St. Olaf's parliamentary debate team members

St. Olaf’s parliamentary debate team made a generous and unexpected donation.


College students often step up for MNUDL, but St. Olaf parliamentary debaters went the extra mile.

6 years ago, Matthew Erickson attended MDAW, our policy debate summer camp, as a freshman in high school. He’s gone on to graduate from Eagan High School and attend St. Olaf College, where he is president of the parliamentary debate team. We didn’t expect to see Matthew back at MDAW this year, much less with a generous gift!

St. Olaf’s parliamentary debate team members generously raised $2,000 for our programming, surprising us with an amazing gift to start off the next season on the right foot! That $2,000 gift could cover a range of our programming needs next year, including but not limited to:

  • One stipend for a high school debate coach ($2,000 each).
  • 2 high school students to attend 2-week-long policy camp. ($1,000 each)
  • Stipends for 4 high school students to coach middle school teams. ($500 each)

Matthew joined us this week to judge an evening practice debate at MDAW. Learn more about what inspired the St. Olaf team’s generosity in our interview with him:

How did you become aware of the MNUDL?

It began in 9th grade in high school. I was on the policy debate team at Eagan. Over the summer, I went to MDAW. It was very enjoyable. It was a lot of fun to have practice debates with people over the summer and do the fun activities afterwards. The community there was taking debate seriously, but began to create jokes about different aspects of debate and there became a little community comfortable with debate and with each other.

Why did you get involved in debate?

I really liked the idea of talking about topics seriously, but also being able to switch sides on them. It’s like a more competitive version of having discussions about valuable topics. There’s a certain community on debate teams I love being a part of. They’re passionate people, people who care about politics, psychology, and philosophy, as well as people who care about being able to articulate what they think well. Our team wants to communicate that we care very much about everyone being successful in debate. It’s not always about winning. It’s about making sure everyone gets a positive educational experience.

How did you get inspired to fundraise for MNUDL?

We had been having members of the team come judge at tournaments, not exclusively at UDL, but as part of it. We’d go to the tournaments and judge. At some point on the St. Olaf campus, there was an opportunity to fundraise for something we care about. The UDL came up as the best solution, and the fact that it could use donations. We wanted to come to judge for the high school debate season, but because of the scheduling conflicts we were not able. We hope to be able to do that in future years.

What did you take from your experience judging debate?

Watching and participating in debate judging is great. It was very inclusive, with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. All of them made serious arguments. The debates were also very high quality. I am always impressed with high school students in the urban debate league.

What should more people know about debate?

More people should know debate requires a great deal of time investment. But it’s also intrinsically enjoyable. It’s not a grind or just a way to win and feel good about yourself. It’s truly fun to engage with these topics and talk to other people who are interested in them.


We wish the St. Olaf parliamentary debate team the best of luck as they gear up for their next competitive season! For more updates like these, follow us on Facebook or Twitter