Montreat College’s Ethics Bowl debate team secured an impressive second-place finish in this year’s North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) Ethics Bowl, held February 9-10 at the North Carolina Legislative Office Complex in Raleigh. This marked the first time in school history that Montreat earned a championship berth. It was also the fourth consecutive competition in which Montreat has reached the semifinals.

“To be in the semifinals four competition years in a row and continue to debate at a high level is extraordinarily difficult,” noted Dr. Mark A. Wells, who serves as Montreat’s Ethics Bowl coach. “Since I have been at Montreat, the college has consistently raised the academic standards for its students. The students we admit are intelligent, confident, and mature Christians who will continue to represent Montreat well at this competition. Hopefully, we can bring home a first-place trophy one of these years.”

The rigorous, two-day competition featured 18 teams from NCICU member colleges and universities. The 2024 theme was “Ethics in Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity.” Students had to consider several complicated cases involving both artificial intelligence and cybersecurity before making their arguments about their position on the case.

This year’s Montreat College Ethics Bowl team members included Lydia Basham, Daniel Bussey, Juliana Doyle, Samantha Franze, and George Yoder. The students displayed exceptional debate skills across four debates in pool play before advancing to the semifinals, where they defeated St. Augustine’s University before falling to Queens University of Charlotte in the championship.

“What I am most proud of is the way our students exemplified the Christian character of Montreat College,” said Dr. Wells. “They utilized a specifically Christian ethical approach in response to the cases and questions using both Christian thinkers and Scripture in their responses, showing that Christianity offers practical principles that assist in answering difficult ethical problems. The fact that we made it to the finals using a distinctly Christian approach speaks well of the team’s presentation skills and knowledge, but also of the practicality and necessity of Christian ethics in the world today—Christianity works!”

This was NCICU’s 13th Ethics Bowl and the 11th time Montreat College has participated in the competition.

“This year’s teams were exceptional,” said NCICU President Hope Williams in the organization’s official press release. “By participating in the Ethics Bowl, students learn research and presentation skills that will serve them well in their careers.”

In addition to the competition, participating students gained a valuable opportunity to interact with more than 70 professionals who volunteered their time as judges or moderators and who represented many networking opportunities and careers from law, architecture, engineering, and cybersecurity to banking, nonprofits, and state agencies. Montreat College’s financial sponsor this year was Coca-Cola Consolidated, Inc.

“We could not compete without their generosity,” Dr. Wells said. “I spoke several times with their General Manager of Sales Operations, Thomas Varnadore. He mentioned that Coca-Cola Consolidated, Inc. specifically requested to fund and sponsor the Montreat College team because they are missionally aligned with the college and believe in what we were doing. After each round that he attended, he said he was impressed with the confidence and teamwork, but especially the Christian character of the team.”

Clark Dudek, an AI expert, was the keynote speaker at a dinner honoring this year’s participants at the North Carolina Museum of History. He discussed how society has adapted to emerging technologies.

“AI is new and may be scary,” he said, “but we are working on how to connect with this new tool and learn how it can complement the rest of our tools.”