Note: Staff listings are for 2019. Updates & changes for 2020 will be added on an ongoing basis and subject to change until all University processing procedures are completed!
Meet Our Staff
Abigail Onwunali - Curriculum Co-Director for Interpretation
Abigail is a recent graduate of The University of Texas at Austin majoring in Human Development and Family Sciences (Pre-Med). She will be attending Yale School of Drama this fall to pursue her M.F.A. in acting. She is one of the most accomplished performers in the history of forensics, having won 13 collegiate national titles across four different interpretation categories over her career. She was the 2016 AFA champion in Dramatic Interpretation and the 2016 NFA champion in Prose, Poetry and Dramatic Interpretation. In 2017 she was awarded a whopping 5 national titles covering four different performance genres in the same year (Prose, Poetry, Dramatic Interpretation, and Duo Interpretation with Bianca Montgomery). In 2018, she was the recipient of four more national titles, including recognition as the top speaker in the country by the National Forensic Association and 2nd speaker by the American Forensic Association. In high school, Abigail was the NSDA National Champion in Dramatic Interpretation and won many other national circuit tournaments including the 2014 Harvard Invitational, 2013 Patriot Games, and 2014 Emory Invitational. In Texas, Abigail was the 2014 TFA champion in Dramatic Interpretation, 2014 Poetry champion at U.I.L State and 2013 Prose finalist at U.I.L state.
Mike Tristano - Curriculum Co-Director for Interpretation
Mike Tristano is a current PhD candidate at Arizona State University and coach at Phoenix Country Day School in Arizona. He was recently recognized as the 2019 NSDA Assistant Coach of the Year. In PCDS’s young history, Mike has coached students who have finaled at The Glenbrooks, Berkeley, Harvard, Arizona State, and NSDA Nationals in all genres of competition. Before relocating to the desert, Mike was a graduate student at Illinois State University where he helped coach multiple collegiate competitors to quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds in both interpretation and public address events, including 2 national champions in DI and Duo. Mike was also a previous coach at University High School in Normal, IL, where he worked with dozens of Illinois state champions and NSDA qualifiers and outround participants. During his time as a collegiate competitor, he saw numerous outrounds in both public address and interpretation events. A multiple national finalist, Mike was the 2013 NFA national champion in Duo Interpretation (with Robi Mahan) and a top 15 national speaker. This will be Mike's seventh year at UTNIF and he is looking forward to talkin’ speech and keeping Austin weird.
Ryan Tinlin - Curriculum Co-Director for Oratory/Informative
Ryan is a graduate of Bradley University and a current assistant director of Texas Speech. As a competitor he competed in over a dozen national final rounds, winning a National Chamionship in Informative Speaking. He is the former Director of Individual Events at Lewis and Clack College and has been a member of Texas Speech since 2016. Currently completing his master's program in Communication Studies at UT Austin, he has worked at various high school camps over the last decade, coaching multiple state and national champions. This is his sixth UTNIF.
Robi Mahan - Curriculum Co-Director for Oratory/Informative
Robi Mahan has spent the last few years as part of the coaching staff of Texas Speech, where she coaches several events, including After Dinner Speaking. At Texas, Robi has helped coach multiple national champions and finalists in both Public Address and Intepretive events. Formerly the Assistant Director of Individual Events at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, she is a graduate of Illinois State University where she won three national championships in After Dinner Speaking, Dramatic Interpretation, and Duo (with Mike Tristano.) Robi also coached at Harrisburg High School, and spent many summers working with the Summer Speech Institute at ISU where she headed the Original Comedy lab. This is her fourth summer at UTNIF. Robi is currently pursuing her master's in Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Ben Gaddis - Curriculum Director for Extemp
Ben Gaddis is currently finishing his doctoral program at the University of Texas and was the assistant director for Texas Speech for 5 years. Ben’s students have performed in multiple national out rounds and finals at the collegiate level. As a high school coach his students have seen multiple state finals, national out rounds, and finals. Over the past seven years, Ben has worked at multiple forensics camps coaching high school students and thrives in teaching the creative process and the path to intellectual discovery. A native of the Chicago-land area, he has received training from some of the greatest minds in sketch and improv, which he actively uses in his instruction. Ben looks forward to collaborating once again with the students of UTNIF. A graduate of Bradley University with dual degrees in Political Science and Communication, Benjamin saw out rounds in all three genres of competition, was named an American Forensics Association All-American, and was part of a team that won 5 overall national team titles. In his time with Texas Speech, he has been a part of a staff helping to coach over 40 national titles in the last six years alone, including three AFA national team titles.
Rachel Evans - Curriculum Director for Congress
Rachel Evans was a four year participant of UT Austin's forensics programs, with simultaneous degrees in Audiology and Religious Studies and dual minors in Religion and American Sign Language. During her time on the UT Speech Team, Rachel advanced to multiple national outrounds in ADS, Extemp, Impromptu, CA, and Infoormative Speaking at both AFA and NFA Nationals, finishing the 2019 season as a two-time national finalist in After Dinner Speaking. Before she came to UT, Rachel competed for Salado High School, where she was a two time state champion in Congress and ended her senior year as a state champion in Extemp. As she exits her eighth—and last—year of speech, Rachel is so excited to spend her last summer in Austin at the camp where she first fell in love with extemp before moving on to law school.
Randy Cox - Overall Curriculum Director
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 NIET and former national champion himself, his students have been graced with 73 individual national titles at both the high school and collegiate levels, and have also been awarded national team titles including the NFL/NSDA Bruno E. Jacob cumulative trophy, the NFA Founders Award, the NCFL Masterson and Founders awards, as well as six American Forensic Association NIET team titles, the most recent in 2018. As a former high school coach at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, his students appeared in NFL & NCFL national final rounds 22 times over a five year term, winning three national titles. He has been awarded both the prestigious University of Texas Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award (2013) and the Moody College of Communication Teaching Excellence Award (2013). 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.
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. (Updated 5/7/19 and subsequently) 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.