Photo by Sasha Monaco

Communications sophomore Lillian Khanna practices delivering her speech for an upcoming congressional debate tournament. Khanna prepared around 20 bills in order to prepare for competition among her debate chamber.

The timer counts down from 15 minutes. Palms sweating, minds racing, the debaters type frantically on their laptops. For any other student, this is a stressful period of critical thinking; for communications sophomore Lillian Khanna, this was her summer vacation.

Khanna spent her time off from school to enhance the quality of her debate skills, as well as to further her level of experience. Khanna attended the Champion Briefs Institute (CBI) in Davie, Florida from June 26 to July 1, where intensive debate training is the goal.

“This year [was] my second time attending CBI at Nova Southeastern [University],” Khanna said. “CBI has a great name in the debate community, and it’s an extremely prestigious summer camp for all of the events in speech and debate. I learned more in those seven days than I have in the last two years.”

Khanna competes in Congressional Debate, a form of debate in which students argue to pass or fail legislation drafted by their competitors. Debaters form spontaneous thinking skills and craft the ability to identify reputable sources for their data.

“Congress is a unique event in the fact that there’s no formula to write a speech,” Khanna said. “We were given all of the experiences from many different debaters, and we [had] the opportunity [to create] our own formulas in order to make the best speech to perform in a congress round.”

Throughout the program, Khanna established her own network of debate students, many of which she can practice with throughout the debate season.

“I look at it as a way to gain new experiences,” Khanna said.  “[I was] in a room with people who have been doing Congressional Debate for [over] seven years. [They were] shedding their experience onto the younger generation [of students,] like me, which [gave] us the ability to grow. It starstruck me that they were in the same room as me, and that was an opportunity I wouldn’t get without CBI.”

At the institute, Khanna developed a system to analyze various foreign and domestic issues. This helped her ensure that her perspective on the legislation presented was unlike any other competitor.

“There are so many different angles to look at the same topic,” Khanna said. “There’s a basis of knowledge you need to learn before you analyze it at a different angle. While I was at CBI, I was able to build that fundamental knowledge to be able to look at every topic I was thrown.”

The seven days of intensive training allowed Khanna to hone in on the areas of debate on which she wanted to focus. Her team of instructors, made up of national-caliber alumni and debate coaches, created a schedule of events directed toward specific skills.

“On the daily, we had exercises where I would get a piece of legislation I’d never seen before, and I had 15 minutes to write and present a speech, which I’ve never done,” Khanna said. “It normally takes me 30 to 45 minutes just to research. Having to understand the legislation, research the topic, write about the topic, [and] be comfortable with the material enough to present it in 15 minutes has made me more confident as a speaker.”