Learn from the Best
Effective Public Forum instructors need to stay up to date with its constantly changing styles. This summer, VBI PF's staff will feature some of the most innovative minds in the event: some who have been responsible for setting the event's stylistic tone and others who have coached against the trend-setters. To select our faculty, we pruned the debate family tree for instructors who could communicate their creative, fresh, and humble outlooks on debate. We recognize Public Forum's dynamism, so in selecting our staff, we have placed great importance on competitive and coaching success on a wide variety of circuits throughout the past four years.
Jake Nebel is Executive Director of Victory Briefs and a PhD candidate in Philosophy at New York University. He holds an AB in Philosophy from Princeton and a BPhil in Philosophy from Oxford, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar. As a debater for Trinity Prep (FL), Jake reached finals of Harvard (three times), Greenhill (twice), the Glenbrooks (twice), the New York City Invitational (twice), the Barkley Forum at Emory, Yale, the Bronx Round Robin, the MBA Round Robin, the VBT Round Robin, the Vassar Round Robin, the FFL State Championship, and NSDA Nationals—winning most of those. He was named Top Speaker at the Tournament of Champions, Greenhill, Harvard, the New York City Invitational (twice), the Bronx Round Robin (twice), Yale (twice), the Vassar Round Robin, the Crestian Classic, and the FFL State Championship. As a coach for the Greenhill School (TX), Jake's students have won the Tournament of Champions, the NDCA National Championship, the Dukes & Bailey Cup, the Glenbrooks, the Harvard Round Robin, the New York City Invitational, Emory (twice), the TFA State Tournament, and other national, regional, and local championships. This will be his twelfth summer at VBI.
Jami Tanner is returning to VBI for her fourth year, as the Director of Public Forum Debate. Jami debated for Klein High School in Houston, TX, where she was the team president. She is a four-time TFA State qualifier, a three-time NSDA Nationals qualifier, and was the first to attend the TOC in her school’s history. Jami was ranked #1 in the nation by the NSDA’s Points Record in 2014, accumulated the most state points in Texas two years in a row, and was in the top 15 teams in the nation at the 2013 NSDA National Tournament in Public Forum debate. While her focus is PF, she was also the UIL 5A Undefeated State Champion in Lincoln Douglas debate her junior year. Jami has previously worked as a private coach for various pf teams and has coached debaters to both NSDA Nationals and the TOC. Last year, she served as the PF Curriculum Director for VBI. Jami currently studies Political Science at New York University, where she will begin her Master’s work this fall.
Chris Theis is Executive Director of Victory Briefs. This is his eleventh year at VBI. He currently coaches for his alma mater, Apple Valley (MN). He has previously coached students from Palos Verdes Peninsula High School (CA), Trinity Preparatory School (FL), Winston Churchill (TX). As a coach, his students have reached elimination rounds at the Tournament of Champions each of the past six seasons, and have placed in the top 6 of the NSDA National Tournament. His students have won nearly every major invitational tournament (some multiple times) including: Harvard, Greenhill, Stanford, the Minneapple, Emory, CPS, Lexington, Loyola, Damus, the Greenhill Round Robin, and others.
As a competitor, he was one of only two juniors to ever win the Tournament of Champions and is the only person to win it twice. He was the champion of Blake, Emory, the Iowa Round Robin twice, the Greenhill Round Robin twice, and St. Marks twice. Chris was also a semi finalist at Greenhill and the Glenbrooks, and a finalist at Berkeley. Chris was a four year qualifier to the NSDA National Tournament in Lincoln-Douglas, U.S. Extemp Speaking, and Congressional Debate. This will be Chris's twelfth summer at VBI.
Devon is returning to VBI for his third year, as PF Curriculum Director. Devon recently graduated from NYU ('18), majoring in Politics with a double minor in History and Philosophy. At NYU he was a Global Debate Semifinalist and served as the VP of his school’s American Parliamentary Debate team. He debated for four years at Suncoast High School in Florida. During this time, he reached outrounds at a variety of state and national tournaments like Penn, Blue Key, The Sunvitational, Florida States and The Crestian Invitational. He has coached a number of teams for four years, both freelance and as the head PF coach for Byram Hills High School. At Byram Hills, he helped qualify three teams to the TOC for their first appearance in school history. Throughout the rest of his career, the teams he’s worked with have made it to late outrounds at tournaments like NSDA Nationals, CFL Nationals, Princeton, Lexington, The Sunvitational, Penn, Harvard and Ridge.
Nathan Johnston is returning to VBI for his second year, as Instructor Development Director. Nathan is the Director of Forensics at Trinity Preparatory School where he also teaches World History and AP Human Geography. He is the former Director of Speech and Debate at Trinity Valley School and Tournament Director and Coach for the University of Tennessee. He is the Chair of the Florida Panther NSDA District and the Secretary of the North Florida Catholic Forensics League. Nathan has coached students to elimination rounds of the TOC, NSDA Nationals, Florida and Texas State Championships, and various national tournaments in Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, Public Forum, Congress, and individual events. As a competitor in high school, he was a congress state champion and received second place in Lincoln-Douglas at the Tennessee state championship along with earning bids in congressional debate to the TOC. As a collegiate debater for the University of Tennessee, he won two NPDA Tennessee state championships and finished second in the nation twice at IPDA nationals. He holds a B.S. in Political Science and Journalism from the University of Tennessee, and an M.A. in History from the University of Texas.
Gaurav Asthana is a senior debater at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Massachusetts, where he has been PF captain for two years. During his time as a captain, Gaurav helped his novices in closing out Massachusetts States and doubled the size of the PF team. As a junior, Gaurav and his partner reached quarterfinals at Bronx, becoming the first team from their school to attend the Tournament of Champions. This year, Gaurav has amassed five TOC bids, reaching semifinals at UK and Columbia, quarterfinals at Yale, and octafinals at Blake and Harvard. In addition, he was 5th speaker at Bronx, 7th speaker at Blake, a semifinalist at the Blake Round Robin, and a finalist at the Harvard Round Robin. He has been ranked as high as 10th on Briefly and 3rd on DebateRankings. Gaurav can’t wait to work at VBI this summer!
James Chen is a senior at Millburn High School in New Jersey, where he serves as team president. James qualified to TOC all four years of his career, while collecting 22 career bids. James reached semifinals of the Bronx and Blake invitationals, and finals of the Glenbrooks invitational. Most notably, he championed the Harvard, Yale, Princeton, UPenn, and Berkeley invitationals. James is excited to work with students at VBI this summer!
Alex Chin (Harvard '21) competed for The Nueva School (CA), where he co-founded the team. He qualified to the Tournament of Champions in both his junior and senior years. During his junior year, he won the Cal Invitational at Berkeley (2016) and the Kandi King Round Robin (2016), and took 2nd at the Stanford Invitational (2016). In his senior year, he also won the Berkeley Round Robin (2017) and finished second at the Harker Invitational (2016). Alex now works as an assistant debate coach at Boston Latin High school. Alex is excited to teach students at VBI this summer!
Kyle Chong (Berkeley ’19) is an Assistant Coach at The Nueva School in California. As a debater, Kyle was the President of Bronx Science’s Debate Team, where he amassed seven bids to the Tournament of Champions, ending his career at tenth in the country. He made numerous outround appearances at tournaments like Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Emory, Blake, the Glenbrooks, Penn, Lexington, and the Beltway. His students have achieved success at both the local and national level, with recent championships at SCU, ASU, Berkeley, Harker, Kandi King, and the TOC. Kyle has worked at a number of summer institutes before with experience coaching debaters at all skill levels and is very excited to be returning to VBI!
Isabel Coleman competed in public forum for four years at The Altamont School, serving as captain for three of those years. She received six gold bids to the TOC senior year and placed second at ASU and the Ivy Street Round Robin. Isabel has championed several tournaments throughout her career, including Holy Cross and Carrollton. She has also been ranked as high as fifth on debaterankings.com. She has enjoyed teaching those on her team and local circuit for the least three years and is looking forward to doing the same at VBI this summer!
Chris Conrad debated for the Nueva School, where he amassed 5 bids to the Tournament of Champions in his senior year, won the Kandi King Round Robin, and reached finals of the James Logan Martin Luther King Invitational. Since graduating, he has primarily worked as an assistant coach for The Hill School in Pennsylvania. Chris is super excited to keep coaching at VBI this summer!
Malcolm was co-captain of the debate team at Newton South High School in Massachusetts. As a debater, he championed the Bronx Round Robin, finished second the Harvard Round Robin, finished second at Columbia, reached semifinals of the Yale Invitational, and reached quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions. Since graduating, Malcolm has worked as an assistant coach at Strath Haven High School in Pennsylvania. This year, Malcolm's students have championed the Bronx Round Robin, the Villiger invitational at St. Joseph's University, a The Lexington Winter Invitational, and reached elimination rounds at Bronx and Yale. Malcolm is very excited to work at VBI this summer!
Dhruv debated for Klein High School in Texas. Over the course of his career, he reached late outrounds at NSDA Nationals and the Tournament of Champions, co-championed the Bellaire and Hockaday invitationals, and championed the University of Texas Longhorn Classic. Additionally, he semifinalled at the TFA state tournament his junior year. Currently, Dhruv attends UT Austin and coaches Westlake High School, where his teams have received bids at the Grapevine and Churchill tournaments. Dhruv is excited to be returning to VBI this summer!
Cornelia Fraser debated for four years in Public Forum Debate at Nova High School in Florida. During her senior year, she served as co-captain of the team. Cornelia competed in out rounds at a variety of tournaments including Crestian, Sunvitational, and finals at the Florida Blue Key. She was also 6th speaker at the 2017 Barkley Forum. In addition, Cornelia won her national district qualifier, varsity state tournament, and ended her career winning the 2017 NSDA National tournament.
Harrison Hurt is a Public Forum coach for the Walt Whitman Speech and Debate team in Bethesda, Maryland. Since coaching for Whitman, his students have collected a total of thirteen bids to the Tournament of Champions, championed Blake, quarterfinaled at Harvard, and won top speaker at Harvard and Columbia, among other achievements. Before coaching for Whitman, Harrison debated in Public Forum for four years at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, New York. As a debater, he accumulated twelve bids to the Tournament of Champions and championed several national circuit tournaments, including Harvard, NCFL, Blake, Villiger, and NDCA. In both his junior and senior years, he finished in the top ten at NSDA Nationals and broke at the Tournament of Champions. He earned numerous speaker awards, including top speaker at Bronx, second speaker at Yale, and second speaker at the Tournament of Champions. Harrison is a sophomore at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, where he majors in International Political Economy.
Humza Jilani debated for Klein High School in Klein, Texas, where he served as Vice President of Debate. Throughout his career, Humza qualified to the Texas Forensics Association State Tournament three times, the NSDA National Tournament twice, and the Tournament of Champions his senior year. His notable accomplishments include co-championing the Bellaire Forensics Tournament and the Hockaday Debate Invitational, championing the University of Texas Longhorn Classic, reaching Semifinals at the Texas Forensics Association State Tournament, and competing in Octafinals of the Tournament of Champions, and reaching late out-rounds at NSDA Nationals his junior and senior years. He received speaker awards at the Winston Churchill Classic, the TFA State Tournament, and the Harvard Invitational. Although his main focus is Public Forum, Humza also placed 3rd in the University Interscholastic League 6A State Tournament in Lincoln-Douglas debate. As a coach for Westwood High School, his students have qualified to the Tournament of Champions and championed the Grapevine Classic and the Myers Park Laird Lewis Invitational. Humza is an alumnus of VBI 2015 and currently attends Harvard University. This will be his second year teaching at VBI.
Anshul Joshi has competed in public forum debate for four years at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, serving as a captain his junior and senior years. At AB, Anshul has doubled the size of the PF team and helped his novices close out the Massachusetts State Championships. In his junior year, he reached quarterfinals at Bronx and reached bid rounds at Wake Forest, Yale, Manchester, and Lexington, becoming the first team from his school to qualify for the Tournament of Champions.As of February of his senior year, Anshul has accumulated 6 TOC bids, having reached semifinals at the NSDA Season Opener at UK, quarterfinals at Yale, semifinals at Columbia, and finals at both the Blake Round Robin and the Harvard Round Robin. Anshul has been ranked as high as 3rd on DebateRankings his senior year.
Devesh Kodnani currently debates for Mission San Jose High School in California, where he co-facilitated the team’s meteoric rise from a small local team to the 2017 national TOC-bid-leading school in Public Forum. Devesh qualified to NCFL Nationals twice, NSDA Nationals thrice, and the TOC in all four years of competition, amassing, til date, 19 career bids (in addition to two auto-qualifications from 2017). Devesh has reached deep elimination rounds at a number of national tournaments, championing Bronx (2017), Blake (2018), ASU (2018), James Logan (2018), Pacific (2016), and Presentation (2015 & 2016), reaching finals at Harker (2017), Stanford (2015), and Berkeley (2015), and reaching Semifinals at the NCFL Grand National Tournament (2017). He is currently ranked #1 in the US. Devesh will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall; ’til then, he is excited to be working with VBI students this summer!
Russell debated Public Forum for 4 years at Strath Haven High School in Pennsylvania. He was his team's captain, as well as the first on his team to ever break at a national circuit tournament. Over his career, he amassed 9 career bids, qualifying to the TOC both his junior and senior year. He has made appearances in late at many national tournaments, including Yale, Bronx, GMU, and Harvard. Russell also has won UPenn, the Bronx Round Robin, Villiger, Lexington, and Pennsbury. He has previously taught debate at summer camps in the Philly area, and is very excited to share his passion for debate at VBI!
Austin has competed in public forum debate for 3 years at Carroll Senior Highschool, serving as captain his senior year. He has reached late outrounds at Yale, Emory, Upenn, ASU, Bellaire, Grapevine, Berkeley, and TFA State, and semi finaled at Florida Blue Key, the Houston Round Robin, the Bellaire Round Robin, and The UT Longhorn Classic. He qualified to TOC twice in public forum, receiving 5 TOC bids his senior year. His junior year, he reached round 12 at NSDA Nationals, placing in the top 20. His senior year, he has ranked as high as 12th in the nation on Vbriefly and 5th in the nation on Debate Rankings. He currently attends The University of Texas and coaches for Strake Jesuit College Prep. Additionally, Austin has attended VBI as a student, finaling at the camp tournament his first year and championing it his second. As a former camper, he can’t wait to return to VBI as a staffer this summer!
Megan debated in Public Forum at Presentation High School (CA) for two years, serving as Team Vice President her senior year. She qualified to the TOC both years she debated in PF, earning 5 career gold bids and 5 career silver bids. She was ranked as high as 7th her senior year, notably reaching the final rounds of UOP 2016, Alta 2017, and Berkeley 2018 among other elimination round appearances such as quarterfinals of UOP 2017 and semifinals of ASU 2018. Individually, she also placed in the top five speakers at UOP 2016, Alta 2017, the Cal Round Robin 2018, and Berkeley 2018. Outside of Public Forum, Megan also debated in Lincoln Douglas for two years and attended NSDA Nationals 2017 in World Schools Debate. Megan is an incoming freshmen at Northwestern University majoring in journalism. She can’t wait to work at VBI this summer!
Sarah Park is a sophomore at Cornell's school of Industrial and Labor Relations. She debated Public Forum at Millburn High School in New Jersey for four years where she taught the middle school debate program. Throughout her career Sarah broke to elimination rounds at eighteen national tournaments, amassed seven career bids, and qualified for the Tournament of Champions her junior and senior years. She was a quarterfinalist at the John Edie Holiday Classic and the New York City Invitational, semifinalist at the UPenn Philadelphia Round Robin and the champion of the Ridge Debates. She also won numerous speaker awards including second speaker at the UPenn Liberty Bell Classic and fourth speaker at the Valley Mid-America Cup. She was ranked as high as eleventh in the nation and she can't wait to work with you all this summer!
Lee competed in Public Forum at Trinity Prep and served as team captain his senior year. In 2 years of national circuit competition, Lee reached late outrounds at Florida Blue Key (twice), NDCA, Yale, Grapevine, Apple Valley, Emory, and Berkeley. Lee amassed 10 total bids to the Tournament of Champions throughout his career. In postseason competition, Lee qualified to FFL States, NSDA Nationals, and the UK TOC both his junior and senior years. His junior year he had a winning record at TOC and placed 7th overall and NSDA Nationals. His senior year he reached quarterfinals at FFL States, semi finals at TOC, and outrounds of NSDA Nationals. Lee peaked on the rankings April of his senior year being ranked #1 in Public Forum. Lee is currently coaching for Trinity Prep and Miramonte MZ, where his students have broken at the Cypress Bay tournament, Florida Blue Key, the University of Pacific tournament, and won Santa Clara University’s tournament. He is now a Freshman at UC Berkeley, planning to study Business Administration and Public Policy. He is incredibly excited to be returning to VBI to coach this summer.
Jackie debated at Carroll Senior High School in Southlake, Texas for four years. During this time, she served as Vice President of her schools team and Co-Captain of Public Forum. Jackie received 8 career bids, was a four-time TFA state qualifier and was the first team in her school’s history to not only qualify to the TOC, but break into elimination rounds! Her senior year, she ranked as high as 4th in the nation on debaterankings.com. During her career she finaled at Emory, Bellaire and the Milo Cup at Millard North, semifinaled at the Florida Blue Key and University of Pennsylvannia, championed the University of Houston and reached late elimination rounds at several other tournaments including Yale, Glenbrooks and Grapevine. She also was invited and competed in several Round Robins including those at Harvard, Emory and Blue Key. She is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California and is an assistant coach for The Harker School. She is very excited to be working at VBI again this summer!
Arjun is returning for his 4th year as an instructor at Victory Briefs. He is a rising senior at the University of Miami, studying Software Engineering and Finance. As a competitor, Arjun debated at Trinity Prep in Orlando, FL, where he was team captain his junior and senior years. He was a 3 time TOC qualifier, reached finals at the Florida State Tournament as a sophomore, finals of Blue Key as a junior, and won Apple Valley as a senior. Arjun was ranked among the top speakers at tournaments such as Laird Lewis, NDCA, and Lexington. As a coach at Trinity, Arjun's students have reached late outrounds at TOC, NSDA Nationals, Yale, Blue Key, Grapevine, Emory, and Apple Valley.
Matt Salah debated for four years at the Nueva High School in San Mateo, California. As a member of the first graduating class of his high school, Matt played a large role in founding and establishing the debate team at Nueva. Some of his most notable accomplishments include championing the Tournament of Champions (2017), the ASU Invitational (2017), and the Bronx Science Tournament (2015). He began school at Swarthmore college last fall, where he plans to study political science. Matt is very excited to be returning to VBI this summer!
Krithika has competed in Public Forum for the past four years at Westwood High School in Austin, Texas. She is a two-time qualifier to the Texas Forensic Association State tournament in both Public Forum and Domestic Extemp. She has competed in late out-rounds of every national tournament she has attended since sophomore year including the University of Texas, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Bellaire, ASU, Dowling and the International Tournament of Champions. She has received invites to round robins such as the Bellaire Round Robin (reaching semifinals her sophomore year), Kandi King Round Robin, Harvard Round Robin and Berkeley Round Robin. Her senior year she championed the Grapevine Classic tournament (in addition to winning top speaker with perfect speaker points), Colleyville Heritage tournament and the Myers Park Invitational and has been ranked as high as #1 in the nation by Debate Rankings. After attending VBI three times as a student, she looks forward to returning as an instructor!
Ellie Singer is a graduate of the Blake School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she competed in public forum for four years. Her junior year, she was top speaker at the Glenbrooks, top speaker at NDCA, and placed in the top 14 at NSDA Nationals, auto-qualifying her for the ToC and Nationals in 2017. Her senior year, she received a bid and speaker award at every regular season tournament, championed the Glenbrooks, won and was top speaker at the Ivy Street Round Robin, placed 2nd at the Tournament of Champions, and also competed in world schools debate with Team USA, semifinaling at the World Schools Debating Championships. Ellie now attends Yale University where she competes in parliamentary debate.
Laurenn Vives is a senior at Presentation High School where she has debated for 3 years, holding the title of PF captain as a junior. Laurenn qualified to TOC both her junior and senior year, amassing 5 gold bids and 6 silver bids in her career. She has been ranked as high as 9th nationwide on debaterankings, and as high as 13th nationwide on Victory Briefs. Her most notable achievements include championing the Santa Clara University in 2016, finalling at Berkeley 2018, Alta 2017, & UOP 2016, placing 2nd in the California Round Robin, earning a place in the top 3 speakers at Stanford, Alta, the Cal RR, UoP, & Harker, and making elimination round appearances most notably at Yale, Arizona State, Stanford, Berkeley, Harker, and UoP. She will be studying at Boston University next year and hopes to major in Political Science. She is very excited to teach this summer!
Maya is returning to VBI for her second year as an instructor. Maya debated for Bellaire High School in Houston, TX and now attends the University of Texas studying Chemistry and Philosophy. She qualified to TFA State three times, to NSDA Nationals twice, and to the TOC, with 4 career bids. Maya was in finals at the Holy Cross Round Robin, Plano West, Peach State Classic, Isidore Newman, University of Houston, and the 2017 TFA State tournament. She has received speaker awards at several tournaments including TFA State and NSDA Nationals. Maya coached the champion of the 2017 Middle School NSDA tournament, and as a current coach for Westwood High School, Maya’s students have won Grapevine and Myers Park.
David Wornow is a senior at College Prep in Oakland, California, where he has debated in Public Forum for all 4 years, serving as the Team Captain his junior and senior years. He qualified to TOC all 4 years, amassing 11 career bids. David has been ranked as high as 7th his senior year and has consistently been in the top 20 during his high school career, including ranking 15th as a freshman. David has reached late out-rounds at several national tournaments, including Minneapple, Harker, and Stanford. His most notable achievements include finals at ASU and Harker and semi-finals at Emory. Aside from his own debate, David also founded the Head Royce Middle School Debate program and helped coach the middle school team to a 6th place finish at nationals in the program’s second year. David can’t wait to work at VBI this summer!
Max Wu debated for Mission San Jose HS in Fremont, California. Over his four year career in Public Forum, he reached deep elimination rounds at almost every tournament he attended and amassed a total of 13 bids (and 2 auto-quals in 2016). His notable achievements include reaching the final round of the 2016 Tournament of Champions, championing the 2017 Harvard Round Robin, and being ranked in the top 10 best teams in the country in both his junior and senior year. Max is currently a freshman at the University of Chicago; he hopes to double major in Political Science and Philosophy, and is very excited to be working with Victory Briefs!
Sabrina is a freshman at the School of Industrial Labor Relations at Cornell University, with intended minors in Inequality Studies and Law and Society. She currently coaches for Klein and was an instructor at Lumos Debate Camp last summer. In high school, she competed in PF for three years at Byram Hills High School, where she was Varsity Captain her junior and senior year. In her high school career, she reached late out rounds at major national tournaments including Yale, Lexington, Blake, and Harvard and earned her highest Vbriefly ranking in the top 40 teams in the country. Sabrina is so excited to be working at VBI this summer!
Richard Zhu is a senior at Edina High School in Minnesota where he has debated in Public Forum for the past 5 years, serving as a Public Forum founding member at Edina and PF Captain his senior year. Locally, Richard championed and won speaker awards at numerous tournaments, including the 2018 Minnesota State Tournament. On the national circuit, Richard amassed 8 career bids including 6 in his senior year, reaching late outrounds at Grapevine, Valley, Glenbrooks, Dowling, Blake, and Millard. His most notable achievements are championing the 2017 Minneapple and placing top 25 at 2017 NSDA Nationals. During his senior year, Richard and his partner were ranked as high as 3rd in the country by VBriefly and 4th by Debate Rankings. Richard is thrilled to work at VBI this summer!