Andrew Keating, Director of Communications, 406.657.1104,
Shelby Jo Long-Hammond, associate professor, communications studies,

RMC Debate Team Travels to Morocco for Teaching and Public Debate Event

BILLINGS—Rocky Mountain College’s debate team will have to start singing the country song “I’ve Been Everywhere” with the newest destination on their itinerary—Morocco.

Rocky students in partnership with the debate team from St. John’s University in New York City, will be traveling to Rabat, Morocco, to the Institute for Leadership & Communication Studies for a week-long public debate event on October 6. Shelby Jo Long-Hammond, associate professor of communications studies and director of the debate program at RMC, said that she was delighted when the invitation came from Steve Llano, a debate coach from St. John’s University.

“He invited us. I had to take him up on the opportunity,” Long-Hammond said.

Long-Hammond first became acquainted with Llano at a debate tournament in Slovenia in 2010. In 2012, the two worked together in Mexico at the IDEA Youth Forum.

“We were both debate teachers and traveled in the same circuits doing the same style of debate,” Long-Hammond said.

Since then, the two colleagues have found an intersecting of each of their debate program’s goals of argumentation education and personal growth and have worked together in debates such as the Tribal College Debate earlier this year. Llano was also guest lecturer at this year’s Rimrock Classic Debate Tournament.

Now it’s off to Morocco for the RMC’s debate team, a country in North Africa where the political climate to the north and east has been filled with turmoil and uncertainty.

Long-Hammond emphasizes this is an opportunity that encourages dialogue between the different countries and cultures rather than alternatives that would result in more aggressive action and, Long-Hammond maintains she is more excited about the exchange this trip will bring.

“We want to hear about their perceptions,” Long-Hammond said. “Those can be completely different than what we read in the media. Debate forces you to look at both sides of an issue,” Long-Hammond said. Additionally, the discussion looks to bring in the cultural experience and to talk about it which causes students to move out of their comfort zones and investigate and engage in critical thinking, she said.

This year, students and coaches will not be staying at the school, but rather with host families.

“It’s a total immersion experience,” Long-Hammond said. “Cultural awareness and critical thinking skills gained from going to an event like this one, is perhaps the biggest transformation I see in students.”

Unlike a traditional tournament, however, the majority of the week will be given to teaching opportunities for students with a debate on the last day. Classes taught during the week will focus on topics such as preparation for debate, debate exercises and building and refuting arguments.

“They are excited to host people from the US. The debate is going to be more about education than about competition,” Long-Hammond said, adding the she and Llano have been working months in advance to work out the teaching lessons for the event.

Students involved in debate are typically from a wide variety of majors. This year, the two students that will be going to Morocco from RMC will be Gerald Giebink, an accounting major from Billings, and Flayvia Siqueira, a political science major from Brazil. Llano will be bringing four students from St. John’s University and both Long-Hammond and Llano will be helping to run and judge the debate. Daniel Parod, a physics instructor at RMC, will also be working as assistant debate coach on the trip.

For more information on the debate team at RMC contact: Shelby Jo Long-Hammond at