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Georgetown Team Wins National Bioethics Bowl

Interview featuring:

  • Colin Hickey, Head Coach, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Philosophy and Graduate Fellow at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics
  • Maggie Cleary, Team Captain (COL ’14), Philosophy (with a concentration in Bioethics) & American Studies
  • MJ Minjung Koo (COL’ 14), Philosophy (with a concentration in Bioethics)
  • Joelle Marie Rebeiz (SFS ’14), International Politics (with a concentration in Security Studies)

This Sunday, the Georgetown University Bioethics Team won the 1st place trophy in the 2013 Bieothics Bowl Competition, a debate-style tournament of 16 teams from around the country.

In the competition, a part of the 2013 National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference hosted this year at Georgetown, the GU Bioethics Team won every single round, debating topics ranging from experimental drug testing on children to toxic waste dumping.

The team’s head coach, Colin Hickey, and a few of the team members talk about how they prepared for the big win, why they got involved with the team, and how they’re walking away from the competition with more than a trophy.

Colin Hickey: It starts with being presented 14 cases that lay out a moral issue or dilemma or tell a story about an event or policy, then we’re charged with giving a 10 minute presentation or argument to answer each case’s underlying question.

Maggie Cleary: We sit in the Philosophy lounge in New North and discuss all of the cases, one by one. We give each case its due. Then, after the cases are assigned, we each do independent research on various facts/data for the cases. Then, we meet as we develop our case position as a team, and as individuals write their own cases. We all go through many drafts of our cases before producing a final draft approximately a week before the competition. We then spend the rest of the week memorizing our cases.

MJ Minjung Koo: Group work is really the cornerstone when it comes to polishing drafts and prepping for competition, because we are able to think of great criticisms and oppositions, which helps a lot when we’re rebutting. Lastly, coaches are always available to work with each member to come out with a strong case.

Joelle Rebeiz: I think this time we were very well prepared for rebuttals and judges’ questions, and we knew how to frame our arguments in the most convincing way. It also helped that the competition spanned over three days, and we got very familiar with the style of certain judges. Also, and probably even more importantly, the competition was at Georgetown, so right off the bat we were motivated by the fact that the stakes were just so much higher.

Winning the debate in Gaston Hall was a rewarding experience for both the coach and the team.

Colin: As a coach, I know what I want the team to say and where the other team is vulnerable, so during the debate I’m quickly writing down points I hope they’ll cover, thinking “Please say this, please say this.” And as it’s unfolding, all five of them of them eventually knock off every one of the points I have written down. You can see them thinking on the spot as they’re doing it. It’s so awesome to see that type of philosophy done on the fly.

MJ: This was my first debate competition ever. That being said, I was extremely grateful to have such interconnected and understanding team. Bioethics Bowl is an extremely open group, and they don’t discriminate against people like me who never had prior experience in debating or public speaking. Instead, they give you an opportunity to nurture your skills via competing, and they make sure that you’re given the appropriate help. For example, when I was working on my debate cases for bioethics bowl, I was extremely anxious. My team members regularly checked with me to make sure I wasn’t getting too stressed out, and encouraged me to do a lot of mock debate to make me comfortable presenting a case.

Maggie: The competition is always very exhilarating! This one was particularly special for me because I’d never competed in Bioethics Bowl before, only Ethics Bowl. I think the highlight of my undergraduate career will be getting to debate (and winning!) in our beloved Gaston Hall.

After their big win on Sunday—and a victory brunch at The Tombs—the team members have been able to reflect on their experience and get excited for the next competition.

Maggie: I joined the Ethics Bowl team during the fall of my sophomore year. I’d taken “Bioethics” during the summer with Paddy McShane, who was a former coach. She’d mentioned Ethics Bowl in class and after hearing about it, I knew I was interested! Since then, I’ve been hooked.

MJ: I initially joined the Ethics Bowl Team as a case helper in fall 2012. I developed interest in bioethics around that time, and was looking for ways to further my interest. Bioethics is an interdisciplinary field, and it addresses many salient issues that truly represent this period, whether it be ethical issues that come from stem cell research, reproductive/organ/birth tourism, environmental issues, etc. Working with these cases helps me to become aware of, and think critically about current affairs.

Joelle: I joined the Ethics Bowl Team after my freshman year, because my TA for my Intro to Ethics course was one of the coaches at the time. I absolutely fell in love with the course, and the materials, and when she mentioned that there was a whole debate team devoted to it, I knew I had to seek it out when I came back in the fall. I am so glad I did. What I’ve learned in debate has seeped it’s way into every facet of my life—from how I analyze and interpret information, to how I frame my responses to people in conversation, and how I structure my arguments in class. On top of that, ethics terminology has really become ubiquitous in my everyday vocabulary.

Colin: Unlike my ordinary classes, I get to work extensively with each of the team members, which is the best and most fulfilling kind of teaching. It makes really tangible the incredibly impressive progress from where the students start to where they get in the end with amazingly clear, well-argued presentations. That’s the most any teacher can ask for. It’s a long process, so winning is really nice too. I’m just so inexhaustibly proud of them and seeing what they do.

The next competition for the team is the Regional Ethics Bowl in fall 2013. Anyone interested in joining the team, as a researcher or competitor, can contact the team here.