Sanford I. Berman Debate Forum

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The Team

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Jerrell Berrios

Jerrell Berrios is a sophomore majoring in Philosophy: Law and Justice. He debated for two years in Lincoln-Douglas at Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas where he qualified for National Forensic League (NFL) nationals in 2011 and 2012. Berrios' ultimate goal as a member of the UNLV Debate Team is to qualify for the elimination rounds of the National Debate Tournament.

Ahmad Bhatti

Ahmad Bhatti is a freshman, who debated for Green Valley High School in Henderson, NV for four years. In his Junior and Senior years, he qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Championship Tournament. In his senior year, he and his partner were ranked 8th at the NSDA National Championship Tournament, and Bhatti was ranked as the 12th individual speaker. He has received speaker awards and appeared late in elimination rounds at highly competitive, national high school tournaments including: the Golden Desert, Meadows, Arizona State, California Berkeley, and Alta, UT.

Sara Beth Brooks

Sara Beth Brooks is a junior majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in East Asian Studies. She began her debate career at Los Rios Community Colleges and also competed for California State University, Fullerton, before coming to UNLV. In 2012 she was the recipient of the Tim Browning Award for debate excellence at the Arizona Debate Institute and in 2013 she was named the top Community College debater by the Northern California Forensics Association. In 2014 she was named a National Debate Scholar for her excellence in both academics and debate. In the 2013-2014 season, Brooks and her partner Dan Stanfield advanced to the elimination rounds of several debate tournaments. She finished as a semifinalist at the California State University, Northridge tournament and a double-octafinalist at the CSU, Fullerton tournament. For Brooks, activism and academics are often intertwined, and she often works beyond debate in activist pursuits. She was named one of the top 10 LGBT student leaders in the country in 2013 by campus advocacy organization Campus Pride and was honored with the Harvey Milk Leadership Award and the Youth Trailblazer Award for her work with LGBTQIA communities. Brooks also has been invited to speak at several universities about LGBTQIA issues and has discussed them in numerous popular media outlets.

Daniel Coté

Daniel Coté is a junior majoring in English: Creative Writing. Coté debated for Silverado High School. There he won first place at the 2004 Clark County Debate Tournament in the policy division. Nearly 10 years later, he rejoined the world of debate by becoming a member of the UNLV Debate Team. At his first tournament in nearly a decade, he and his partner won the novice breakout at the 2013 Las Vegas Classic at UNLV, and he was the second-place individual speaker in the novice division. Coté hopes to meet and befriend new and interesting people in the debate community and to become more politically aware and engaged. He has a love of reading, writing, discourse, and debate, and he hopes to one day travel the world teaching English as a second language to students all across the globe.

Chris Gilmore

Chris Gilmore is a freshman, who debated for one year at Desert Oasis High School. The Desert Oasis debate program grew directly out of the Las Vegas Debate League, which is a program dedicated to expanding access to policy debate throughout the Clark County School District. In his lone year of competition, Gilmore quickly moved up to the varsity division, and advanced to the elimination rounds in County and State championship tournaments. Chris also volunteers at Desert Oasis and Tarkanian Middle School teaching and coaching their respective debate teams.

Matthew Jallits

Matthew Jallits

Matthew Jallits is a junior majoring in Political Science. He debated for Puyallup High School in Washington for three years before coming to UNLV. Jallits qualified for the 2012-13 National Debate Tournament as a sophomore, and he has been in elimination rounds of many tournaments, including Idaho State University, UNLV, University of California, Berkeley, and Gonzaga University.

Roman Kezios

Roman Kezios

Roman Kezios is a sophomore majoring in Political Science. He debated for four years at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA. He advanced to the elimination of multiple tournaments, including quarterfinals of the Golden Desert Tournament at UNLV, and he was first speaker at the Victory Briefs Tournament. At his second tournament of the 2013 competitive season, Cal State University, Northridge, Roman was ranked as the 5th place individual speaker, and he and his partner advanced to the tournament’s final round.

Liam King

Liam King

Liam King is a sophomore majoring in Social Work. He debated for four years at C.K. McClatchy High School, where he qualified for the Tournament of Champions his junior year. Over the course of his high school career, he advanced to the elimination rounds at tournaments at the University of Pacific, Santa Clara University, the Golden Desert Tournament at UNLV, Stanford, and the University of California, Berkeley. King also took first place at the District Qualifying Tournament for the California State Championship and advanced to the octafinals at the National Debate Coach Association’s National Championship Tournament. He also has volunteered his time coaching a Sacramento middle school debate program, where he helped send two teams to the national middle school championship tournament. His teams were ranked eighth in the nation in middle school debate. King also worked as a lab leader at the Rebel Debate Institute.

Trimaan Malik

Trimaan Malik is a freshman majoring in Physics. Throughout his four years in forensics at Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas, he qualified for the NFL National Tournament in Congress Debate 2012 and 2013. Malik hopes his participation in college debate will polish his persuasive and argumentative skills for a career in the space industry.

Christian Ogata

Christian Ogata

Christian Ogata is a sophomore majoring in Political Science. He debated for three years at Centennial High School in Boise, ID, and won numerous awards during his career there. Ogata advanced to the elimination rounds at multiple TOC bid tournaments and received speaker awards at national tournaments like Gonzaga University and the NFL Nationals Tournament (12th speaker). During his first year at UNLV, he and his partner advanced to the final round of the Cal State University, Northridge tournament where he also received the 3rd Speaker Award.

Dan Stanfield

Dan Stanfield is a junior majoring in Philosophy. Dan debated for two years at Los Rios Community College, and one year at CSU Fullerton. He has been in the elimination rounds of multiple tournaments including CSU Northridge, Northern California Forensics Association Championships, and CSU Fullerton. In 2014, he was named as a National Debate Scholar by the Cross Examination Debate Association. He also was named the Northern California Forensics Association debater of the year in 2012. He has coached debate at various Sacramento High Schools, and he served as the head debate coach for Troy High School in Orange County, CA.

Rylee Taylor

Rylee Taylor is a freshman majoring in Biology: Pre-Professional, with a minor in Psychology. Taylor debated for two years at West Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada. She was a participant in the UNLV Rebel Debate Institute the summer of 2013, and assisted in coaching at the 2014 summer Rebel Debate Institute. Taylor hopes to become further involved within the debate community and further improve her debate skills. Her ultimate goal as a member of the UNLV Debate Team is to qualify for the elimination rounds of the National Debate Tournament.

Nathaniel Saxe

Alex Velto

Alex Velto is a senior majoring in Political Science and minoring in the Brookings Public Policy Program. He came to UNLV after Damien High School in La Verne, CA, where he qualified to the Tournament of Champions, reached elimination rounds of the NFL National Championship Tournament, and cleared at multiple national tournaments. Velto is actively involved with numerous student organizations and extra-curricular activities. At UNLV he has serves as Chief Justice for the student body, the Environmental Coordinator for UNLVolunteers, and he has been been a panelist on the UNLV TV show The Scramble. Outside of UNLV he is an organizer for the non-profit event Vegas GiveCamp which facilitates technological solutions for non-profits throughout the Vegas Valley. Velto hopes to attend law school after graduation, and recently interned for the Nevada Attorney Generals office. As a debater he was named to the Cross Examination Debate Association All-American Debate Team, qualified to the National Debate Tournament three times, cleared at national and regional tournaments, and received numerous speaker awards throughout his career. In his free time Velto enjoys hiking, working out, and basketball.

Rick Young

Ricky Young is a freshman majoring in Business Management and Economics. Young debated for three years at St. Vincent's High School in Petaluma, CA. He qualified for all three national championship tournaments during his junior year of high school, and advanced to elimination rounds at the NDCA national championship and NFL's national championship. Young also qualified for the prestigious Tournament of Champions (TOC) twice. Throughout his high school debate career, won two national TOC bid tournaments, advanced to the finals of one, and made it to the semifinals of several. He also was ranked as a top ten speaker at more than five tournaments.

Coaching Staff

Jake Thompson

Jacob "Jake" Thompson

Jacob Thompson debated at Wayne State University (B.A., 1999), where he learned the value of a great coaching staff, a personal dedication to hard work, and the transformative power of practice. While debating for Wayne State, Thompson competed in the elimination rounds of the NDT and several major national tournaments. After debating at Wayne State, he worked for five years as an assistant debate coach at the University of Kansas, where he also completed his M.A. and Ph.D. (2006). Working at Kansas reinforced his lessons from Wayne State, but also gave him unique insight into argument and coaching strategy. Thompson then worked for three years as the director of forensics at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). In 2005, he coached the UNI debate team to be ranked as the "Most Improved University Debate Team in America".

Thompson took the position as the director of debate at UNLV in 2007, and thanks to the generous support of Dr. and Mrs. Berman, he was essentially able to create the Sanford I. Berman Debate Forum from the ground up. In his short time at UNLV, the team has had amazing successes. Thompson predicts even greater success for our program in the future and has been focusing on fundraising and recruiting, which will allow the team to bring some of the best and brightest debaters to compete for UNLV's program. The UNLV Debate Program is quickly becoming one of the best in the nation. Their ultimate goal is to be consistently ranked as one of the top-10 debate programs in America and to win a national championship (or several of them).

In addition, Thompson is committed to expanding access to policy debate for students throughout the Clark County School District. In 2011, he created the Las Vegas Debate League (LVDL) and LVDL Advisory Board. In its short existence, the LVDL has successfully attracted thousands of dollars in external support, has resuscitated policy debate in the CCSD, and continues to add CCSD middle and high schools to the ranks of those that field policy debate teams. Generally speaking, his scholarly interests lie in the areas of argumentation, political communication, and U.S. foreign policy rhetoric. Overall, with the help of the rest of our amazing coaching staff, Thompson hopes to make UNLV one of the most competitive debate programs in the nation.

Christian Bato

Christian Bato

Christian Bato hails from Rancho Cucamonga, CA, and debated for UNLV from 2009 to 2012, when he graduated with a B.A. in Political Science. Bato was a four-time qualifier to the National Debate Tournament as a Rebel debater. In his senior season, he and his partner, Alex Velto, won the Gonzaga University Tournament, the Idaho State University Tournament, and the District One Championship Tournament. They also reached the elimination rounds of The CEDA National Championship Tournament and various others. He is now in his second year as an assistant coach and M.A. candidate in Communication Studies. He is really looking forward to the season and ready for the dawn of a new era for the Runnin' Rebels.