2004-2005 Spotlight Archives
Alexis Notabartolo ’07, Breaks Down Walls With Debating Skills
Alexis Spencer Notabartolo, a sophomore majoring in Political Studies at Pitzer College, was part of an International Debate Education Association (IDEA) conference during the summer designed to bring several forms of debate to Chinese students through the IDEA Chinese Debate Festival in Xi’an, China.
This was the first conference designed to promote debate and discourse in China. Notabartolo was among eight representatives from the Claremont Colleges. The team presented papers at the conference dealing with many aspects of discourse and debate and sat on panels where Chinese high school and university students and coaches could ask questions about presentations and debate in general.
“We expected Beijing to be busy and metropolitan as the country’s capitol, but Xi’an was shocking because of the prominence of Western culture in a place we had all envisioned as small and rural,” she noted. “In fact, the world’s largest Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant sits in Xi’an, down the street from the city wall, one that greatly pre-dates the Great Wall of China.”
The other participants in the conference came from around the world, notably: Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Singapore, Mongolia and the U.S., among others.
“One evening in Beijing, we attended an acrobatic show and ran into Newt Gingrich of all people, in town for meetings with the Chinese government,” she said. “He took photos with us, and was as surprised to see a large group of American students there as we were to see him.”
“Part of our function as ‘foreign experts’ was to judge and coach the Chinese debaters,” Notabartolo said. “Seeing students so ready to try something that many native English speakers are too petrified to even attempt was refreshing. As a member of the Claremont Colleges Debate Union (CCDU), I have ample opportunity to work within communities as a debate judge and coach, but it wasn’t until I went to China that I saw what debate can really do for critical thinking skills. Many of the students were debating for the first time, some even making their first steps into public speaking at all.”
“One thing I cannot forget was the amazing assistance the Pitzer administration and staff provided me in this endeavor,” Notabartolo said. “As a Trustee’s Scholar and a financial aid recipient, there is no way I would have ever been able to finance this trip myself. Thanks to my participation in this conference, I have been invited to present another academic paper at the IDEA general conference -- the largest gathering of the international debate community every year -- in Istanbul, Turkey, in October and one at the Western States Debate Tournament and Conference in San Francisco in February.”