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Debate Team director reflects on time at WVU

Samantha Godbey’s interest in the West Virginia University Debate Team sparked before she became a student when she spotted her coworker in a debate team t-shirt at a camp she worked at the summer before her freshman year.

When the late Neil Berch, the leader of the debate team at the time, reached out to her, Godbey agreed to join because she had always enjoyed politics and arguing.  

Samantha Godbey
Samantha Godbey

“WVU Debate is great because we give opportunities to everyone, those with experience and those without,” Godbey said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the ability to join the debate team as a student even though I had zero experience.”

Godbey completed her undergraduate studies at WVU with a dual degree in international studies and geography. She joined the debate team her freshman year and competed all four years of her undergraduate career. During this time, Godbey was awarded the Michael K. Davis Award as an outstanding four-year debater who started as a novice in the Cross-Examination Debate Association Northeast Region.

“I have always been interested in politics, not exactly knowing what I wanted to do with my life. My undergraduate career was focused on learning about helping people,” Godbey said. “Taking advanced political science classes piqued my interest and taught me more about how politics happen.”

It was her passion for the debate team that inspired Godbey to pursue a PhD at WVU, which she completed in January 2018. Godbey is now the director of the WVU Debate Team, where she leads the team to multiple debate tournaments across the country from September to April.

“Being a leader on the debate team gives students the ability to compete in an intellectual activity in ways they normally wouldn’t be able to,” Godbey said. “I believe WVU and West Virginia gives unbelievable opportunities to students, and I love being a small part in that.”

Two of the WVU Debate Team students under her guidance, Ellen Baker and Brooke Modestita, qualified for the 2018 National Debate Tournament, the first WVU students to do so since 1986.  

“I have always viewed any success I have gained in my professional life at least partially because of the opportunities I received through WVU,” Godbey said. “The debate team has been the best thing to happen in my life professionally. I love working with students and helping the team succeed.”