Seawolf debater Henry Mildon wins online IPDA Tournament

by Catalina Myers  |   


UAA economics major Henry Mildon (left corner), participates in the final round of the online IPDA Tournament hosted by Seattle University. (Photo courtesy, Steve Johnson)

 On Saturday, March 28 and Sunday, March 29, UAA economics major and member of the Seawolf Debate Program Henry Mildon sat down at his computer to participate in the online International Public Debate Association (IPDA) Tournament hosted by Seattle University.

By the end of the tournament on Sunday, not only had Mildon won the entire event, it was his first-ever big debate win.

“I was overjoyed,” said Mildon. “Not only was this my first time winning in this particular style, but my first time winning a tournament overall.” IPDA, a format of debating, is not normally in Mildon’s debate style wheelhouse — he’s more familiar with British Parliamentary style, but was excited to branch out and try something new, which made the victory all the more special. He added that the tournament win was a pleasant surprise as many of the team's members graduated last year, and there were so many new faces, it was nice to know Seawolf Debate could still come out on top.

As COVID-19 has drastically altered the spring semester for many college students, including co-curricular activities, debate has been able to persevere by pivoting to an online format for both practices and tournaments.

With the help of tools like Yaatly, a fairly new website designed specifically for hosting debate tournaments online, and the popular video conferencing website Zoom, students on debate teams in Alaska and the Lower 48 can continue to host and participate in debate events.

“I think it’s fortunate that this is an activity that is uniquely predisposed to moving online,” Mildon said. Although Mildon says it’s not quite the same, he is grateful that he is still able to meet with teammates, even if it is online. “We’ve been having several Zoom meetings a week and getting in some practices and still do a lot of the tasks that help us keep our skills going — including things such as tournaments.”

Steve Johnson, associate professor in the Department of Communication and director of the Seawolf Debate Program said he moved quickly and communicated early on to ensure a seamless transition for his debate team.

“It’s the first time we have ever participated in an online debate tournament,” said Johnson. “People have dabbled in them for the last couple of years, but they have kind of been novelties.” 

When the IPDA tournament popped up, even though the debate style was a slight departure from the team’s normal style, he decided to put the call out to see if anyone was interested. 

“He’s [Mildon] a very talented debater, progressed through the five preliminary rounds and then three single-elimination rounds to win the whole event — all from the comfort of his bedroom,” said Johnson. “I was coaching him from my home office and the rest of the team was watching him online from their locations.”

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