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A kind of homecoming

CMU debate team virtually reunites after 20 years

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, four Colorado Mesa University (CMU) alumni and their former professor and debate coach reunited in an unlikely way 

Two decades after taking a train from Grand Junction, Colorado, to Omaha, Nebraska, for a national parliamentary debate competitionCMU alumni Brett Feddersen, William Murphy, Crystal Huizinga (formally Luce) and Bryan Howard had a Zoom reunion with their former debate coach and Professor of Political Science Tim Casey, PhD.  

We had talked about meeting in-person, but technology allowed and enabled us to really reach out,” said Casey. “In some ways, COVID-19 gives you the incentive to reach out across longer distances.” 

They were on a Zoom call for two hours, reminiscing of fun stories of the past and catching up on how life has been since their undergraduate years in the Grand Valley.  

“It’s important to reach out to the people that stick out in your mind and those that matter to you,” said Casey. “Everyone has those moments when they think back to that magical time in their life and I think that was the case for all of us.” 

Casey started teaching at CMU in 1996 and by 1998, he was the school’s debate coach. For Casey and the four competitors, their chemistry was unmatched. When he thinks back to spring 2000, he remembers the group competing against teams from throughout the country.

Like other sports, Feddersen, Murphy, Huizinga and Howard were a part of a cohesive team that had fun and continually believed in each other. Most of them have kept in touch during the years, and virtually reconnecting as a group made that bond even stronger.  

“What has been really satisfying for me as a coach and as a professor is to watch how they’ve developed since they’ve left CMU,” said Casey.  

Both Murphy and Huizinga were first-generation students. Since then, Murphy has earned his PhD and is an associate professor and chair of the English and communications department at Miami Dade College. Huizinga is a junior research associate at Aurora Research Institute and is working on earning her PhD in education and human developmentFedderson is the manager for IT infrastructure for Regional Transportation District in Denver, while Howard is a senior lobbyist for the U.S Green Building Council in Washington, D.C.  

After they connected for two hours on Zoom for their twenty-year reunion, they set up another virtual meeting the following week and talked for hours all over again 

You pick up right where you left off in some ways, though there's a lot more content of life to talk about. It’s people you trust, people you know and it feels good to reconnect. It's a kind of homecoming, said Casey.  

Casey said they plan to call and connect every few months.  

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Written by Kelsey Coleman