APU’s Ethics Bowl team went to the Nineteenth Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Competition held at the APPE Annual Conference last Sunday. After several morning rounds, the team was able to place into the competition’s quarterfinals, the squad’s first accomplishment of this kind in four years.
“When we first went on to compete four years ago, no one knew who or what APU was,” said Ethics Bowl coach Rico Vitz, associate professor in the department of philosophy. “This time around, I remember overhearing a student ask what school we were from and the another student responding with ‘Azusa Pacific University.’ We have definitely grown a reputation.”
Vitz has been coaching the Ethics Bowl team for four years and is responsible for the program’s start at the university. As a professor and coach of the team, Vitz teaches a three-hour class that team members are enrolled in to prepare their cases for debate during the competition.
“Every week we meet during our class period, which is three hours. Then twice a week as the semester progressed,” senior political science and philosophy major Justin Manassee said. “But for the last couple of weeks, we met every day for a minimum of three hours in order to prepare for the competition.”
In December, the team went in the regional division of the competition and was victorious against 20 other teams. At the national match, the team was up against 175-200 university teams ranging from Maryland to California. Additionally, many students on the six-member squad had never competed at the national level before.
“I think personally, I was more nervous because for the first three rounds, my cases were the ones being called,” senior philosophy major Marisa Espinoza said. “But I was calmed down because I was there with my team, and I knew they had my back. We were all pretty excited, and it was a big accomplishment.”
The team is ranked eighth in the nation and is composed of both junior and senior APU students.
“Every year we have three goals, which are to manifest Christ-like virtues, manifest intellectual virtues and a performance goal,” said Vitz. “My hope is that we hit our stride as we keep going forward and that we build on the previous year.”
According to Manassee, he is “excited to be part of a team that is leading the conversation” in topics that are prominent within society.
“I think it’s great for a Christian university to take a large part of these types of discussion. When you see public debates like this, they carry certain stigmas and there’s expectations to quote the Bible,” Manassee said. “It’s wonderful to go to these competitions and display certain qualities [that] other universities also admire.”
Aside from national recognition and a hardworking spirit, many team members feel their involvement with the group has helped them advance their personal speaking skills.
“I started as a sophomore back in 2012, and I didn’t get to perform that year, but I still got my foot in,” Manassee said. “I didn’t have much of a voice or presence, but over the year I got that voice, got that footing. When I talk in a subject I’m confident in, that confidence is very present.”
According to Vitz, he is proud of the team and wants to continue the model of humility even if “that team didn’t have the success others had.”