The NSD Experience: Mentoring

Welcome to our series on the NSD experience. Here at NSD, we believe our curriculum offers students the opportunity to pursue their debate passions while fostering a comprehensive understanding of technical skills and academic scholarship via a myriad of different methods. In each of these articles, we will highlight an aspect of our curriculum from the view of both the instructors and students that have experienced it. For more information on the NSD pedagogy, check out our website at

The Mentoring System

West Des Moines Valley coach and NSD staff member Trent Gilbert:

The mentoring experience at NSD is truly unique— students get frequent one-on-one attention with an instructor and also get to work more closely with other students. As an instructor, I found it incredibly effective to work individually with each of my mentees to help build the skills that both they and their lab leaders had identified as potential points of improvement. The small group setting also allowed me to focus on concepts with the students as a whole and allow them to build upon each other’s ideas in a way that really cemented their understanding of the material. Another strong benefit of the mentoring program is that it pushes students to challenge themselves outside of the lab setting as well— I, along with all the other mentors, was sure to refer my students to the best instructors possible for each specific skill and also made sure I was a strong resource all the time for them throughout camp, and even throughout the following school year when I ran into them at tournaments.

Trent Gilbert will be teaching at both the 2018 NSD Flagship session and the 2018 NSD Philadelphia session. 

Private coach for multiple students and returning NSD Staff Member: Stephen Scopa

A debate camp experience, if taken advantage of, can be one of the most educational, enlightening, and exciting experiences of your debate career. At NSD, we attempt to ensure you reach your maximum potential by designing specific programs designed to extract and enhance the features that make you a unique and successful debater. Our mentorship program is just one of many tools NSD uses in pursuit of our goal of assisting you in your ascension in, and enjoyment of, debate. Our mentorship program places 3-5 students in a classroom setting with an instructor, multiple times per week to allow for enhanced one-on-one time with student, and allows students to ask highly qualified instructors to cater to each debater’s specific needs. NSD prides itself on inclusion and comfortability being cornerstones of any debate camp experience. The mentorship program allows our camp to create an environment conducive to learning for each and every student.

Stephen Scopa will be teaching at the 2018 NSD Flagship session. 

Robby G., student from the Terrence Lonam/ Shivane Sabharwal/ Gillian Zipursky lab, “With a small amount of people in a group, you get a lot of attention and it’s much easier to become a better debater.”




Lindsey P., student from the Tom Evnen, Becca Traber, Zoe Ewing, and Grant Brown lab,  “NSD’s mentor program has given me the opportunity to work with instructors that I initially would have been too scared to approach on unfamiliar topics. For students that thrive in a small classroom setting with tons of individualized attention, NSD’s mentor program couldn’t be better”






Sanjana B. of the Benjamin Koh/Sean McCormick/Richard Cook lab, “One of the most notably special parts of my NSD experience has been the mentoring system. Mentor groups really feel like a place of collaborative transformation and my last year’s mentor group genuinely grew together. Our mentor was incredible, giving us each individual attention, while also coming up with group lessons and projects that engaged each of us. He really pushed us to be our best, while also giving us the support we needed to get there. All of the other students in my group had something to teach me as well, providing insight on their various different skill sets during group drills. While my mentor group was one of the most constructive learning environments at NSD for me, they also grew to be like a second team, with constant encouragement and a few laughs along the way.”

NSD 2018 registration ends on May 1st. Spots are going fast, so register today at 


Benjamin Koh