD will be assigned a staff mentor to meet with every other day. In these mentorship sessions, students can personalize meetings to have instructors review any skill they find they need more help with. This way, every single student is guaranteed one-on-one time to help them wherever they feel they need the most improvement. These more individualized interactions make sure nobody falls behind. If a student is struggling with a certain skill, they always have the time to go over that area of weakness one-on-one with a staff member.

Practice Rounds

At NSD, every student is guaranteed to compete against fellow campers in at least 15 practice debates. These debates will happen on previous topics as well as the upcoming September/October topic for the 2018-2019 season. After each debate, instructors will provide extensive feedback on what students can do to improve. These practice rounds will culminate in the annual NSD Camp Tournament, which occurs at the end of camp and provides a final opportunity for students to showcase the skills they have learned.

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Ben Kessler, Director of NSD Public Forum

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.


The NSD Public Forum Institute takes place July 24-August 4 and is located at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. Easily accessible from the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) as well as by Amtrak Train and SEPTA local transportation, Bryn Mawr College provides an intimate, liberal arts setting that encourages a close knit camp community. Bryn Mawr is a safe suburb of Philadelphia that provides students and staff with easy and safe access to a variety of restaurants and shops walking distance from campus.

Bryn Mawr has 24/7 Housing Staff always available to NSD and its students.

NSD provides students with Lunch and Dinner services. Consistently ranked in the national top ten of campus dining, Bryn Mawr provides students with diverse and healthy meal options every day. Students are able to purchase snacks, sundries and coffee at the University Bookstore and at several restaurants in the Campus Center.

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.

Student Supervision is provided by NSD Institute 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 Administrator. Attendance is monitored by staff. There is roll call in the morning and room checks at midnight.

General security is provided by Brwn Mawr Campus Security as well as the security forces of other schools in the Tri-College Partnership, including the Swarthmore College Department of Public Safety and Haverford College Campus Safety.

Computer access and library use are available. We strongly encourage students to bring their own laptops. 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 a Free Day midway through camp. There are no classes until after dinner. Students can walk to restaurants and stores near campus, hang out at the Campus Center, play games of choice, or attend supervised outings to local attractions. 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 Public Forum at Bryn Mawr College is accepting applications now!

NSD Public Forum (7/22 - 8/04): $2,695

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 two 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.