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Senior has helped debate team thrive

It took Tansy Woan just one tournament at the end of her freshman year to know that debate would become an integral part of her time at Binghamton University.

“I love competition and I don’t like losing,” Woan said, recalling the novice tournament in Richmond, Va. “Since it was my first tournament against people who had been debating all year, I took a few losses. But I thought, ‘I can’t accept this. I have to get better.’”

Woan has gotten better. Much better. This year, the 21-year-old senior became the first woman from the University to qualify for the National Debate Tournament. She and partner Ben Crossan competed at the event in Austin, Texas. Last year, Woan was part of the debate team that won the national championship. The team finished second in the nation this year.

Woan attributes much of her success, and the team’s success, to Joe Leeson-Schatz, the University’s director of debate. Leeson-Schatz encouraged her to join the team as a freshman and worked to hone her skills the following summer.

“I have never witnessed a harder working undergrad whose drive has paid off in all the right ways,” Leeson-Schatz said.

Debate has meant more to Woan than individual and team accolades. She has made friends all over the nation, thanks to the various tournaments the team competes in. Debate preparation and competition also have helped Woan in classes and the working world, she said.

“Given the intense research I did over the years with debate, classes became easier and writing papers became a cinch,” said Woan, a philosophy, politics and law major. “Every job interview I’ve had, the first question they’ve asked me about is debate. It catches the attention of future employers.”

Woan, who said she has “a passion for public interest,” hopes to become a criminal defense lawyer. She has worked for the Broome County Public Defender’s Office, Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York and Coughlin and Gerhart LLP in Binghamton.

The Union-Endicott graduate said she has no regrets about staying close to home for college.

“The University has a lot to offer,” she said. “There’s extracurricular (activities) for all sorts of interests. I’m glad I came.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08