Building Skills and Capacity Through the NAUDL Fellowship

Marshall and Sandy pose on Augsburg's campus

Passionate educators are at the heart of the MNUDL community. We are grateful that two future educators (who have already built impressive skills through their coaching experience!) shared their summer with us. Sandy Bolton and Marshall Steele worked with MNUDL and the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues in the NAUDL Summer Fellowship. Read on to learn more about this opportunity for Sandy and Marshall as well as the innovations they fostered for our programs!

Sandy Bolton, former Roosevelt High School debater who coaches at Minneapolis South High School, elaborates, explaining, “The NAUDL fellowship is a ten week long internship with the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues. We are in a cohort with urban debate alumni from all over the country. We meet with this cohort 1-2 times a week for professional development opportunities, including roundtable meetings with lawyers from the law firm White & Case, who is the sponsor of the fellowship.”

Marshall, St Paul Central High School alum and coach, adds there is a second part to the experience; they each work on assignments for the curriculum for individual debate leagues, themselves and Sandy being assigned to the Urban Debate league.

Sandy and Marshall were interested in the fellowship because it was a valuable opportunity for professional development and networking. As Marshall explained, “I had great conversations with people in fields I am interested in, like education and politics. The program also had an emphasis on developing our professional skills, which isn’t something covered in school.”

In addition to practical workplace experience, the fellowship enabled them to put their ideas for MNUDL programs into action. Sandy contends the best part was that, “I got to work on projects that I really care about and that further the overall goal of making debate more accessible to students who are served by MNUDL.”

Innovation the Work: Improvement & Accessibility

An essential component of MNUDL programming is developing debate evidence for any given topic.  Evidence packets and curriculum allow new students and coaches to dive right in and learn about debate without having to generate all the evidence and learning materials right away. Our fellows and MNUDL fellowship manager Jake Swede rigorously consider “what makes a good packet for future students to use during their debate season,” Sandy explains, “This is my third year making the Spanish packet, and every year I’ve tried to make it better and better.”

Marshall also focused on evidence packets, but for our East African Debate and Financial Literacy Debates programs. They sought to better the curriculum by focusing on, “the accessibility, diversity of authors, and relevance to students,” of the packet as a whole. Marshall was especially excited, “to bring some more accessibility and technology resources to the packet for East African and Financial literacy with the simple magic of QR codes and youtube videos.” 

As we head into the start of a new school year, we look forward to hearing debates using the wonderful curriculum Sandy and Marshall developed this summer!

Opportunity: Professional Development & Skills Building

Overall, Sandy considers it a summer well spent. They conclude, “This was such a great opportunity for me as an aspiring Spanish teacher because it allows me to apply my skills as a debater into the world of second language education, anti-racist pedagogy, and culturally relevant debate curriculum design.”

Marshall, who also plans on continuing as an educator, learned more about themselves in addition to the curriculum design experience. “It was satisfying to see how beneficial skills from debate are in a professional setting,” recollected. The ability to rapidly absorb and analyze information assisted them in everything from learning new software, adapting in dynamic environments, and even taking detailed meeting notes. “I didn’t appreciate the capacity for critical thinking debate fostered in me until I was in a new, challenging situation and I intuitively utilized those skills.” Besides building confidence in themselves and their abilities, Marshall values this knowledge for future reference in professional applications and interviews so they can better advocate for their own skills and strengths.

We’re glad to hear the NAUDL Summer Fellowships were enjoyable and educational! We are certainly grateful for their hard work and are excited to watch students learn with the materials they created in the coming year. Thank you, Marshall and Sandy!

Are you an educator, or future educator, with a passion for working with students? We’re looking for a coach like you! We have opportunities for coaches with and without debate experience. Sign up here to learn more!