Communication Studies > Summer Camps > UTNIF Individual Events > Meet the Individual Events Staff

Meet the Individual Events Staff

Note: Staff listings are anticipated. Updates & changes for 2019 are being added on an ongoing basis and subject to change until all University processing procedures are completed!

Extemp & Congress

Karon Bowers - Curriculum Director for Extemp

Karon Bowers returns to UTNIF for the first time in many years. The founding member of the UTNIF Extemp & Oratory programs, she was a UIL 3A Champion in both Persuasive Extemp and Lincoln-Douglas Debate. Karon went on to compete for Bradley University where she became the first junior and the first female to win both the Individual Sweepstakes championship at the American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament and Pentathalon at the National Forensic Association National Tournament. A seven-time collegiate national champion, Karon remains the only person in college forensics to have won a national championship in all four public address events (Informative, Persuasive, After Dinner, and Rhetorical Criticism). Karon went on to coach the University of Texas at Austin’s first National Championship team while in graduate school and has been a volunteer coach in various capacities ever since. When full-time forensics gave way to the corporate world, Karon spent the past two decades managing, developing, and creating products and services for college public speaking courses and developing in-house presentations skills training programs for sales and marketing teams.

Ben Gaddis (Extemp)

Gaddis

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 to Tuscaloosa, AL to pursue her MA in Communication. Hook ‘em and Roll Tide!

Caleb Newton (Congress)

Caleb enters his Junior year at the University of Texas at Austin as a government major and Co-Captain of Texas Speech. Caleb has seen multiple out-rounds at AFA and NFA in Extemp, Impromptu, Persuasion, and Rhetorical Criticism, and in 2019 he was the national runner-up in Persuasive Speaking at the NFA national tournament. In high school, Caleb had numerous out-rounds in Congressional Debate at Glenbrooks, Churchill, and the TOC. He was a finalist in Congress at 2016 UIL State, 2016 & 2017 TFA State, and at 2017 NSDA Nationals. As an UTNIF alum himself, Caleb is excited to be able to be able to come back and help teach for the third time!

Kate Rich (Extemp)

Kate Rich is a coach and graduate student in Rhetoric and Language at the University of Texas at Austin, serving as an assistant director for Texas Speech. Between directing extemp for the Illinois State Summer Speech Institute and serving as senior staff for UTNIF, she has worked directly with high school extempers from at least six different states. As a collegiate competitor, Kate was the 2018 NFA National Champion in Persuasive Speaking, runner-up in Rhetorical Criticism, and achieved multiple national finals in Extemporaneous and Impromptu Speaking. She competed for Illinois State University and graduated with a B.S. in Political Communication in 2018. Kate is thrilled to return to UTNIF this summer and share her passion for forensics with others. .

Dani Soibelman (Extemp)

Soibelman

Dani Soibelman is a graduate student in Communication Studies at UT Austin and currently serves as an assistant director for Texas Speech. A multi-talented performer, Dani competed in limited preparation, interpretation, and public address events. She served as the National Student Representative for the National Forensics Association, and was a national out-rounder in SEVEN different genres, including placing in the top 12 nationally in Extemp and being a part of a 1-2 national finish in Impromptu Speaking with her teammate Suchinder Kalyan. Dani is passionate about accessible rhetoric, powerful delivery, and finding humour in every extemp. 

Jordan Auzenne (Extemp)

Jordan Auzenne is a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in Radio-Television-Film and Political Communication. In 2019, she became the national champion in Impromptu Speaking at the NFA NIET and was recognized as a top 20 overall speaker at the AFA NIET. Over the last 4 years as a member of the Texas Speech Team, she’s seen several national out rounds in the LPs, Communication Analysis and Persuasive speaking, including finals in Persuasion, Rhetorical Criticism, and CA this year. Jordan is a native Austinite, competing in out rounds of UIL State, TFA State, Extemp and NIETOC, and NSDA for Pflugerville High School. Once UTNIF ends, Jordan will attend the post-graduate UT Los Angeles Film Program in the Fall. After a decade of competing in forensics, she's excited to finish her speech career in the same place where it all began: with UTNIF. 

Brian Anderson (Extemp)

Brian Anderson is a senior team member at Western Kentucky University. He was runner-up in Extemporaneous Speaking at the 2018 National Forensics Association National Tournament. He was the assistant coach for the 2016 NSDA IX National Champion, who also won the 2017 MBA Round Robin. As a high school student, Brian was also the 2015 NSDA IX National Champion and runner-up at the 2015 MBA Round Robin. He is extremely excited to be a part of the 2019 UTNIF!

Govinda Dass (Extemp)

Govinda is a recent graduate of the University of Texas where he studied English and Sociology. Currently, he teaches High School in East Texas, and volunteer coaches for local colleges. Govinda reached out rounds at the NFA national tournament in After Dinner Speaking. Although specializing in ADS, he competed in Informative Speaking, Interpretation, and Limited Preparation events. In High School, he competed primarily in Original Oratory and Extemp. After working with multiple state and national finalists, Govinda hopes to pair his lighthearted personality and organizational skills to keep campers on track towards their final goals.

Jason Warren (visiting lecturer)

Jason Warren

Jason Warren (M.A.), also an UTNIF alum, graduated in 2004 from Northwestern University, where he won both the AFA and NFA National Championships in Extemporaneous Speaking. Among his many high school accolades, Jason was the TFA state champion in US Extemp, the UIL state champion in Informative Speaking, winner of the Emory Barkley Forum, winner of the Glenbrooks, and the first extemper to reach the final round of the MBA round robin twice. As a college coach for both the University of Texas-Austin and George Mason University, his students and former students have won a combined 11 national titles in extemporaneous speaking, including a close-out of the top four finishers at the AFA national tournament in 2010. Jason previously coached at the Parish Episcopal School of Dallas, where his students won four state championships, reached the final rounds of both the Congress and Extemp TOC, won team sweepstakes at the TOC Extemp hosted by Northwestern, and were recognized as the runner-up and final round presiding officer at NSDA in Congressional Debate. In his day job, he works for Edmentum, a national educational technology company and the makers of Study Island. 

Oratory

Ryan Tinlin - Curriculum Co-Director for Oratory

Tinlin's portrait

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 fifth UTNIF. 

Robi Mahan - Curriculum Co-Director for Oratory

Robi Mahan's portrait

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.

Cimmi Alvarez (Oratory)

Cimmi Alvarez's portrait

Cimmi is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin where she was a two time national finalist in Persuasive Oratory. Competing in extemp, LD, and CX in high school, she was excited to continue her journey as a member of the Texas Speech Team. As a student, she enjoyed competing in Persuasive, Informative, After Dinner Speaking, and Rhetorical Criticism. Cimmi is excited to have the opportunity to coach again this summer at UTNIF, where she will be working primarily with Oratory, before returning to her masters program in Communication and the coaching staff at Illinois State University in the fall. 

Gerard Apruzzese (Oratory)

Gerard is a incoming junior on the Texas Speech Team, majoring in Religious Studies with two minors in Entrepreneurship and Real Estate. During his time with Texas Speech, Gerard has seen multiple national out rounds in POI, Persuasion, and Rhetorical Criticism. In High School, Gerard had out-rounds in POI, Duo, DI, HI, and Prose and Poetry at Yale, Princeton, and Glenbrooks. In 2017, he was a NJ State Finalist and attended NSDA in POI. He also saw multiple out rounds in POI and OI at the UK TOC. As a two-time UTNIF camper, Gerard is excited to finally be a full-time staff member this summer and he hopes to share is love for this activity, just like the staff did for him when he was in High School. 

Interpretation

Mike Tristano - Curriculum Co-Director for Interp

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.

Abigail Onwunali - Curriculum Co-Director for Interp

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. 

Farah Habad (Interp)

Farah Habad is an alumnus of James Logan High School in Union City, CA and competed at Wiley College in Marshall, TX as a member of “The Great Debaters”. In high school, Farah advanced to elimination rounds at various tournaments including The UC Berkeley invitational and the CHSSA state tournament. In college, Farah competed across all three genres of speech highlighted by reaching elimination rounds at NFA in Impromptu and Prose and placing in the top-6 in Poetry interpretation in 2017. Farah currently lives in Minneapolis and spends his free time defrosting his hands and hunting White Walkers.

Danielle Castillo (Interp)

Danielle is currently a rising senior on the Texas Speech Team. Originally from the Houston, Texas circuit, Danielle has competed in forensics since high school where she reached national and state outrounds in Poetry and Dramatic Interpretation. During college, she has had national outrounds at AFA and NFA in DUO, Prose, Poetry, and DI. She finaled DI at AFA (2019) and Prose at NFA (2019). Danielle is excited to create art with the students and help them continue to tell impactful stories.  

Elizabeth Boone (Interp)

Elizabeth Boone is a rising Junior on the Texas Speech team, majoring in Public Relations. During her time on the team, she’s competed at both AFA and NFA national tournaments, seeing an outround in POE and multiple semi final rounds spanning POI, DUO, and ADS. Before attending UT, she competed for South Grand Prairie High School and saw multiple semis as well as finals rounds at TFA State, UIL State, and NIETOC, including events such as Duo, Poetry, Prose, Duet and an NSDA outround in POI. This is her first time attending and being an UTNIF staffer, but she is so excited. She hopes to help campers utilize speech the same way she does, to tell important stories that need to be heard.

Zachary Hanks (Interp)

Zachary Hanks recently graduated with his MA from Ball State University in gorgeous and scenic Muncie Indiana. While at BSU he assisted in coaching multiple students to octafinal, quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds in interpretation events, plus a little After Dinner Speaking. For the past ten years, he has coached at various camps and high schools in Illinois advancing multiple students to elimination rounds and finals at both the state and national levels. Zachary began competing at Southeastern Illinois College in 2012 where he achieved recognition in prose, poetry, DI, POI, DUO, and a little After Dinner Speaking. After transferring to Illinois State University he advanced to multiple national finals in DI, Prose, and DUO, including a runner up in DI and the 2015 AFA national champion in DUO (with Hananiah Wiggins (who is not at UTNIF)). This is his second UTNIF and he is very pumped. 

Frank Smith (Interp)

Frank Smith is thrilled to be working at UTNIF for the first time this year! A two-time UTNIF attendee in high school, he is now a television and film writer working in Los Angeles. Frank is originally from Boston, where he competed on the Milton Academy Speech and Debate Team under the legendary Debbie Simon. While in high school, he was a four-time State Finalist, a two-time State Champion, a four-time National Qualifier, and a competitor in numerous outrounds at national-level tournaments. His proudest achievements were being named an NFL Academic All-American, awarded only to students with a high enough GPA and high enough number of NFL Points; finishing in the Top 13 at CFL Nationals in Dramatic Performance; earning a spot in the Top 13 at NFL Nationals in Poetry. His Final Round Runner-up placement in Dramatic Performance at the University of Pennsylvania Liberty Bell Classic at the start of his senior year proved oddly prescient, as he ultimately majored in Neuroscience and minored in French at the University of Pennsylvania. Since graduating college with honors, Frank has coached numerous finalists at both National Tournaments, as well as numerous national-level tournaments in Oral Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Original Oratory, and his first love, Humorous Interpretation. He has a special talent for writing fun, topical introductions. His writing partner, actress Erica Dasher, and he first met when she filmed him as a competitor for Figures of Speech, a documentary about Speech and Debate on Netflix narrated by Star Trek's Chris Pine. Coincidentally, Frank is now featured on Netflix himself, in Episode 5 of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Kriston Woodreaux (Interp)

Kriston Woodreaux is a actor/director based in Los Angeles, CA. Kriston has coached students who have reached finals in various interpretation events at IHSA, Glenbrooks, and NSDA Nationals. While coaching at Bradley University, Illinois State University, and The University of Texas at Austin he’s coached collegiate competitors to state and national championships in every interpretation event. Kriston was a collegiate competitor at Lone Star: North Harris and eventually transferred to Bradley University. Kriston was awarded seven national championships by Phi Rho Pi while competing at Lone Star: North Harris. He was the 2012 AFA champion in Dramatic Interpretation (the first to do so from a community college). In 2013 he was the AFA champion in Duo Interpretation (with Cecil Blutcher), Prose and Dramatic Interpretation. Kriston went on to place as top speaker in the country by the National Forensic Association. He is excited to return to UTNIF for 2019!

Additional Anticipated Staff

Carlos Diaz (Interp)

Carlos Diaz is an incoming senior on the Texas Speech team, double majoring in Political Communication and Latin American Studies. He was a multiple national out-rounder, advancing in Duo Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, and even the national semi-final of Persuasion. During his freshmen year, he competed in both AFA and NFA national tournaments, and as a sophomore was a national finalist in Dramatic Interpretation at the NFA national tournament. Graduating from Spring Woods High School, he was a three time TFA state outbound competitor. His senior year, Carlos was the 2016 TFA state and TOC champion in Duo Interporetation. He hopes to make camp for the students a life changing experience just like it was for him. 

Durwan Green (Interp)

Durwan Green is a graduate of Western Kentucky University where he received his BA in International Business & Spanish. He is a former member of WKU’s forensics team where he had multiple interpretation national finals while simultaneously starting his own production company. Durwan plans on pursing his masters at Florida International University after his return from Granada, Spain this upcoming fall.

Briana Mier (Interp)

Briana is an incoming senior majoring in Communication and Leadership. Having concentrated in Theater Production, she did not participate in high school speech and yet, she has had a wonderful time on the Texas Speech team thus far. As a freshman she was a dramatic interpretation state finalist, attended both AFA and NFA national tournaments, and won Prose Novice National Champion at NFA. Her sophomore year consisted of qualifying DUO Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation and Prose Interpretation to AFA. Additionally, she participated in out rounds at both AFA and NFA in dramatic interpretation and duo interpretation. Texas Speech has a special place in her heart and while it is her first time coaching UTNIF, she couldn’t be more excited to help students strengthen their voices and excel as performers.

Evan Ortiz (Extemp)

Evan Ortiz is an incoming freshman to the University of Texas at Austin. During high school competition, Evan competed in a myriad of events, qualifying to TFA state in five events his junior year. Mainly focusing on extemporaneous speaking and congressional debate, Evan’s accolades include a semi finalist finish at TFA state in domestic extemp, a capital city round robin invitation, multiple ETOC and NSDA qualifications, and a 2nd place finish in UIL congressional debate 6A. Having never attended UTNIF, Evan is ecstatic to work with students just as passionate as he is to become better speakers, but more importantly to find their voice. 

Meera Sam (Oratory)

Meera recently finished her freshman year at UT as a government major. She competes for the Texas Speech Team in Extemp, Informative, Persuasion, and Impromptu. In high school, Meera competed in Extemp and Public Forum Debate at the state and national levels. Meera is really excited to work UTNIF for the first time! 

Erin Swearingen (Oratory)

Erin is a rising sophomore on the Texas Speech team, majoring in Government. Attending both AFA and NFA her freshman year, she has seen a quarterfinal in both Duo and Persuasive speaking. Before coming to UT Erin attended Jack C. Hays High school where she participated in Speech and debate, competing in Duo, Prose, and Dramatic interpretation at both the State and National level. She placed Second at TFA state her senior year in Prose Interpretation. She mostly participated in Musical theatre, however, earning a nomination for best actress in a musical two years in a row from the Greater Austin High School Musical theatre Awards. Erin has shown a passion for acting and individual performance, and can't wait to experience her first year at UTNIF with students who share that same passion and is eager to learn alongside them.

Clay Parker (Interp)

Clay Parker is a rising sophomore on the Texas Speech team, currently majoring in Government. In his freshman year, he regularly competed in ADS, POI, and Impromptu Speaking, receiving a state championship in the latter. Before college, he competed at Lovejoy High School, focusing on interp events like HI, Duo, Duet, and POI. Over his four years, he earned the national championship in Duet Acting at NIETOC, competed in final rounds at TFA, Glenbrooks, and Berkeley, and participated in semifinal rounds at NSDA and Stanford. As an UTNIF alumnus, Clay could not be more excited to come back to the camp that not only gave him his greatest tools for success, but also the place where he met the best people speech has to offer. 

René Otero (Extemp)

René Otero is a rising Freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Cultural Anthropology. He has competed on the local and state levels in speech and debate for 4 years and on the national level for 3. He has enjoyed many successes in his career being coached by Kirsten Nash and Aly Mithani at Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, Texas. While regularly participating in Original Oratory, Congressional Debate and Informative Speaking, he specializes in Extemp, where he has won titles. René received second place at the Harvard Invitational, 4th at the UK Tournament of Champions, 2nd, 3rd and eventually champion at the UT Longhorn Classic, and seen multiple other national and state finals. René attended UTNIF in 2016 and excited to be on the teaching end of such an impactful camp!

Roy Salazar (Oratory)

Roy has recently completed his freshman year as a journalism and Mexican-American studies double major. He competes for the Texas Speech team in Informative, Persuasion, and After Dinner Speaking. At the National Forensics Association tournament he broke to octafinals in Persuasion and After Dinner Speaking. In high school, he competed in extemp, debate and informative. He is super excited to be working UTNIF this summer!

Samuel Garcia (Interp)

Samuel is about to enter his Senior year at UT as an English major and Communication Studies minor. Currently he serves as Historian for the 2019 - 2020 Speech Team. Samuel has attended both the 2019 and 2018 NFA competing in events such as Prose, After Dinner Speaking, Program Oral Interpretation, and Rhetorical Criticism. In High School Samuel competed primarily in UIL, culminating as the 2016 Champion in Prose interpretation. This is his first time helping out at UTNIF and he couldn't be happier to be able to see all the eager individuals waiting to learn as much as they can about everything speech related.

Randy Cox

Curriculum Director for IE, Director of Texas Speech

MRC

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 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.