Faculty and Staff

Each part of the BFI’s curriculum is carefully designed around teaching and learning methods developed by leading forensics educators and communication scholars. Our goal is to provide students with learning and critical thinking strategies that will prepare them for success not only in debate but also in their high-school and college career. This year’s staff includes several distinguished forensics coaches.

2017 Beehive Forensics Institute Staff

JJordanBioPicJason Jordan – Director, Beehive Forensics Institute

Jason Jordan is currently the assistant director of forensics at the University of Utah. Prior to coming to the U, Jason was the director of forensics at Ranger College, Richardson High School, and Decatur High School (all in Texas). As a high school coach, he has worked with students that have had competitive success at NDCA and NFL nationals and at the Texas state tournament in policy debate, LD, PFD, extemporaneous speaking, and congressional debate. On the collegiate level, Jason has coached multiple teams to first round NPTE bids, NFA LD Debate championship qualifications, and late elimination round appearances at NPDA nationals and the NPTE. Most recently, Jason coached Utah to the 2017 national season long championship in parliamentary debate. As a high school competitor, Jason debated at the Texas state policy debate tournament. In addition to his success in forensics, he has also presented his original research in the fields of legal studies, race studies, and ruralism both nationally and internationally. Jason Jordan is the Director of the Beehive Forensics Institute.

IMG_8555 copyKathryn Starkey – Assistant Director, Policy Debate

Kathryn is currently the Director of Forensics at Colorado State University-Pueblo and will join the Beehive Forensics Institute as the Assistant Director for the Policy Debate division. After growing up in Jackson Hole, WY, Kathryn Starkey attended the University of Wyoming and continued her passion for speech and debate from high school, competing in parliamentary debate. She ended her career her senior year as a semifinalist at the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship and finished as the top female-female team in the nation. Once she graduated, Kathryn went on to coach parliamentary debate at Texas Tech University, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Communication Studies, with a focus on presidential rhetoric and close-textual analysis. As a coach at Texas Tech, Kathryn helped coach a team to second place at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence, and coached teams to multiple tournament wins throughout her tenure there. Kathryn continued to coach at Texas Tech for an additional year after graduation as a volunteer before moving to Pueblo, CO to assume the role of Director of Forensics at CSU-Pueblo, where she has coached teams to multiple elimination round wins over the last 3 years. She was also recently elected President of the NPTE, which she hopes can help her serve the debate community in the best way possible. Kathryn has coached at multiple camps throughout her coaching career including the Wyoming Forensics Institute, the Texas Tech Forensics Institute, and the Pioneer Debate Institute, and she is truly excited to join the BFI coaching staff this year.

Kyle Cheesewright – Assistant Director, Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Kyle is currently the Director of Speech and Debate for the Howling ‘Yotes at the College of Idaho. Kyle has worked as a Speech and Debate coach at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, CO, as well as Colorado State University; California State University, Long Beach; and Southern Illinois University. As a coach, Kyle has helped students win multiple Colorado State Championships in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Policy Debate, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Public Forum Debate. In addition to coaching National Finalists at the National Speech and Debate Association (formerly National Forensics League), most recently Kyle worked with the National Champions in Parliamentary Debate from Southern Illinois University. Kyle is dedicated to student success at all levels of forensics competition across the many different offerings of the forensics community. This year Kyle is excited to bring his experience to the Beehive Forensics Institute as Director of Lincoln-Douglas Debate labs and member of the senior staff.

MarioMario Herrera – Assistant Director, Extemporaneous Speaking

Mario Herrera has coached at Henry W. Grady HS in Atlanta, GA for the past 9 years after coaching for 15 years in New Mexico and Texas. He graduated from the University of New Mexico summa cum laude from the College of Education. He has served as Vice-President and President of the New Mexico Speech and Debate Association and Treasurer and President of the Georgia Forensic Coaches Association. Mario was inducted in the GFCA Hall of Fame this past February. He was three times named Speech Coach of the Year and once named Debate Coach of the Year by NMSDA, Coach of the Year by the Atlanta Urban Debate League and Speech Coach of the Year for the GFCA. He was recently named a Mason Mentor by the George Mason University Debate Society, named a Key Coach by the Barkley Forum and Emory University, and “The Gary Fan Triumphant Tiger Award” from Southside HS in South Carolina He is a four-diamond Coach and has been a member of the National Speech and Debate Association since 1982, when he competed in policy debate, extemp and oratory. He currently serves as District Chair of the Georgia Northern Mountain NFL District, Immediate Past- President of the Georgia Forensic Coaches Association, serves on the Inclusion ad-hoc committee of the NSDA and is a National Tournament official at NSDA Nationals. He has qualified over 120 students to NFL Nationals, including students who have placed in the top 6 in International Extemp, United States Extemp, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Extemp Commentary, Prose/Poetry and coached the 2011 NFL National Student of the Year. Over 80 students have reached finals in state tournaments, including 44 State Champions. His team has 70+ students every year, competing in all NSDA and CFL events. His students have advanced to out-rounds at national tournaments including; UNM, Arizona State University, Stanford, UC-Boulder, Cheyenne-East HS, St. Mark’s, Isidore Newman School, St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Mountain Brook HS, St. James School, Florida Blue Key, Clemson U., Harvard, George Mason, Emory, Laird Lewis and the Wake Forest Earlybird. This year Mario will lend his expertise to the Beehive Forensics Institute as Director of the Extemporaneous Speaking labs and member of the senior staff.

RLayne PhotoRob Layne – Assistant Director, Public Forum Debate

Rob Layne currently serves as an assistant debate coach, a UCEER Research Fellow, and a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah.  Rob has coached and/or directed four national champions in collegiate parliamentary debate (Season Sweepstakes 2017, Season Sweepstakes 2006, National Tournament Sweepstakes 2006, & National Top Speaker 2009).  Prior to his work at the University of Utah, Layne directed the Texas Tech University Forensics Union and placed students into the semi-final round of the NPDA National Championship Tournament in both 2013 and 2014.  With just under 25 years of speech and debate experience in both high school and collegiate forensics, Rob has had an opportunity to work with some of the brightest students in the country as part of his team and at camps that he has led.  High school students that have worked with Layne have taken 2nd at NSDA Nationals in Extemporaneous Debate, 5th in Public Forum, 10th in Policy debate, and 6th in US Extemporaneous Speaking.   He has also directed public forum labs for institutes in Utah, Oregon, Texas, and Kansas. Rob is a self-described political, legal, and theory junkie.  He is incredibly excited to direct the Public Forum Lab for his third consecutive year at the Beehive Forensics Institute.

JeannieJeannie Hunt – Assistant Director, Coaches Clinic

Jeannie Hunt is the Director of Forensics at Northwest College. This year marks her 12th year coaching at NWC, where she has coached students to success at the NPTE, NPDA, Phi Rho Pi and AFA nationals. Before coming to NWC, she coached four different high school teams, winning state championships with each team. While coaching high school, Jeannie coached the Top Speaker in Policy Debate (2005) and the Poetry champion (2006) at the National Speech and Debate Association (formerly National Forensics League) national tournament, as well as state champions in Policy Debate, Extemp, Duet, Humor and Poetry. As a competitor in high school, Jeannie qualified for NFL Nationals and placed at state in Extemp and Lincoln-Douglas Debate after joining the team in her junior year. At the college level, she was a CEDA All-American, placed in LD, CEDA, Extemp, Impromptu and Informative speaking at Phi Rho Phi, and cleared to elimination rounds at AFA in Extemp and Impromptu. In addition to coaching and teaching, Jeannie provides Sexual Violence Prevention programming on her campus and continues her education. In her spare time, she likes to travel with her family and friends, bake and nap.


Gordon Peer – Assistant Director, Congressional Debate

Gordon Peer has been the Director of Forensics at Roy High School in Roy, UT for 7 years and will be the new Director of Green Canyon High School’s inaugural debate season.  He has coached multiple NDCA and NSDA Congress National Finalists, including 3rd in the Country at NDCA 2014. Since 2015, he has coached multiple National Octofinalists in one of the NSDA’s newest events, World Schools Debate.  He has been a Congressional Debate Director for several years at programs such as WSDI and BFI.  As a Six-Time State Champion Coach, he has coached Region and State Champions in Congressional Debate, Public Forum, Policy, Oratory, and Extemporaneous Speaking.  His congressional debaters have consistently qualified for the National Forensic League’s National Tournament, all while sporting one of the newest programs in Utah.  He is a founding member of Utah’s 1st-ever Congressional Committee, which formalizes and elevates the event.  In addition to competing in High School at such schools as Princeton and St. John’s, Gordon earned a degree in Law & Constitutional Studies from Utah State University, received another in Political Science Teaching from Weber State University, and attended graduate studies at Gonzaga University School of Law.

Scott PettitScott Pettit – Instructor, Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Scott Pettit was recently named the 2A Utah Debate Coach of the Year in 2014. Scott was born and raised in Utah but has spent a considerable amount of time outside of Utah studying and fulfilling his goal to visit as many world cultures as possible.  He holds a BS in Emergency Administration from the University of North Texas and a MA from Westminster College.  In 2011, he left a successful career in corporate safety and security to focus his efforts on teaching.  At that time, he dove head first into the world of high school debate.  In the past few years, Scott has become one of the most successful debate coaches in the state of Utah.  He has established his school’s debate program from the ground up, and as a coach has qualified 100% of his students for UHSAA competitions.  In his free time, Scott loves spending time with his wife and baby boy.  His hobbies include traveling, enjoying the bounties of Utah’s nature, and working on Vespa motor scooters.

IMG_5866Benjamin Mann – Instructor, Public Forum Debate

Ben is the incoming Director of Debate at the University of Utah and is beginning his second year as a debate coach with the John R. Park Debate Society and Ph.D. student at the University of Utah. In his first year coaching at Utah, the John R. Park Debate society won a national championship for seasonlong performance along with numerous tournament victories. Previously, Ben worked for two years as an assistant forensics coach at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he received his M.A. in Communication. At Pacific, Ben helped students achieve regional and national successes. Prior to Pacific, Ben worked as an assistant coach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon, coaching multiple tournament wins in Parliamentary Debate and a finals finish in Public Forum at State. He has also volunteered as a coach for his alma mater, West Linn High School. As a competitor for Lewis & Clark College, also in Portland, Ben ended his career among the top 16 teams in the nation after several tournament wins, being named the top forensics competitor in the Pacific Northwest, and three consecutive qualifications for the NPTE. Ben also brings competitive experience in Lincoln-Douglas Debate. With his deep love of forensics and desire to teach students both critical thinking and public speaking skills, Ben hopes to one day direct a forensics program of his own. Ben studies gender and disability, and in his free time loves to hike.

HEDIN_JESSE_HEADSHOTJesse Hedin – Instructor, Policy Debate

Jesse Hedin recently completed a college debate career competing for the University of Utah and Ranger College that included qualifying for the NPTE four times and debating in elimination rounds at every national championship tournament in college parliamentary debate. As a high school debater, Jesse competed in elimination rounds at the Texas policy debate state championship. This is Jesse’s third summer working with the BFI.

NilsonCourtney Nilson – Instructor, Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Courtney Nilson is currently a student at the U majoring in Political Science and Communication. Originally from Henderson, Nevada, Courtney will be heading into her second year of college this upcoming semester. In 2015, Courtney attended the Beehive Forensics Institute as a student herself for Lincoln-Douglas debate. Courtney competed in Lincoln Douglas and Original Oratory in high school and placed among the top 30 LD debaters in the country at the 2016 NSDA Nationals Tournament. As a member of the John R. Park Debate Society at the U, Courtney competes in parliamentary debate, extemporaneous speaking, and informative speaking. As a first year, Courtney and her partner qualified to the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence. Additionally, at the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Tournament, Courtney and her partner broke to out rounds. As a debater, Courtney enjoys exploring the utilisation of humour as an argumentative tool and trying to absorb as much information as possible from her peers and coaches. Courtney feels passionately that as competitors, teammates, and individuals there is always more to be learned and improved upon, and because of this also enjoys working with high school debaters when she has the opportunity to. Outside of debate, Courtney enjoys watching sitcoms and being a college student in what she will argue is one of the coolest cities someone can live.

17800483_1443944248989399_1847541884241219810_nAverie Vockel – Instructor, Public Forum Debate

Averie Vockel is a current junior at the University of Utah studying Communication. For two years she did several high school debate events including Lincoln Douglas, Congress, and Original Oratory but was most involved with Public Forum Debate. While competing in PF right here in Utah, she and her partner earned a top 40 placement at the 2015 NSDA Nationals Tournament. Averie now competes for the U in parliamentary debate as well as Informative and After Dinner Speaking. Through both years of competition for the university, Averie has qualified with her partners to the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Tournament and in the most current season, to the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence. Averie has also joined several of her teammates in qualifying for and competing at the American Forensics Association National Tournament in multiple individual events. In addition to her own competition, Averie has worked closely with her alma mater and former coach in preparing students and new competitors for high school tournaments. Additionally, she has worked closely with children at several local junior high schools in teaching the basics of debate. Averie believes that every child, young adult, and even adult.. has a voice with important things to say, and that debate has the ability to give even the most quiet people a forum to have that voice heard. Her favorite thing about the activity, and especially teaching it, is watching students find the voice they had all along. Aside from debate, Averie loves spending time with her family, traveling,kickboxing, skiing, camping, and of course, watching way too much Netflix!

IMG_3971Saige Miller – Instructor, Public Forum/Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Saige Miller is an incoming senior at the U studying Sociology, Communication and Middle Eastern Studies. Originally from Salem, Oregon, she competed in forensics for four years in high school. She primarily competed in Oregon Parliamentary Debate, Dramatic Interpretation, Humous Interpretation and Public Forum debate on occasion. Saige is currently the assistant debate coach at Park City High School who took first place at 3A state. Additionally, Saige competed on the John. R. Park Debate Society at the U for three years, going on four. During her time on the team, she has competed in a plethora of different events, including Informative speaking and Communication Analysis. In 2015, Saige qualified to the American Forensics Association where she placed in the top 30 in the nation for Communication Analysis. On the debate side of things, Saige has attended the National Parliamentary Debate Association. The 2016-17 season, Saige and her partner placed within the top 40 best debate in that nation! She also qualified with her partner to the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence in 2017. Saige believes that forensics teaches her valuable skills, such as public speaking, but also builds a unique kind of confidence and educates people about real world issues that don’t receive a proper amount of attention. Critical argumentation has slowly climbed its way into Saige’s favorite kind of arguments because they never fail to teach her something new and useful. Everything she learns in her forensics experiences, she tries to teach her students at Park City. Once she graduates college, she hopes to attend the University of Minnesota for graduate school or work as a research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

WirtjoWirtjo Leonard – Instructor, Lincoln-Douglas/Policy Debate

Wirtjo Leonard is currently the assistant debate coach at Woods Cross High School, and has been involved with the Beehive Forensics Institute as a student, judge and instructor since 2013.  Wirtjo competed in Extemporaneous speaking and Lincoln Douglas in high school and cleared to outrounds at many different tournaments including state the two years he competed. Since then, he has coached multiple state champions and runner ups in LD and PF in addition to winners of various prestigious tournaments, most recently the 2017 Utah Tournament of Excellence. Wirtjo has also aided numerous policy teams in developing a critical approach to debate, particularly along the lines of identity arguments. Wirtjo is a strong proponent of the ability of forensics to positively transform the lives of students, and that is a goal he attempts to continually reach. Outside of debate Wirtjo enjoys destroying ableism, being a proud pet owner, an avid soccer fan, and a researcher and documenter of human rights abuses. In the future Wirtjo hopes to achieve a graduate degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

18119220_10155235854111972_1936484977846152973_nDakota Park-Ozee – Instructor

Dakota Park-Ozee is currently an assistant coach of individual events with the John R. Park Debate Society and master’s student in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. Her current research focuses on political communication. Before coming to graduate school, Dakota spent her entire forensics career with the Alabama Forensic Council at the University of Alabama. During that time she competed in ADS, DI, extemp, impromptu, persuasion, poetry, POI, and prose, reaching multiple national outrounds and being selected as an American Forensics Association All-American. Last summer, she was part of the inaugural staff of the AFI (Alabama Forensics Institute), directing their extemp curriculum. Dakota’s former coaches are some of her greatest mentors. Never doubt the power of a forensics education. Outside of forensics, Dakota is a big fan of acrylic paint, the space program, and desserts of all kinds.