College of the Mainland student Chris Arnold, pictured, argues whether the animated film “Frozen” made Disney relevant again in COM’s recent debate tournament.College of the Mainland student Chris Arnold, left, debates Leslie Cortez, of Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas.

Electricity fills the air as Lance Tran, from Tulane University, and Erika Hill, from Bossier Parish Community College, battle over the statement “gluten-free food is a fad” at College of the Mainland’s March 28 debate tournament, co-hosted with Lee College.

“(Debate) has changed my life in so many ways, and it’s all been positive,” said Hill, 34, who placed nationally at her first tournament competing in the novice division. “I’ve met so many people. I changed my major to communications.”
The debate is the second International Public Debate Association tournament held at College of the Mainland since COM professor Nakia Welch began a debate team in 2012. Teams of students traveled from Stephen F. Austin State University, Bossier Parish College, Lee College, East Texas Baptist University, Louisiana College, Tulane University, Mississippi College and Texas A&M International University to compete in the daylong event.
COM student Bianca Lara, of Texas City, debated topics ranging from Kobe Bryant to legalized marijuana. The former debater for Texas City High School had just thirty minutes to prepare her thoughts before arguing her case and being cross-examined by her competition. Though it sounds intimidating, she views it as relatively easy.
"This style of debate is common man’s debate,” she said. “Topics are stuff you already know, sports and politics, not research."
A former criminal justice major, Lara has switched her focus to communications.
“I don’t know how to function without it in my life,” she said. “I changed my major because I want to be a Nakia (Welch) and have an impact on students’ lives."
Lara added that in a small debate circle (with 12-15 teams in the region) she often competes against familiar faces. Once students are off the judging clock, they relax and bond around what they have in common - a love for discussion.
"I feel like debate is something everyone should do, because it teaches you to understand two points of view, how to organize papers, how to not go on a rant,” Lara explained. “It helps you in jobs and to solve problems and to make lifelong friends."