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Day in the Life of a National Debate Competitor

National debate competitor, Piper Meloche, gets up early on Thursdays – attending her Philosophy of Global Health class, and then her Introductory Anthropology class, in which she has an Honors Option.

Afterward, she goes to the debate office, located in Linton Hall. But first, Meloche goes to Starbucks – she doesn’t deny her addiction, she embraces it – she orders a Venti Brown Sugar Oat Milk Shaken Express and gets to work.

Meloche is a fourth-year Honors College student with a double major in the James Madison College in Social Relations & Policy and Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy. She is a Philosophy and Law minor, and she recently added a Bioethics minor.

Meloche is also a pre-law student with plans to spend an extra year at MSU, including continuing her commitment to the debate team.

“I’m really excited because it looks like we’re going to be getting more in-person competitions. Back before the pandemic, that was one way we bonded a lot,” Meloche said. “We would go on van rides and have long conversations. It’s different now because we’ve been debating online…there are just different norms. You do things in different ways. You act and interact differently when you can see your opponent. So that will almost be something to relearn.”

Meloche, and her partner, Tony Miklovis, made it to elimination rounds for six national tournaments this year. In addition, the pair ended as octo-finalists at the ADA National Tournament – Meloche, herself, was ranked 4th speaker out of 106 competitors.

Now, Meloche is preparing for the National Debate Tournament (NDT). The nation’s top 78 teams go to the NDTs. In fact, Meloche and Miklovis went through a qualification process in February – the Districts tournament.

Meloche began debating her freshman year of high school. Initially, she did not want to debate at MSU.

“I was pretty certain after my senior year of high school that I did not want to do debate at college. I kind of ghosted the team on accident when they tried to recruit me,” Meloche said. “I came to MSU with the express intention of not competing in college only to join halfway through the first year anyway.”

Meloche chose debate, and it chose her.

She’s in the office during any free time she has. But, it’s also where her friends are – where they collaborate and have fun too.

On most Thursdays, Meloche and her fellow debate competitors play frisbee outside. Next, they come back inside and play euchre, a card game.

After a few euchre rounds, Meloche is back on the debate grind.

This year’s debate topic is about expanding the scope of the United States’ core antitrust laws. Competitors debate both the affirmative and negative side of the topic – yes, core antitrust laws should be expanded and no, they shouldn’t.

“My research focuses primarily on the affirmative side,” Meloche said. “I’ve been doing a lot of research specifically in limiting existing immunities and antitrust like Parker Immunity and State Action Immunity – what it would look like if we limited that, mechanisms in which we could, why that might be a good idea and pre-empting and responding to reasons why people might think that’s a bad idea. There’s a lot of literature about how that might affect federalism, how it might affect innovation…”

Meloche typically comes into the office on Mondays and Wednesdays before her online class. She works on debate assignments, wraps up some schoolwork, talks to her friends, and then goes to class. After class, Meloche will come back – do a little bit more research and have a file discussion with one of the coaches.

Debate aside, Meloche is also a peer educator with the Prevention, Education, and Outreach Department (POE). On that particular Thursday, she would attend a virtual POE meeting with her co-workers.

Later at night, she would also attend a Zoom meeting with her teammates and coaches, in which one of the coaches would present their research assignment.

They would also be joined by a group of high schoolers considering MSU debate. The high schoolers would be able to ask questions about MSU debate’s strategy and, overall, debate at the collegiate level.

Meloche said, “The file discussion is a chance for the coaches to share what they’ve been working on. It gives us a chance to ask questions and makes sure we understand it well because sometimes when you’re working on something, it just becomes a pet project and no one really understands what you’re saying. It’s a research activity, but it’s also a communication activity. So, you have to make sure you’re on the same page.”

Reflecting on the meeting afterward, Meloche said the team discussed a strategy that they use against a team from Liberty University.

“We discussed arguments our coaches put together for those debates and how we can improve next time…it’s not just a coach’s monologue, we have discussions and bring-up counterarguments…it’s a good experience for everybody,” she said.

MSU debate is housed within the Honors College.

Meloche, an Honors student, said her experience has given her the opportunity to apply the analytical skills she’s learned in debate like research and writing.

I’m able to do a bit more in my honors sections and honors options…” Meloche said. “If I want, for an honors option, to write a paper about antitrust because I’m learning a lot about it this year and it connects to one of my topics, the Honors College gives me the opportunity to do that, or to branch out and be a little bit more creative in my assignments. It’s not something I would have the opportunity to do if I were not in the Honors College.

Meloche finishes her Thursday night in the office, playing frisbee outside in the crisp Spring night and playing a few more rounds of euchre with her debate buddies.

Every day, she inches closer to the NDTs, where she will continue making her mark in the debate world.

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