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Student view: Finding the moments that have mattered most

May 4, 2023 - Piper Meloche

Piper Meloche is a senior graduating with honors with a degree in social relations and policy, and political theory and constitutional democracy in James Madison College. Her minors include peace and justice studies, and philosophy and law. Meloche was recently named to the Cross Examination Debate Association’s All-American Team. She is a recipient of the Sylvia E. Tramm Award, a peer mentor in the Prevention Outreach and Education department and a National Debate Scholar Summa Cum Laude.

 Piper Meloche

I began my freshman year at Michigan State University with no intention of joining the debate team. Despite the program’s excellent reputation and my love for the activity, I was burnt out from four years of high school competition and, frankly, uncertain of my ability to succeed at the collegiate level. It was only through sheer luck and the profound hospitality of the coaching staff that I received an opportunity to join the team for the spring semester.  

Through the growing pains of my first season, I had two realizations. The first was my love for the activity of debate itself. Debate became a chance to explore corners of academia outside of my degree. Those surface-level ideas became more complex through competition as my opponents’ perspectives challenged and deepened my own. At the end of each year, I knew I might never become an expert in nuclear posture, antitrust law or alliance commitments. And yet, exploring these ideas fostered an intellectual curiosity that will engage me long after my time at MSU ends.

The second realization was how seamlessly James Madison College and Michigan State University prepared me to succeed competitively. I cannot identify a single competition where theories learned in class did not directly apply to arguments made by my opponents. The political applications of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” the effect of factory farms on the environment, and the historical applications of fetal personhood are not just three distinct topics from three Madison classes on my transcript; teams from Wake Forest University, the University of Kansas and Georgetown University raised these issues within a single tournament. The depth provided by my Madison education allowed me to meet these challenges head-on with confidence and nuance.

More importantly, my time at James Madison taught me how to think critically, listen deeply and realize that a single issue may have not one or two sides but hundreds. I am certain these values will continue to guide me long after my time at Michigan State has ended.

Piper and Nate holding a plaque
Piper Meloche and Nate Glancy

With the help of the best teammates, coaches and opponents I could ask for, my debate career ended on a high note. My debate partner, roommate and good friend Nate Glancy and I made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the National Debate Tournament this April. Our performance is the furthest a team from MSU has achieved at the National Championship since 2017. As proud as I am of our performance this year, I am more excited for the young talented students on the team. They amaze me daily with their talent, intellect and work ethic. I expect many of them to beat or match my run at the National Championship shortly.

As I prepare for graduation, I leave my fellow Spartans with the following advice: Find those moments when you stretch yourself and say “yes.” Yes, to new people. Yes, to new experiences. Yes, to opportunities for which you feel wildly unqualified. The phenomenal education you receive at MSU will continue to prepare you for such challenging situations. If you are as lucky as I was, these moments will profoundly change your life.