Alexis Gonzalez-Black attended and debated at James Madison University in Virginia where she received a B.S. in biology and went on to teach high school science at Southern High School in Durham, North Carolina. After leaving the classroom, she joined the educational nonprofit Teach For America where she worked in many capacities, including as a college recruiter at UNLV, which brought her to Las Vegas. In 2012, she was elected to the Nevada State Board of Education representing Nevada’s Congressional District 1. She now serves as the co-chair of the Las Vegas Debate League Advisory Board and works at Zappos.com as an Organizational Design Strategist. Gonzalez-Black lives downtown with her husband, Victor Wakefield.
Jacob Thompson is the founder of the Las Vegas Debate League and is the co-chair of the LVDL Advisory Board. Dr. Thompson got his start in debate at Traverse City Senior High School (Michigan) and continued debating in college at Wayne State University. While pursuing his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Kansas, he served as an assistant debate coach and directed the Jayhawk Debate Institute. From 2005 to 2007, Dr. Thompson served as the director of forensics at the University of Northern Iowa. In 2007, Dr. Thompson was hired as the director of UNLV's Sanford I. Berman Debate Forum and as assistant professor in residence in the Department of Communication Studies. Dr. Thompson teaches courses in argumentation practice, argumentation theory, security discourse, public speaking, and persuasion. During his tenure at UNLV, he has built the Sanford I. Berman Debate Forum into one of the top-ranked NDT/CEDA college policy debate teams in the nation.
Dr. Thompson believes and exemplifies the idea that participation in debate can have incredibly positive impacts on a person’s education and on life in general. When he took the position at UNLV, Dr. Thompson recognized the potential for policy debate to expand throughout the CCSD, and the LVDL is the culmination of that vision.
Thomas Burkholder is associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Nevada — Las Vegas where he teaches courses in classical and contemporary rhetorical theory, rhetorical criticism, and the history of U.S. Public Address. He holds a BSE and an MA from Emporia State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. He coached intercollegiate policy debate for 14 years at Illinois Valley Community College, Emporia State University, Iowa State University, and the University of Kansas, qualifying numerous teams for the National Debate Tournament. More recently, he is co-author, with Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Susan Schultz Huxman, of The Rhetorical Act (2014), co-author, with Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, of Critiques of Contemporary Rhetoric (1997), and co-editor, with Martha S. Watson, of Perfecting American Society: The Rhetoric of Nineteenth Century Reform (2007). His work has also appeared in the Western Journal of Communication, Southern Communication Journal, Communication Studies, and various book chapters. His commitment to the LVDL extends his commitment to policy debate that dates from the early 1970s when he was the debate coach at Haven High School (Kansas).
Dawn Hathaway-Thoman is the former vice president of Manpower Inc. of Southern Nevada and has twice been named as one of Nevada’s “40 Under 40.” She has also served on board of advisors of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, board of directors of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and as a Nevada Development Authority Trustee.
Hathaway-Thoman is currently a 2014 Juris Doctor Candidate at the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV. Since beginning law school, she has won three Outstanding Student awards, received a CALI® award for advanced legal analysis, and won first place in the annual Nevada Law Journal Writing Competition. In addition, she has helped prepare over 150 child witnesses for trial while volunteering for the Harvard award-winning program “Kids’ Court School.”
A Michigan native, Hathaway-Thoman has lived in Las Vegas for nearly 17 years. She earned her B.A. (summa cum laude) from UNLV in communication studies with a concentration in rhetorical theory. Hathaway-Thoman exemplifies and believes that debate experience exponentially improves students’ academic and community achievements.
Yvanna Cancela is the political director at the Culinary Workers Union Local 226. In her role, Cancela is responsible for the political education, lobbying, and mobilization of the 60,000-member union. She was recently awarded the White House’s Champion of Change award for the union’s work on organizing for comprehensive immigration reform. Originally, from Miami, Fla., Cancela was a high school debater. She attributes policy debate with changing her life. Cancela is a graduate of Northwestern University.
Brin Gibson is an attorney at Lionel Sawyer & Collins. He practices regulatory law. He serves as the course coordinator of the Gaming Law Program at the William S. Boyd School of Law and is an adjunct associate professor at the law school, teaching water law. Gibson was appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval to serve on the Colorado River Commission, which is tasked with making water policy for the state of Nevada.
Gibson is a sixth-generation Nevadan, graduating from Basic High School in Henderson. He went on to study at the University of Chicago and BYU, where he graduated with a Masters of Public Policy and a law degree. Gibson was a member of the BYU Law Review.
Gibson views policy debate as a powerful educational tool because of the training it provides in reading comprehension, critical thinking, argumentation, and public speaking. Gibson hopes to dramatically increase CCSD student participation in policy debate and appreciates that Professor Jake Thompson and LVDL are committed to this goal.
Frank W. Mitchell is a writer, teacher, and American trial lawyer. He lives in Las Vegas, Nev., and has practiced law in both Texas and Nevada. Mitchell grew up in Montana and attended and debated at the University of Montana for two years and then transferred to the University of Utah where he qualified to the National Debate Tournament and finished his undergraduate degree in history.
After attending the University of Utah, Mitchell went to Wake Forest University where he worked as an assistant debate coach at Wake Forest and received an M.A. in rhetoric and argumentation theory. After attending Wake Forest, Mitchell then attended Baylor University School of Law, completing his J.D. in 1984 (Cum Laude). At Baylor, he worked as an editor for the Baylor Law Review. Mitchell is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABODA). Membership in ABODA is by invitation only and is restricted to 2 percent of the trial lawyers in the United States. In 27 years of practice in both Texas and Nevada, Mitchell has been involved in a number of significant and notable cases as both a trial and appellate lawyer. Mitchell’s commitment to the Las Vegas Debate League is based on his four decades of experience with policy debate and trial advocacy.
Rick Kimbrough serves as vice president for University Advancement at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. In this role, he oversees the Development and Alumni Relations office and serves as the senior administrator and liaison with the Alumni Association.
Previously, Kimbrough was the chief development officer at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Minnesota and served on its senior management team for the Southwest Minnesota region. In that capacity, he oversaw fundraising responsibilities for six hospitals and 38 clinics.
Raised in San Antonio, Kimbrough attended Winston Churchill High School before earning a debate scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His Bachelor of Arts degree is in communication. In 1999, inspired by the generosity of the Greenspun Family and the Milken Family Foundation, Kimbrough delivered the commencement address on philanthropic responsibilities. Kimbrough has a master’s degree from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.
Kimbrough debated for three years at UNLV prior to becoming the CSUN Senate President his senior year. Kimbrough successfully qualified for and competed at the National Debate Tournament all three years of his UNLV Debate career.
Dr. Brian Myli
Dr. Brian Myli is the vice president of leadership and innovation for the Public Education Foundation. Dr. Myli has over 20 years of experience in public education. Originally from Iowa, Myli came to the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Las Vegas, Nev., in 1994, as the college preparatory counselor at Durango High School. From there, he spent eight years as the counseling department chairperson and coordinator at the College of Southern Nevada High School. In 2004, Myli joined the CCSD Guidance and Counseling Department as the coordinator of college readiness programs and initiatives. In 2010, Myli joined The Public Education Foundation to participate in the Executive Leadership Residency. In 2012, he was named the vice president of leadership and innovation directing the Leadership Institute of Nevada. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Arizona State University, a master’s degree in educational counseling psychology from the University of Denver, a Nevada administrative endorsement in educational leadership, and a doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Dr. Myli joins Foundation President Judi Steele in strong support of the Las Vegas Debate League. By participating in policy debate, Dr. Myli believes students in the Clark County School District have the potential to make significant gains in academics, communication skills and citizenship.
Tya R. Mathis
Tya R. Mathis is the assistant director of leadership and innovation at the Public Education Foundation. She was born in Las Vegas, Nev., and is a proud product of the Clark County School District and the Nevada System of Higher Education. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Nevada, Reno (2004) and her Master of Public Administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (2007). Tya served in higher education for more than nine years and has worked in the fields of admissions counseling, academic advising, part-time instructing and financial aid assistance.
Thanks to her parents, giving back to her community is an important part of her foundation. She feels privileged to work for an organization with the same values as her own. Mathis believes in the tremendous impact that a person can have on the lives of people. She strives to make a difference in the lives of others.
Mathis joins Foundation President Judi Steele and the rest of the staff in support of the Las Vegas Debate League. She believes in the importance of this program for the Clark County School District and the participating students.
Scott Ginger (ex officio coaches representative)
Scott Ginger is an English teacher and the director/coach of speech and debate at Green Valley High School. Ginger has been at Green Valley High School since it opened in 1991, and has been the director and coach from 1991 to 2001 and from 2003 to present. In a recent news article about his program, Ginger was described as “the John Wooden of Nevada high school speech and debate.” In the time he has coached at Green Valley High School, the Gators have won the Clark County School District Championships a record 19 consecutive years, the District Championships a record 14 times, and the Nevada State Championships 13 times, more than any other school in Nevada. A three-diamond National Forensic League coach, Ginger will be recognized for and receive his fourth diamond at the 2014 National Forensic League national tournament in the summer of 2014. Ginger has served as the President of the Nevada Forensics Association four separate times, and he, along with Green Valley High School, will be hosting the Nevada State Tournament for the fifth time. In 2008, Scott and Green Valley High School hosted the National High School Speech and Debate Tournament. The Green Valley “ForensiGators” have qualified students to nationals each year since 1994. At the end of the 2012-2013 season, the number of GVHS speech and debate students earning individual championships for county, state, and national qualifiers included the following: county champions – 157; state champions – 65; national qualifiers – 168; students receiving out-round awards at nationals – 32. Green Valley High School has had 51 National All-Americans since 1998, the year the student recognition was established. Ginger serves as an ex-officio member of LVDL Advisory Board Member representing the voices of local CCSD debate coaches.