May 01, 2023 | By Anna Lyons
As alumni begin to return to BDL in different capacities, the BDL staff has started a bit of an inside joke about doing a “BDL 360” – and having been a debater, a judge, a coach, an intern, a camp instructor, and on both the After School Debate (ASD) and External Affairs (EA) teams, I have definitely made my rounds at the BDL, and done the full 360.
In the summer of 2022, I completed a fellowship with the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) where I worked with the BDL to prepare for the upcoming school year. I had just completed my sophomore year of college, and I was given the opportunity to apply for an accelerated graduate program within my major, meaning my time in grad school could be cut down to 1 year instead of 2 with a bit of extra work in undergrad. I was never sure if grad school was in the cards for me, but this program seemed too good of an opportunity not to consider. I decided to send in my application while I was working with the BDL, writing my entrance essay on how my experience with the BDL shaped me both professionally and academically. For a degree in Policy, Planning, & Management, my background in policy debate was crucial.
The day I got the acceptance letter, we happened to have a BDL staff meeting. As we all went around doing our check-ins, I will never forget the round of applause and overwhelming love and support I received from the entire staff in sharing my news. Working in this environment and receiving this support taught me that professionalism doesn’t have to be miserable; you can have a fun, fulfilling, flexible, and inclusive environment while remaining professional, and this remains one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.
As the NAUDL fellowship wrapped up that summer, I was excited to hear Team EA was looking for an intern for the upcoming school year. I had already formed great connections with the members of Team EA while working with ASD, so it was a smooth transition.
During my internship, I was able to contribute to the BDL’s online presence by launching the TikTok and creating other social media posts. I completed a lot of alumni outreach, judged tournaments, worked in tournament tab and operations, drafted the monthly volunteer newsletter, and so much more. Having done so much work on the programming side of things, working on the managerial side showed me just how much time and dedication it takes to make an organization run. I was able to combine this internship with my newfound academic pathway, learning in the classroom while having hands-on experience.
I chose a concentration in Public & Nonprofit Management for my degree path because of the BDL and similar organizations who helped me realize the importance of their work. As a young debater, the BDL offered my adolescent self the confidence she never knew she needed, but as I grow older my professional experience with them has done nothing less than solidify my professional goals, enabling me to give back to communities that have served me well.
The BDL has given me so many opportunities I never would have otherwise had, and prepared me for both my professional and academic futures. Having spent the last three years involved with the BDL in different capacities, it is a community I will always hold near and dear to my heart, and remain proud to be a part of.