The Intermountain West’s First and Finest Independent School
We inspire students to lead ethical and productive lives through a college preparatory program that promotes the pursuit of academic and personal excellence.

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“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”

- Joseph Joubert

Our Program

Rowland Hall believes in the value of debate because we know it is an essential element of an educated, productive, and ethical community. Debate fosters critical thinking and communication skills for the 21st century while providing students with the forum to nurture their sense of advocacy. While debate intentionally appears across the curriculum, it is our competitive team that distinguishes Rowland Hall as the strongest debate program in the Intermountain West. In fact, in 2010 Rowland Hall was officially recognized as a “School of Excellence” by the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) and is consistently ranked in the top 10% of schools nationwide for member degrees. Our expert leadership helps: in 2017, NSDA named coach Mike Shackelford Utah's Educator of the Year—read our December 2017 news story.

Read more about our debate team in a November 2016 Fine Print story republished from the 2015-2016 Annual Report.

Rowland Hall Debate History

Rowland Hall debate teams have been leaders since 1985. View a historical timeline of debate at Rowland Hall.

The high school team is made up of approximately 50 debaters who participate in a variety of events (CX, LD, or PF) and divisions (Varsity or Novice). Students also determine their own commitment level and goals. Our most competitive students attend 10 to 12 tournaments a year and can travel all over the country, from Los Angeles to Boston. Others stay committed to regional or local performances, but everyone is committed to personal excellence. In just the last five years, the program has produced seven State Champions, 19 National Qualifiers, and 14 Academic All-Americans, and has sent dozens of students to college on scholarships.

Speech and debate is an essential part of the middle school. Required in the sixth grade as part of the “Foundations” curriculum, students develop strong communication, argumentation, and advocacy skills. Students have additional elective options to explore debate in the seventh and eighth grade in competitive and non-competitive environments. Students who officially join the team will have four to five tournament opportunities in the third trimester. Rowland Hall consistently earns awards throughout the season and has won the State Championship twice in the last five years!

Prospective Debaters

College Matriculations for RH Debaters

Meet the Coach

Mike Shackelford

-Board Member of the NDCA
-Chair of the GSL Nationals District
-Fmr. President of Utah Debate Coaches Association

Student Testimonials

—Ling Ritter ’15, Princeton University

“Debate combines competitive challenges and intellectual rigor that go beyond the classroom and was instrumental in my self-improvement and passion for learning.”
—Ethan Arsht ’13, George Washington University

"A national orientation inspires us to work harder to defeat major debate schools across the country, and incentivizes a stronger feeling of community."
—Caroline Nielsen ’12, Pomona College

"Nothing forges lifelong memories like debate. The preparation, the struggles of competition, the travel, and the freedom to share your thoughts; they all contribute to a strong shared experience that results in last friendships."
—Jordan Friedman ’10, USC

“Debate was honestly the most important class I took at Rowland Hall. From the analytical reasoning, fast-paced thinking, and exposure to materials not presented in any core class, debate enriched my high school experience in more ways than I can even say."
—Cyrus Akrami ’07, Dartmouth College

You Belong at Rowland Hall


720 South Guardsman Way
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108
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