The Minnesota Urban Debate League

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2020 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Fund Source
Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund
The Minnesota Urban Debate League
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
In Progress
Start Date
August 2020
End Date
July 2021
Activity Type
Counties Affected
Project Overview

The Minnesota Urban Debate League is an independent program of Augsburg University. We serve over 1,200 students and provide academic debate programming to 40+ Twin Cities high school and middle schools. Two of our programs are designed to specifically address the needs of immigrant communities in Minnesota: The Spanish Debate League and the East African Debate Initiative. Both programs build students’ positive cultural identity while sharpening their academic skills.

Competitive Grant Making Body
Advisory Group Members and Qualifications

Savita Katarya (Rochester, MN) Savita works in cross-cultural leadership development and was connected to the CEO Tour in 2019. She identifies as an immigrant from India.

Jose Losada-Montero (Marshall, MN) Jose was a contact of a former MHC staffperson (Kirk MacKinnon Morrow). He is a Spanish professor at SMSU. He identifies as an immigrant from Spain. 

Juan Fernandez-Iglesias (Winona, MN) Juan Fernandez-Iglesias is a Winona State University Global Studies and Languages professor, and has blogged for MHC previously. He identifies as an immigrant from Spain. 

Conflict of Interest Disclosed
Conflict of Interest Contact

Laura Benson

Minnesota Humanities Center


Legal Citation / Subdivision
Minn. State Legislature Article 4, Section 2, Subdivision 8, (d)
Appropriation Language

$850,000 the first year and $850,000 the second year are for a competitive grants program to provide grants to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Minnesota.
The Minnesota Humanities Center must operate a competitive grants program to provide grants to programs that preserve and honor the cultural heritage of Minnesota or that provide education and student outreach on cultural diversity or to programs that empower communities to build their identity and culture. Priority must be given to grants for individuals and organizations working to create, celebrate, and teach indigenous arts and cultural activities and arts organizations and programs preserving, sharing, and educating on the arts and cultural heritage of immigrant communities in Minnesota.

2020 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
Number of full time equivalents funded
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Broadly, our Spanish Debate League & East African Debate Initiative aim to improve academic opportunity and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) for Twin Cities middle and high school students.

The MNUDL evaluates our Spanish and East African debate programs with the same outcomes as our nonspecialized community programs. These academic and SEL outcomes include:


Outcome 1: Helping middle and high-school aged youth demonstrate & achieve academic growth

Indicator 1a: Participants will demonstrate increased reading comprehension;

Measurement(s): MCA Reading Scores


Indicator 1b: Participants will demonstrate improvements in academic skills such as critical thinking and analysis;

Measurement(s): Survey questions on ability to understand both sides of an issue and confidence in understanding complex ideas


Indicator 1c: Participants will demonstrate greater engagement in school;

Measurement(s): Class attendance, Enrollment in advanced coursework


Outcome 2: Helping middle and high-school aged youth improve their social and emotional skills

Indicator 2a: Participants will demonstrate growth mindset;

Measurement(s): End of season student survey


Indicator 2b: Participants will develop and maintain positive relationships with teachers, coaches, mentors, and peers;

Measurement(s): End of season student survey


Indicator 2c: Participants will learn conflict management skills;

Measurement(s): End of season student survey


Outcome 3: Helping students feel empowered, and connected to their culture and community

Indicator 3a: Participants will feel empowered with the skills to influence those around them;

Measurement: End of season student survey


Indicator 3b: Participants will feel more connected to their culture and community;

Measurement: Interviews of students


Goals will be tracked by our program team on our data dashboard with a weekly assessment of new program launch metrics. These include: number of new teacher coaches recruited, number of kick-off meetings held, number of students recruited per school program, number of students attending practices and then number of students attending tournaments.

Program academic outcomes (Outcome 1) are measured through our research agreements with Minneapolis Public Schools and Saint Paul Public Schools. The MNUDL provides researchers with the name, student ID, and school that a student attends, along with the number of practices and tournaments a student attends (program dosage.) Researchers compares debaters vs. non-debater peers and evaluates:

- MCA reading and math scores

- Enrollment in advanced classes

- Attendance

- Expulsion or suspensions

- ACT scores

- Progress toward on-time graduation

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) outcomes (Outcome 2) are measured through an annual student survey of participating students. Students complete the survey online through a google document. Survey questions have been approved by Dr. Brianna Mezuk of the University of Michigan who has published in peer-reviewed journals regarding the impact of debate on academic and SEL outcomes. SEL categories include: Growth Mindset, Goal Setting, Resilience, Positive Relationships & Agency, and Constructive Criticism.

Student Empowerment and Agency as well as connection to students’ culture and community (Outcome 3) will be measured through a combination of the student annual survey as well as interviews of students at tournaments.

Our entire team reviews our outcomes regularly. Additionally, we share our evaluation results with stakeholders, including foundations, school districts, coaches, parents, and students, through monthly e-newsletters, social media, and quarterly print newsletters. Our staff and advisory board use this information to continually improve programming.

Measurable Outcome(s)

In progress

Proposed Outcomes Achieved
outcomes data not yet available
Project Manager
First Name
Last Name
Cram Helwich
Organization Name
The Minnesota Urban Debate League
Administered By
Administered by

987 Ivy Avenue East
St. Paul, MN 55106

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