Staff listings being updated on a continuing basis!
Come work with some of the top coaches in forensics! Our staff represents the highest levels of competitive accomplishment and education. No matter your incoming level or your future competitive goals, we have the staff that can help you reach for your dreams, be they competitive, performative, or educational. Our staff includes not only former national finalists and champions at both the high school and collegiate levels, but coaches of multiple national champions.
Note: Staff listings are projected and subject to change. These listings do not include all staff. All staff are subject to final contractual approval by the University of Texas and passage of a criminal background check and can change without notice.
Meet Our Staff
Terran Duhon - Curriculum Director for Oratory/Informative (2023)
Terran Duhon began his speech career in middle school and fell in love with the activity. As a student at San Antonio's Reagan HS, he was the recipient of the Perfect Performance top speaker award at the 2011 NIETOC, winning the NIETOC championship in Original Oratory. Speech eventually carried him into college as a member of both the San Antonio College speech team and the UT Speech Team where he was a multiple national out-rounder in both the Public Speaking and Interpretation categories. He now teaches Speech at St. Mary's Hall in San Antonio, Texas, and could not imagine a better job than helping students realize their passion for activism and performance. In 2022, Terran's students were recognized as the TFA State Champions in BOTH Informative Speaking and Original Oratory!
Ben Gaddis - Curriculum Director for Extemp/Congress (2023)
Ben is a former assistant director of Texas Speech and the current Director of Forensics at Trinity Preparatory School in Florida. A graduate of Bradley University and also an alumnus of the graduate program in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin, he brings an extensive background and approach to coaching individual events. Ben has coached at numerous national high school camps and workshops over the years, and is excited to return once again to his role helping to coordinate the Extemp curriculum and to serving the students of UTNIF. In his time with Texas Speech, he was part of a staff that helped to coach over 40 national titles, including three AFA national team titles. Beyond his collegiate experience, the students he has coached in high school Extemp have made numerous finals at national competitions, and have gone deep into outrounds at NSDA and the UK TOC. In 2022, Ben was the coach of the Florida State Runner Up in International Extemp as well as a state champion in Informative Speaking.
Eva Margarita - Curriculum Director for Interpretation (2023)
The 2023 recipient of the American Forensic Association's Outstanding Young Coach Award, Eva is a doctoral student completing her PhD in Rhetoric & Language and is the assistant director for Texas Speech, where she was the lead coach for the 2021, 2022, AND 2023 NFA national championships in Prose Interpretation, among her many coaching highlights. She holds a Master of Arts in Performance Studies at New York University. Having previously competed at Concordia University Irvine and Los Angeles City College, Eva has been in national out rounds for Rhetorical Criticism, Informative Speaking, and Drama, with national final round performances in Prose, Poetry, and Duo. She was a top 15 overall speaker for the National Forensic Association tournament and top 20 overall speaker for the American Forensic Association. As a multi-faceted performance artist herself, Eva cares deeply about building pieces with students that pierce imaginaries to create new worlds.
Randy Cox - Overall Curriculum Director (2023)
Randy Cox is the Director of Texas Speech and one of the founders of the UT National Institute in Forensics. A Distinguished Service Award recipient for the American Forensic Association National Speech Tournament and former national champion himself, his students have been graced with 88 individual national titles at both the high school and collegiate levels, and have also been awarded multiple national team titles including the NSDA Bruno E. Jacob cumulative trophy, the NFA Founders Award cumulative title, the NCFL Masterson and Founders awards, as well as eight American Forensic Association national team titles, the most recent in 2023. He has been a part of every UTNIF summer since the institute began in 1994, having founded the Lincoln-Douglas Debate program and taught in every curriculum division of the individual events camp, and in 2020 was named one of the prestigious "Texas 10" favorite professors by alumni of the University of Texas at Austin.
Extemp & Congress
Eric Long (2023)
Eric is incredibly excited to return to UTNIF, meaning he has now worked speech camps in 4 separate decades. A member of the National Forensics Association Hall of Fame, he became the NFA Pentathlon Champion by finaling all three genres at the same national tournament. Eric is also a multiple-time AFA national finalist and After Dinner Speaking National Champion. A graduate of Bradley University, Northern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois, Eric is a Professor of Communication Studies at Elgin Community College but also enjoys coaching for the University of Illinois at Chicago helping the young program to its first top-10 finish and first limited prep national championships. Eric believes speech, and UTNIF, changes lives. Communicate. Educate. Advocate.
Evan Ortiz (2023)
Evan Ortiz’s speech and debate career began in high school, going on nine years now. While competing in his home city of Houston, Texas, Evan participated in Congressional Debate, Public Forum Debate, Extemporaneous Speaking, Informative and Original Oratory, and the occasional Policy round. In congressional debate, Evan is a 2017 NSDA semi-finalist, UIL 6A state runner-up, and three-year TOC and TFA state qualifier. After high school, Evan attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with Political Communications and Government degrees. Upon joining the Texas Speech Team, Evan saw over ten national final-round appearances in various events: Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Persuasive Speaking, and After Dinner Speaking. Most notably, Evan was the 2021 American Forensics Association National Champion in Persuasive Speaking and the 2022 National Forensics Association National Champion in Persuasive Speaking. As Evan prepares to leave Austin for law school this fall, he cannot wait to spend his last summer with UTNIF. To Evan—speech is a gift that never stops giving—something he is ecstatic to bring to UTNIF this year.
Katayoun Khalilian (2023)
Katayoun is a graduate of UT Austin, having majored in biology and the Plan II Honors program, and was the 2022 American Forensic Association national champion in Extemporaneous Speaking. She also served as a coach of the Texas Speech Team that was the 2023 AFA National Championship program. In high school, she competed in congressional debate, public forum debate, and extemporaneous speaking. Kat placed second at the UK Tournament of Champions and at the Extemp Tournament of Champions in 2018, and made her way to the NSDA National’s stage in the summer of 2018 as a finalist in Domestic Extemp. In addition to extemp, she was recognized as the 2021 National Forensics Association national runner-up in ADS and in 2022 was a national finalist in communication analysis. Katayoun attended UTNIF as a camper in 2016 and 2017 and as she prepares to enroll in medical school starting next year, she can’t wait to return as a senior staff member in order to recreate the same impactful experiences that spurred her love for speech and debate!
René Otero (2023)
René Otero recently completed his tenure as a member of Texas Speech at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies. While regularly participating in Original Oratory, Congressional Debate and Informative Speaking as a high school student, he specialized in Extemp. René received second place at the Harvard Invitational, 4th at the UK Tournament of Champions, 3rd, 2nd, and eventually champion at the UT Longhorn Classic, and appeared in multiple other national and state finals-- culminating in the 2019 NSDA National Championship in International Extemp. A multi-talented performer, René has performed in After Dinner Speaking, Poetry Interpretation, Rhetorical Criticism, and Extemp at the collegiate level. In 2023 he was the national runner-up in Impromptu Speaking for the American Forensic Association and a multiple national finalist in Extemp. He attended UTNIF in 2016 and is excited to return to the teaching end of a camp which has such an impact on the lives of students!
Alexis Alvarado (2023)
Alexis is a rising junior at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Communication and Leadership and minoring in English. In collegiate forensics she has specialized in Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Rhetorical Criticism, and After Dinner Speaking. As a competitor she has performed in national-out rounds in Extemporaneous Speaking at AFA and Rhetorical Criticism at NFA and NSC. Alexis is thrilled to be working at UTNIF in her favorite event and hopes to inspire students to foster a new love and passion for the world of forensics.
Alex Lawson (2023)
Alex Lawson is a rising senior at Northwestern University majoring in political science and legal studies. In high school, Alex competed in oratory, policy debate, and extemp. Alex was a three-time qualifier for the Extemp Tournament of Champions and two-time qualifier for the UK Tournament of Champions, and made out rounds in NSDA USX twice. In college, they have continued to compete in extemp, finaling twice at the Illinois State Championship, as well as finaling in extemp at the 2021 National Speech Championship and the 2022 National Forensics Association national tournaments. In 2023, Alex was the national runner-up in Extemp for the American Forensic Association. Alex attended UTNIF as a high schooler in 2019 and can’t wait to be back!
Ruta Rajpathak (2023)
Ruta is a rising junior at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Neuroscience. Originally from Seattle, WA, she competed in the Puget Sound circuit throughout high school in various events, primarily focused on Congressional Debate and Informative Speaking. She qualified for TOC and NIETOC, reaching out-rounds at state and NSDA nationals. At the collegiate level, she qualified for NFA and AFA in 2023 in After Dinner Speaking. Ruta is incredibly excited to see the talent UTNIF has to offer!
Wes Barrett (2023)
Wes Barrett is rising junior on the Texas Speech Team and is pumped to have the opportunity to work UTNIF this year. While dipping a bit in Info and OO in high school, Wes primarily competed in congress and extemp, with a large focus on the latter. During high school, Wes qualified for NSDA IX and USX one time each, was a participant in the 2019 Capitol City Round Robin, and was state runner-up in Informative extemp his senior year. In college, Wes has continued his work in Extemp and has broadened it to include both Impromptu and informative speaking, all of which saw NFA outrounds this most recent season. During high school, Wes always thought highly of UTNIF, but could never go. Having the opportunity to work it is now a dream come true.
Kyle Ahern (2023)
Kyle Ahern is a rising senior on the Texas Speech team studying in the film department with a minor in creative writing. This past year, Kyle was a top 20 overall speaker at the AFA national contest, appearing in the final round of Prose along with semi-final appearances in Poetry, POI. He appeared in the 2022 AFA national final round in Program Oral Interpretation and garnered other national out rounds at AFA and NFA in Dramatic Interpretation and Poetry Interpretation. A graduate of the Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Kyle was named the 2019 NSDA National Champion and final round winner of Duo Interpretation with his brother Kevin. As a former UTNIF camper, Kyle can't wait to get to work on some awesome pieces!
Kai Solis (2023)
Kai recently completed their competitive career winning the 2023 NFA national championship in Program Oral Interp, among many other awards. As a Sophomore on the Texas Speech Team they were an AFA National Finalist in Poetry, they also finished 11th in the Pentathlon individual sweepstakes at NFA and were the National Champion in Dramatic interpretation at the NSC national tournament. As a Junior, Kai was an NFA National finalist in POI, the NFA National Runner up in Duo with their partner Fernando and also placed 4th in Duo at AFA. Kai is originally from the Rio Grande Valley, where they competed at PSJA North High school and saw multiple outrounds at UIL State, NIETOC, TFA State (where they were the 2019 Dramatic interpretation state champion), NSDA outrounds in Dramatic interpretation and an NSDA national final in Poetry. Kai is extremely excited to return to UTNIF, not only to share their passion, skill and love for speech but to also learn others who share the same!
Valeria Najera (2023)
Valeria Najera recently completed her competitive career on Texas Speech team majoring in Theatre Education with a minor in Rhetoric and Writing. While competing at the collegiate level, Valeria has seen finals at AFA and NFA in Communication Analysis, Dramatic Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, and Prose - for which she was the 2022 NFA Prose Champion and 2022 AFA runner up. In 2023, Valeria was the AFA National Champion n Communication Analysis, among many other accolades. She competed in the Central Texas circuit during her high school career while attending Theodore Roosevelt High School where she gained experience in Interp and Oratory by participating in TFA, NIETOC, and UIL competitions. As a former UTNIF student, Valeria is thrilled to join the coaching staff this summer to share her passion for storytelling with our students and support them on their speech journeys!
Kaylee Frazier (2023)
Kaylee Frazier is a third year on the Texas Speech Team and she could not be more pumped to work UTNIF this year! While she loved POI and HI in high school, she has shifted her focus to prose and Dramatic Interpretation in college- but HI will always hold a special place in her heart. She was the 2023 AFA National Champion in Dramatic Interpretation and was a national semi-finalist in Duo with her partner, Carli Hall, among many other accolades. She is over the moon that it is once again time for UTNIF and cannot wait to see what talent these campers bring!
Bianca Montgomery (2023)
Bianca Montgomery is a graduate of Texas Speech. During her high school career, Bianca was an UTNIF participant going on to win the 2015 NIETOC National Dramatic Interpretation Championship, the 2015 TFA State Championship in Dramatic Interpretation, and was an NSDA National Semi- Finalist. In addition, Bianca was awarded Best Actress in the 2015 U.I.L One Act Play Competition and was a 3 time All-Star Cast recipient. During her collegiate career, Bianca was a multiple national finalist in Poetry, Program Oral Interp (for which she was the 2017 AFA national runner-up), and Duo Interpretation (where she was the 2017 NFA national champion along with her partner Abigail Onwunali). Bianca is elated to return to working with students to help them develop their skills as competitors and artists.
Oratory & Informative Speaking
Anastasia Sewell (2023)
Anastasia is a rising sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in International Relations with a minor in Russian Language Studies. In high school she competed in Informative Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, as well as Lincoln Douglas Debate. In Informative Speaking she placed third at TFA State and competed in NSDA National out rounds. As for Lincoln Douglas Debate, Anastasia was the 2021 UIL 6A State Champion. In her collegiate career, she has competed in POI and After Dinner Speaking, seeing NFA out rounds for POI. Anastasia is super excited to help create speeches that campers will be proud of, sharing their advocacy ten minutes at a time!
Areesha Rahman (2023)
Areesha is a rising sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Government with a minor in Business Administration. She competed in the Houston circuit in high school in various events including Public Forum Debate, Lincoln Douglas Debate, and Informative Speaking. In Informative Speaking, she qualified for TFA and NSDA in 2022 and advanced to quarterfinals at TFA. In her collegiate career, she has competed in Communication Analysis and After Dinner Speaking. Qualifying for both NFA and AFA in 2023, Areesha advanced to quarterfinals in After Dinner Speaking at AFA. Areesha is excited to see the talented work that students will bring to UTNIF.
Prem Ganesan (2023)
Prem is so excited for an incredible summer in Austin! As a rising junior at George Mason University majoring in Economics with minors in Global Systems and Conflict Analysis, this Minnesotam (now an east-coaster) is super excited to be venturing south for some sun. They’ve reached numerous competitive final rounds across high school and college: NSDA/NIETOC outrounds in POI, HI, DI, and OO; a TOC championship in DI in 2021; the AFA national Runner up in Informative Speaking in 2022 along with a 4th-place finish in POI; and the 2023 AFA After Dinner Speaking and POI National Championships. Prem hopes they don’t melt from the heat but is so hyped for the hours of crafting masterful messages with the forensicators of tomorrow.
Braden Hopkins (2023)
Braden Hopkins is a rising Junior at the University of Alabama and a member of the Alabama Forensics Council. Braden is double majoring in Political Science and Communication Studies and minoring in Social Innovation and Leadership. Next year, she will be entering the accelerated masters program in Public Administration. Before college, she competed in Texas on the Kingwood High School Speech and Debate team and was an UTNIF camper in 2019. Currently, she competes in Informative Speaking, Persuasive Speaking, After Dinner Speaking, Rhetorical Criticism, and Extemporaneous Speaking. Attending UTNIF as a high school student encouraged her to pursue collegiate forensics which has led to a plethora of opportunities in competitive and academic spaces. Most importantly, Braden believes in the advocacy that is created within speech and hopes to help students craft pieces they are truly passionate about.
David Cervantes (2023)
David is a rising sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Government and Journalism. In high school, he competed in Houston, Texas at Clear Springs High School in Informative Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking and Policy Debate. In Informative Speaking, he qualified for TFA, NIETOC and NSDA in 2022, reaching semi-finals at TFA. In his collegiate career, he has competed in Informative Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, and Persuasive Speaking. After seeing out-rounds at AFA and NFA in 2023, he is the Interstate Oratorical Association Runner-up in Persuasive Speaking in 2023. David is ready to have a wonderful time at UTNIF this year and share his love for Speech.
Taylor Whitley (2023)
Taylor Whitley is an incoming freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, and they cannot wait to compete at the college level! As a high school student in Houston, Taylor focused on Informative Speaking, Dramatic Interpretation, and Poetry. Taylor was a two-time TFA finalist in Informative Speaking (finishing second in 2023), and they ended their high school career winning the Harvard Invitational, finishing third at the Tournament of Champions, and reaching semi-finals at NSDA (13th overall) in Informative Speaking. As a long time UTNIF camper, Taylor is looking forward to joining again as a counselor to help students find the power in their voices.