Engineering students play key roles in debate team's repeat of national title

Calendar Icon Apr 28, 2023      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed  RSS Submit a Story

Engineering students Zachary Wallenburg (second row, second from left) and Amber Tannehill (second row, second from right), were part of the UNL Debate Team's 2022 and 2023 national championships.
Engineering students Zachary Wallenburg (second row, second from left) and Amber Tannehill (second row, second from right), were part of the UNL Debate Team's 2022 and 2023 national championships.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln brought home the 2023 National Forensic Association's Lincoln Douglas Debate trophy, marking the second straight national championship for the team.

And for a second consecutive year, a pair of Nebraska Engineering students – Zachary Wallenburg and Amber Tannehill – were key contributors to the team's national title.

At the NFA's National Tournament – held April 14-17 at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois – Wallenburg, a sophomore majoring in computer science, finished ninth overall. In 2022, he finished fifth overall.

The native of Lenexa, Kansas, and student in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, was one of seven Huskers to qualify for the elimination rounds. Wallenburg's older brother Nicholas, a senior in accounting, won the individual national championship with an 11-0 record.

Tannehill, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and president of the UNL Debate Team, won two of her six matches.

"I didn't expect us to win both the overall and the individual championships. In some ways it was a little harder on us this year. We had to work much harder before the tournament and when we got there, too," Tannehill said. "Last year, it's like nobody saw us coming. This year, we could tell that other schools were prepping cases extra hard for the rounds against us, so it was a lot more stressful."

Zachary Wallenburg said the team's repeat as national championship was as satisfying as the 2022 title, but in a different way.

"Going into the season, we had high expectations, because we've proven it could be done. From Day 1, we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder," Wallenburg said. "We had a lot of seniors graduate last year, but we had the right mix of returning talent as well as a bunch of new freshmen who are eager to make their mark."

Wallenburg said he believes his experience in debate will only be a positive as he pursues his professional career after graduation.

"One of the key things we have to do in debate is learn to work as part of a team and alone, like most of my experiences in software development and software engineering" Wallenburg said. "We are all on a similar time frame, but we break up tasks into smaller parts, and ultimately it all has to come together to make one final product.

"When you're meeting with clients and colleagues, the ability to meet them in the middle and understand what they are thinking and how you can best sell your ideas to them is a skill that isn't widely taught. It's very cool that I get that not only from my engineering education but also through an avenue like debate."





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