Vanya HS Debate Photo + portrait

Vanya Hogen made a gift to our Virtual Learning Supply Drive in recognition of what debate has done for her. She is pictured at left with her debate partner, Lisa Keckler, competing at a high school debate tournament in South Dakota.

There’s no doubt – debate has been a thread running through Vanya Hogen’s life.


Her parents met on their college debate team. It was Vanya’s mother who encouraged her to join the debate team at her Sioux Falls high school, where she met an opponent who’s become her close friend of 30 years. Recently, her daughter debated at Highland Park Senior High School. And now, she’s a member of the MNUDL’s advisory board, helping bring debate to Twin Cities students. 


“I’ve always thought debate was a worthy cause,” says Vanya. “Debate was the most valuable thing by far that I did in high school. Even though I wasn’t one of the top debaters in the state most of the time, I still kept at it. I just felt like it was very intellectually challenging. I loved the other people who were involved in it, and I got to know a lot of kids from around the state outside my own high school.” 


Vanya always had a dream of being a lawyer, and debate helped make it true. It really helped me both to prepare for college and later for my career in the law, says Vanya. “I was always really interested in this job, but being in debate cemented my interest in being a lawyer.” 


Now, she supports the American Indian community through Hogen Adams, which handles Indian law for many clients throughout the Midwest, and continues to empower indigenous students by sponsoring the All Nations Indian Law Moot Court. She was named a Super Lawyer for the years of 2003 – 2004 and 2006 – 2020, demonstrating her reputation for legal excellence.


Vanya credits debate for boosting her momentum as a legal professional. Specifically, debate provided her a skillset that remains useful even today. “For being a lawyer, a couple aspects of debate are really helpful: public speaking, having to formulate arguments, and using logic. The thing that helped me the most from debate was learning how to organize my thoughts and arguments. That helped with writing papers in college, writing briefs and exams in law school, and general legal writing later on.”


As a parent of a graduating senior and former debater, Vanya sees the value of debate continue in today’s students. But she is concerned about the activity’s accessibility after COVID-19. “I was already concerned about how distance learning is impacting students who can’t afford good technology overall,” she says, “but once Nationals was online, that’s the first time I realized debate would be impacted for kids.” 


That’s what motivated Vanya to make a generous $1,000 gift to our Virtual Supply Drive. Her donation kickstarted our campaign that aims to bring quality headsets to every student in the MNUDL! That gift will provide headsets to more than 65 students. Vanya says: “This was an easy way for me to contribute. I really want to make sure that the pandemic doesn’t derail debate. It is such a valuable activity.” It’s easy to look to her life as proof of that.

Help Vanya equip all MNUDL competitors with the supplies they need to maximize debate’s impact. Make a gift today.