Sanford I. Berman Debate Forum

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The Team

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Jerrell Berrios

Jerrell Berrios is a freshman majoring in philosophy: law and justice. He debated for two years in Lincoln-Douglas at Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas, Nev., where he qualified for 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.

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 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.

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 freshman majoring in political science. He debated for four years at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. 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 won the 5th Speaker award, and he and his partner advanced to the tournament’s final round.

Liam King

Liam King

Liam King will be a freshman majoring in political science. 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 the University of Pacific Tournament, the Santa Clara Tournament, the Golden Desert Tournament at UNLV, the Stanford Tournament, and the University of California, Berkeley Tournament. 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.

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, Idaho, 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.

Nathaniel Saxe

Alex Velto

Alex Velto is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in Brookings Institution Public Policy Studies. Velto debated at Damien High School in La Verne, Calif., where he qualified to the Tournament of Champions and advanced to the elimination rounds of the National Forensics League Tournament. In the 2012-2013 season, Velto was named to the CEDA All-American Debate Team, and his partner, Christian Bato, won the Gonzaga University and the Idaho State University Tournament, compiling a 19-0 record over the first two tournaments of the year. Bato and Velto also advanced to the elimination rounds of several other tournaments. They also won the District 1 qualifying tournament (with an undefeated record) en route to qualifying for the second National Debate Tournament for the second time in Velto's debate career. In the 2013 competitive season, Velto and his partner won multiple speaker awards and advanced to the final round of the Gonzaga University Debate Tournament, the quarterfinals of the UMKC Debate Tournament, and the octafinals of the UNLV Las Vegas Classic Debate Tournament. He is involved in student government and is a panelist on the UNLV TV show The Scramble. Velto hopes to attend law school and likes all sorts of activities.

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. Our 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, Calif., 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.