No debate about it – these Diablo Valley College students know their stuff

No debate about it – these Diablo Valley College students know their stuff

No debate about it – these Diablo Valley College students know their stuff
DVC debate coach Paul Villa is flanked by national debate winners Brenna Seiersen, left, and Tristan Keene.

PLEASANT HILL, CA (May 21, 2023) — If you’re looking for an argument, Brenna Seiersen and Tristan Keene will be happy to oblige. But you will almost certainly lose.

The two former Diablo Valley College debate students, present and future UC Berkeley undergraduates, won national debate championships last year at competitions in Stockton and Pleasant Hill both as partners and as individuals. That makes them the best parliamentary debaters in the country.

Seiersen and Keene displayed the hardware they took home from those competitions at the DVC Spring Speech and Debate Showcase, attended by 150 people in the school’s Performing Arts Center on April 19.

The victories continue a tradition of success for the DVC program at both the state and national levels. Professor Paul Villa, director of debate and head debate coach at the school, credits the “ton of material support” the program gets from the college.

Student speech and debate competitors do not have to pay their own way to competitions, as students at other schools often do, Villa noted. The school provides coaches to help them prepare, with five coaches expected to be on board for the coming semester. Villa also points to the efforts of Robert Hawkins, the director of forensics and incoming chair of the communications department.

Stepping stone to collegiate success

Both Seiersen and Keene showed up to help the DVC competitors this year.

“When those students realize they are getting assistance from national champions who are their contemporaries, it produces a bit more enthusiasm and confidence,” Villa said.

Villa also successfully competed at the national level for DVC during his time as a student 13 years ago. His ongoing enthusiasm for the program, and his own refined speaking skills, were evident during a telephone interview.

Student successes in speech and debate pay excellent dividends for them in terms of four-year college scholarship offers and acceptances, Villa said. In addition to UC Berkeley, DVC debaters and speakers have gone on to collegiate careers at UCLA, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, Western Kentucky University (a national force in speech and debate), San Diego State, San Jose State and Sacramento State.

Villa got both his bachelor’s degree in communications and his master’s in communications education from the University of the Pacific in Stockton after successfully transferring from DVC.

Developing a work ethic

In parliamentary debate, a two-person team gets 30 minutes after being given a topic to prepare to face another team. Seiersen and Keene won 17 out of 18 rounds as partners at the two competitions. Seiersen took top individual honors at the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) event in Stockton.

“I want to thank the DVC team and administration for starting our speech and debate careers and providing the institutional support necessary to build the foundation for us to be here today,” said Seiersen, who plans to study computer science and philosophy at Cal.

Keene came in first individually at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence in Pleasant Hill. She will finish up her Cal career with a varied course of study, including political science, international relations and geography.

“DVC gave me the advocacy skills and work ethic to make it to the final stage,” Keene said. “I am eternally grateful to every single faculty member at the school who took time out of their day to mentor me and facilitate my success.”

First-year competitors Emily Hitomi and Jason Sabbadini took home novice honors at the NPDA events. Speech students Manahil Syeda and Eden Ozeri competed at the American Forensic Association National Speech Tournament. Syeda reached the elimination rounds, the second DVC student to accomplish that feat.

Norm Hallquist
Norm Hallquist

Norm Hallquist earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from Cal.  He has returned to his first love following interim careers as a U.S. Navy officer and as a workers' compensation lawyer.  He lives in Concord.