Debate Team 2017

Debate Team wins IPDA National Title

On the weekend of March 24, 2017, the Union University debate team brought home the national title from the International Public Debate Association national championship at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, AR. At the tournament, the team won first place in the novice division, first place speaker in the Junior Varsity, Varsity, and Professional divisions, the Scholastic Sweepstakes, the Founder’s Sweepstakes, and the Overall Tournament Sweepstakes.

For the season, the team earned Novice and Junior Varsity Sweepstakes awards, Junior Varsity Individual Sweepstakes, and the Founders Award for the top team in the nation.

Junior, Ryan Sinni claimed that he “really enjoyed being a part of last year’s team. I feel privileged to debate on a team that both values excellence and puts Christ at the center of all that we do. The debate team has been a place where I can not only learn how to communicate persuasively, but also disciple and be discipled.”

At the championship tournament, Jacob Collins was the winner of the Novice Division. Clark Hubbard was a finalist in the Junior Varsity Division. Garnering top speaker awards in their divisions were Ryan Sinni (Professional), Hubbard (Junior Varsity), and Jacob Mathis (Team).

According to Collins, the debate team “supports, loves and encourages each other from the first meeting to the final awards banquet.” Our team is “a community of individuals from different walks of life, aiming to discover the truth in light of the Truth that has been revealed to us.”

In season-long awards, Hubbard was once again the big winner, taking home the Junior Varsity Season-Long Sweepstakes.

Hubbard says that debate “has been one of my favorite experiences at Union, and has contributed to who I am as a person more than most things I have done throughout college. I don’t know what job I will find myself in post-graduation, but whatever it is, I have no doubt that my years of debate will influence it positively. Many of my closest friends have come from the debate team.”

The schools that the team competed against ranged from small schools to large universities.

Web Drake, chair of the Communication Arts department is the team’s coach.

“This year’s team was a joy,” Drake said. “I think they genuinely loved each other and were passionate about their craft. That enthusiasm resulted in some big things for this team.”

Drake Faculty of the Year

Drake named Faculty of the Year

Union University presented more than 70 awards to students, faculty and staff at the annual Awards Day chapel service. The Carla D. Sanderson Faculty of the Year Award went to Web Drake, professor of communication arts.

Drake serves as department chair, coordinates the Speech major, and coaches the Union Debate Team.

In his 8 years at Union, Drake has guided the debate team to 3 season-long national championships and 3 championship tournament titles. He has also had multiple tournament and season-long individual award winners. He also chartered the Union Toastmaster’s Club and began the Joseph H. Eaton Speech Competition.

Drake Faculty of the Year

Ashley Fitch Blair, 2015 Faculty of the Year, hands the university mace to Web Drake, 2016 Faculty of the Year

Cam Tracy, Union’s Web-Master, was awarded with the Gary L. Carter Staff of the Year Award. In addition to his work with University Communications, Heit has also served as an adjunct instructor in Communication Arts, teaching classes in the Digital Media Communications program.

The Awards Day chapel, held May 1 in George M. Savage Memorial Chapel, commemorated seniors, students and professors that have shown academic excellence in their studies and teaching.

An academic excellence medal is given to one student from each academic discipline. In order for a student to be eligible for the academic excellence award, the student must have at least a 3.5 GPA in their major courses and must have earned a minimum of 15 hours in their major here at Union, Hopper said.

Communication Arts Academic Excellence Awards:



JOURNALISM: Danica Smithwick



THEATRE: Elizabel Riggs

The Kina S. Mallard Communication Arts Student of the Year Award was presented to Anna Alicia Sails, senior broadcast journalism major and theater minor.

C&C Magazine

C&C named Best Magazine in South Again

Union University’s student news publication, the Cardinal & Cream, won eight awards in the 2015 Best of the South competition sponsored by the Southeast Journalism Conference, including first place for both best college magazine and best public service journalism.

The annual conference, held Feb. 18-20 at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, draws journalism students from more than 45 member colleges and universities in all states across the Southeast. These universities include both large state schools such as University of Memphis, Mississippi State, University of Alabama, Louisiana State University and Georgia State University as well as private institutions like Belmont University, Samford University and Harding University.

It was the second straight year for the Cardinal & Cream to take top honors for best college magazine.

“I feel like our writing is showing increasing depth, maturity and focus as our students are really pushing themselves to work beyond ‘obvious’ story ideas and really create the kinds of articles they would choose to read,” said Ted Kluck, assistant professor of communication arts and Cardinal & Cream adviser. “I was especially proud of our Public Service Journalism award, as it highlights some of the creative friendships we’ve been able to cultivate with faculty and students at Lane College.”

In the Cardinal & Cream’s informal partnership with Lane College, Lane students and their professor, Siobahn Stiles, occasionally come to Monday meetings on the Union campus with the C&C staff. Kluck said the C&C staff also hopes to help Lane start its own student newspaper and has been discussing logistics, challenges and advantages of doing so.

Lane student N’Dezha Robinson and Danica Smithwick, editor-in-chief of the Cardinal & Cream, co-wrote an article in the fall edition of the magazine about the partnership and racial reconciliation.

“Bringing home first place for the magazine that we put so much time into was really rewarding, and I am especially proud to be able to share recognition with Lane College for our partnership,” Smithwick said. “Awards aren’t everything, but of course it’s exciting to have our work validated and place in some competitive categories next to much larger schools.”

In individual awards, Smithwick placed ninth in the “college journalist of the year” category and seventh for best feature writer, Andrew Graham took third place for best magazine layout designer, Ali Renckens won fourth for best magazine writer, and MiKalla Cotton placed ninth and David Parks finished 10th for best press photographer.

The Cardinal & Cream is available online at

From football to faculty: Union welcomes new journalism professor

If anyone had asked Ted Kluck, assistant professor of communication arts, where he imagined himself 15 years ago, he would have lit up with excitement while describing a career playing or coaching in the NFL. However, reality emerged from the bench and put on the jersey for a game that Kluck had never dreamed of playing.

Kluck recuperated in a hospital bed halfway after an operation prompted by a college football injury, when an influential professor stopped by for a visit. The professor pitched an idea to him which elicited a reaction of laughter and skepticism: a writing career.

Ted Kluck with Family Postgame

“At that point, the answer was no,” Kluck said. “In my hometown, people didn’t read, and people didn’t write. It wasn’t even on my radar.”

Kluck rapidly fell into love with writing, and as of today he has written over 20 books.

“At some point my life become about putting myself in uncomfortable situations so that I could create a work of art,” Kluck said. “I could never just be a guy punching a clock. I like to feel scared… Often when you’re scared, you write the best.”

Kluck also never planned on teaching, but a community college adjuncting opportunity provided the chance to pick up another paycheck. It did not take long for him to become infatuated with the profession.

As soon as a ‘rough around the edges’ student softened witj a paper describing a childhood memory of learning to ride a bicycle, Kluck was hooked. Kluck says the teaching has been even greater than writing because he has never really had a bad day while teaching.

Aside from writing and teaching, Kluck’s adventurous life holds much more: marrying his college sweetheart, coaching in Europe, living in Lithuania as a missionary, adopting two sons from Ukraine, opening a publishing company and participating in wrestling.

“To do a dull thing with style— now that’s what I call art.” –Charles Bukowski

“I’m always kind of cooking up some crazy thing to do next,” Kluck said. “I’m actually playing arena football in the spring.”

If someone were to ask what Ted Kluck will be doing 15 years from this moment, many who know him would agree that the possibilities are endless: coaching football, writing the next great American novel, re-entering the mission field or maybe even on his own sports talk show.

Regardless of what Kluck does in his life, these things are certain: he share generosity from his pen with every blank page he meets, and he will always strive to inspire others through his work.

Ted KluckTed Kluck teaches writing courses and advises the Cardinal & Cream, Union’s news source. Kluck is the author of many books, on topics ranging from Mike Tyson to the Emergent Church. Both Why We’re Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church (with Kevin DeYoung) won Christianity Today Book of the Year awards, and Paper Tiger won a Michigan Notable Book award in 2008. His work has also appeared in ESPN the Magazine and Christianity Today.

Faculty of the Year

Blair named Faculty of the Year

Union University presented more than 70 awards to students, faculty and staff at the annual Awards Day chapel service. The Carla D. Sanderson Faculty of the Year Award went to Ashley Fitch Blair, assistant professor of communication arts.

Blair coordinates the Public Relations major and serves as the faculty advisor for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, faculty director of Bulldog Communication Group, and chair of the university’s Faculty Development Committee.

In her 15 years at Union Blair has spearheaded the chartering of Union’s Public Relation Student Society of America chapter (2005), helped guide the public relations major to CEPR certification through PRSA (2012), co-founded Bulldog Communication Group, a student lead public relations agency (2011), and co-hosted a PRSSA regional conference (2008).

This year, Blair took on the role of Adviser to the Cardinal & Cream, leading them through the transition to a completely online news source and the inaugural issues of the C&C Magazine, which was ranked the #1 college magazine in the Best of the South competition at the 2015 Southeast Journalism Conference in March.

Scott Heit, Union’s assistant vice president for university communications, was awarded with the Gary L. Carter Staff of the Year Award. In addition to his work with University Communications, Heit has also served as an adjunct instructor in Communication Arts, teaching the Publication Design course.

The Awards Day chapel, held May 1 in George M. Savage Memorial Chapel, commemorated seniors, students and professors that have shown academic excellence in their studies and teaching.

An academic excellence medal is given to one student from each academic discipline. In order for a student to be eligible for the academic excellence award, the student must have at least a 3.5 GPA in their major courses and must have earned a minimum of 15 hours in their major here at Union, Hopper said.

Communication Arts Academic Excellence Awards:




JOURNALISM: Katherine Sue Burgess



THEATRE: Daniel Poore

The Kina S. Mallard Communication Arts Student of the Year Award was presented to Jenaye White, senior pubic relations major and managing editor of the Cardinal & Cream.

Into the Woods

Theatre, Music open “Into the Woods”

The Union University theater program and music department are joining forces to put on one of the most well-known musicals of this year.

“Into the Woods” will be performed April 23-28 in the W.D. Powell Theater at Union University. Many of the actors, actresses, directors, musicians, costume designers and others involved in this production have worked for months to put together the performance.

The theater program and music department are still working to make the show perfect for opening night on Thursday.

“Rehearsals are going really well and I think things are shaping up for it to be a fantastic show,” said Christian Al-Hagal, freshman theater major here. “Our set designs and our costumes are absolutely gorgeous.”

Al-Hagal is starring in the role of Jack in “Into the Woods” and loves the musical because there is “something magical” about it.

“What I love about ‘Into the Woods’ is that it takes some of history’s greatest fairytales and mixes them all into one big story,” Al-Hagal said. “So it’s taking all of these classic fairytales and making them into something brand new.”

There had been some uncontrollable setbacks in the beginning of this semester with illnesses and the snow days, but that only made the cast work extra hard to put on the best show, cast members said.

“The show is very entertaining,” said David Burke, professor and director of theater and the director for the musical. “There is a lot of laughter and singing and the audience will receive that.”

One of the biggest joys for Burke from putting together the musical is seeing theater students and music students spending time together outside of rehearsal. It is very comforting to see the two departments coming together and building strong bonds with each other through one common cause, he said.

“The joy, for me, is getting to work with new people,” Burke said.

Tickets for the shows are still available for purchase at Union Station from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Tickets for the general public are $12.00 the day of the show. Tickets for Union students are $10.00 the day of the show.

IPDA National Champions

Debate Team wins IPDA National Title

On the weekend of March 27, the Union University debate team brought home the national title from the International Public Debate Association national championship at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho. The team won first place in the novice and professional divisions, the team sweepstakes and the overall season long Founders Award, the season-long championship.

“It was a really great feeling at the tournament,” said Allison Pulliam, junior double major in broadcast journalism and political science. “It was a really good feeling to be able to walk up on stage and everyone on our team win an award.”

Pulliam won first in the nation for the professional division in season long awards.

“It was extremely enjoyable,” said Thomas Gray, sophomore broadcast journalism major. “We did something that was unprecedented and unheard of.”

The schools that the team went to compete with ranged from small schools to large universities.

“It was also really interesting to have nationals in Boise because a lot of our tournaments were regional tournaments and we were competing against people from the south,” Pulliam said.


Gray also said competing nationally was different than competing regionally because there are schools from all over the country, so competitors have different backgrounds and styles of speaking, and that provided the team with a different dynamic.

“I appreciated seeing all the different styles at nationals because when you compete regionally, it can isolate you and your team just a little bit, from the rest of the country,” Gray said. “Nationals was a really great opportunity to break out from your region and see what people from other parts of the country value in the way they debate.”

Pulliam said that the team was competitive and driven to succeed, and this helped them be victorious at nationals.

Web Drake, chairman of the communication arts department and the debate director, went along with the team on this journey and watched them succeed.

“This year’s team was a privilege to coach,” Drake said. “They understood what was necessary and set out to accomplish their objectives with determination and focus.”

C&C Magazine

C&C Magazine named Best in the South

C&C, a magazine publication of Cardinal and Cream, was named Best College Magazine of the South at the Southeast Journalism Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, the weekend of Feb. 26-Feb. 28.

Katherine Burgess, senior journalism major and editor-in-chief of Cardinal and Cream, said she was surprised and excited by the award.

“My heart jumped and I nearly teared up when I found out the magazine was the ‘Best of the South’,” Burgess said.

Jenaye White, senior public relations major and managing editor of print for Cardinal and Cream, said she had a similar reaction.

“I was blown away and so excited,” she said. “It’s a huge deal to win such a prestigious award.”

Last semester was the first semester Cardinal and Cream published a magazine. It was a collaborative effort by the entire staff, and Burgess said she was pleased to see their work recognized.

“From the photos to the text to the layout, the pieces came together beautifully for our first magazine. I’m so pleased with the work the Cardinal and Cream staff accomplished. It’s wonderful to see that work acknowledged by SEJC,” she said.

Courtney Brown, senior art major and design editor for Cardinal and Cream, said she thought collaboration was key to the magazine’s success.

“It was a real group effort across the board. There was a real commitment to excellence, so everyone poured in a lot of time and effort to make it timely and timeless,” said Brown.

White agreed, and said careful planning was also integral to the magazine’s success.

“We thought long and hard about each article, and I think our careful planning really showed in our final project,” she said.

Ashley Fitch Blair, faculty adviser to Cardinal and Cream, said that not only was each article carefully planned, but every visual detail was as well.

“I believe attention to detail really gave us an edge. The staff did an exceptional job of combining strong writing, design and visuals. Nothing was left to chance. Every story, photo, graphic, color and font was intentionally chosen and refined to create a cohesive piece,” said Blair.

The conference is composed of more than 45 colleges and universities in seven states across the southeast. Each year, the top ten individuals and schools are awarded for their work in a variety of categories ranging from multimedia journalism to print layout. Cardinal and Cream staff won a total of twelve awards.

Cardinal and Cream’s print newspaper was ranked third and the website was ranked sixth. Individual awards include alumnae Kate Benedetti, fifth in magazine writing;  Brown, second in magazine layout; Burgess, second in the College Journalist of the Year category and sixth in news writing;  senior Christian ministry and missions major Mikalla Cotton, second in multimedia journalism; senior advertising major Evan Estes, ninth in arts and entertainment writing; alumnus Nathan Handley, second in special events coverage and sixth in newspaper page layout and White, eighth in feature writing.

Estes said he was both surprised and pleased at his individual award, and advised aspiring journalists to “treat every article as if you were submitting it to win an award.”

Cotton said she was “pleasantly surprised” with her award. “I knew I could have made my multimedia submission better, but I’m still humbled to receive such a high reward,” she said.

Blair said her hopes for future C&C magazines are high.

“The inaugural C&C staff has created a tremendous foundation for the future and set a high bar for excellence. I hope the C&C will build on this foundation, showcasing the unique strengths of each year’s editors, writers, photographers and designers as they cover compelling stories for the Union community,” she said.

Cardinal and Cream’s next magazine will be available May 1.

Life after graduation – Flippin lands job with Make-A-Wish

Between the uncertainty of life after graduation and the 7.3 percent unemployment rate in America, many college students face the challenge of obtaining a job. Despite the discouraging statistics, many recent communication arts graduates have been hired and are on the road to success.

Kathryn Flippin, a 2013 Union public relations graduate, is now a wish coordinator under the Program Services Department for Make-A-Wish Mid-South, one of the 62 independently chartered non-profit chapters that grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions.

“I first learned about Make-A-Wish America from my sorority, Chi Omega,” Flippin said. “We raised money each year to grant a wish for a child with life-threatening illness. I still remember the first wish granting I was able to participate in, and we were able to grant Dillon’s wish of going to the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

“It was through that encounter with Make-A-Wish America that I realized how special the organization was,” she continued.

After her junior year of college, Flippin planned to study oversees, but the plan fell through. Flippin looked at various internship options and was approached by another Union student who had interned at Make-A-Wish Mid-South the previous summer and who encouraged her to apply.

Flippin was accepted for the internship and helped coordinate the wish granting events in Memphis, Tenn. and surrounding areas.

“My biggest take-away from interning at Make-A-Wish Mid-South is that no detail is too small,” Flippin said. “”So many times we get so caught up in making a big impression that we forget about the little things. The little things matter, and I take pride in my attention to detail and my effort to take initiative in the small things.”

After the fall semester of her senior year, Flippin was contacted by her previous manager who informed her that a wish coordinator position had become available. Because of her internship, Flippin’s previous manager knew she had the set of skills and experience necessary to do the job. Flippin sent in her résumé and got the job.

Flippin encourages students to intern with the hopes of gaining experience for life after graduation.

“If you are at all thinking about interning while in college – go for it because internships lead to jobs,” Flippin said. “They also give you a good feel for a work environment. The best part, though, is the relationship you can build with your supervisor.

“When the time comes for you to get a job after college, the recommendation from your boss can really set you apart from other people,” she continued. “It is hard for employers to hire people without experience, so even if you are looking at an unpaid position for a summer, the impact that job can have is worth all the time you spend in it.”

Communication professors attend California film conference

Union University communication arts professors Chris Blair and David Burke recently attended the Cinema Studies Conference hosted by the Los Angeles Film Studies Center in Los Angeles.

The conference theme was “The Business of The Business,” and it featured executives from Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Wind Dancer Films, as well as Anthony Zuiker, creator of the CSI franchise.

“David and I went to see the current state of the entertainment industry, so we could bring these ideas and trends back to our film studies courses at Union,” Blair said. “We also had a chance to eat lunch at Warner Bros. with a communication arts alum, John Crook, who works in their Worldwide Theatrical Distribution division.”

The conference offered a behind-the-scenes look at the RED Studios in Hollywood where “I Love Lucy” was filmed in the 1950s and “Seinfeld” was filmed in the 1990s.

Blair also made a presentation to the faculty attending the conference, entitled, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as a Teaching Tool in Cinema Studies.”

According to the LAFSC website, the conference was aimed at the “overlooked essentials” of show business:  marketing, finance and distribution.

The Los Angeles Film Studies Center offers a semester-long, immersive filmmaking program, where students learn the art and craft of filmmaking in a Christian environment. Numerous Union students attend LAFSC as part of the Film Studies minor.