Dr. Julie Welker, chair of Howard Payne University’s Department of Communication and coach of HPU’s speech and debate team, was recently named the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) Educator of the Year.

The award is selected by members of the TIFA executive council and is voted on by the organization’s membership. TIFA is the college-level forensics organization affiliated with the Texas Speech Communication Association (TSCA). TIFA sponsors programs dealing with running and participating in college/university-level forensics tournaments and is the organizing body for Texas intercollegiate speech and debate.

Wayne Kraemer, executive director of TIFA, said that Welker has done an incredible job at HPU.

“She has built her forensics program from the ground up into a well-respected program in the state, national and even international level,” said Kraemer. “Julie’s dedication to teaching and coaching is evident in the success her students have, but more importantly in the competitive professionalism her students demonstrate. From graciously hosting TIFA championship tournaments to tirelessly serving on committees, Julie has been instrumental in nurturing and promoting forensics in Texas, and for this we are thankful.”

Welker, in her twenty-second year on the faculty at HPU, has been coaching the speech and debate team since 2005.

“I am both pleased for and proud of Dr. Welker’s recognition as Educator of the Year,” said Dr. Richard Fiese, dean of the School of Music and Fine Arts. “Her commitment to her discipline and excellence in teaching are the very hallmarks of her career and this recognition by her colleagues affirms this.”

Welker said that the forensics organization Student Speaker Bureau (SSB) was already a well-established speakers’ program on campus when she became the coach, but the students wanted to compete on the intercollegiate level.

“I had a group of strong competitors and we made it happen,” said Welker. “Since then, we have been competing all over the nation and even yearly in Oxford, England.”

The SSB speech and debate team is made up of students with backgrounds in high school speech and debate. Each student receives a scholarship for being on the team.

“I like to think of it like athletics – we get the very best of the high school competitors – because we are competing at a completely different level at the university level,” she said. “Also, in intercollegiate forensics, there are no school divisions, so HPU competes against all sizes of universities, including the big Division I schools.”

Welker, who coaches the team in addition to her faculty teaching duties, said her work with the team is one of the highlights of her career.

“I love working with these very bright students – they are hard workers and are driven to succeed on their own,” she said. “Really, they make me look good – they are the ones who shine and bring home the awards.”

Welker will be recognized at the October 2020 Texas Speech Communication Association convention, where she will be awarded a lifetime membership to the TSCA.

“I’m honored to have been chosen for this award,” she said. “It’s been a true joy coaching and teaching students and I have been impacted by so many of their lives.”