The PLNU Speech and Debate Team just won the National Championship in Debate Sweepstakes, scoring double the number of sweepstakes points of the second place school in the Debate Division of the Christian College Nationals.  PLNU also won Second Place Sweepstakes in the combined division of Speech and Debate at this 2011 National Christian College Forensics Association (NCCFA) Championship Tournament, hosted at Azusa Pacific University this past weekend (March 11-13, 2011). 

Senior Daniel Nadal, Co-President of the team was named Top Speaker in the nation, in the Open Division of Parliamentary Debate, and all 9 of the PLNU teams entered in Parliamentary Debate advanced to the elimination rounds through posting winning records in preliminary rounds. 

In Lincoln Douglas debate PLNU students won several individual National Champion titles as well.  MacLean Andrews is the National Champion in the Senior Division. Also noteworthy is that two of our brand new walk on debaters this year with no previous high school debate experience, Ben Carney and Brian Bentley, were both named Co National Champions after winning their respective Semi Final rounds in Lincoln Douglas debate, advancing to the Final Round in that division’s bracket.  Imagine the NCAA Basketball bracket, but a little smaller, not as much media attention and very few commercial endorsements.

We have one last National Championship tournament this year, unfortunately taking place this Wednesday through Sunday for our Senior Teams.  It will be at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs.  Thanks for your continued encouragement of the students in your classes and the institutional and prayer support from the PLNU community that make this possible.


NCCFA 2011 National Championship Tournament Results

Parliamentary Debate Results:

Senior Division

                        Team results:

Ashley Nuckels and Ian Sharples – Semi Finalists

Mac Andrews and Michelle Diaz – Semi Finalists

Kim Jensen and Alex Pineda – Quarter Finalists

Barbara Gausewitz and Ciera Wilson – Quarter Finalists

McKayla Carpenter and John Morris – Quarter Finalists

Daniel Nadal and James Wilson – Octa Finalists


                        Speaker Awards:

1st Speaker:                 Daniel Nadal (Tournament Champion)

8th Speaker:                 James Wilson

9th Speaker:                 Ian Sharples

15th Speaker:               Ashley Nuckels

17th Speaker:               Kim Jensen


Junior Division

            Team Awards:

Benjamin Carney and Christy Wright – Semi Finalists

Brooke Rakes and Kassi Sanstrom – Quarter Finalists

Hailey Courtney and Brian Bentley – Quarter Finalists


                        Speaker Awards:

5th Speaker:                 Haley Courtney

7th Speaker:                 Brian Bentley

9th Speaker:                 Brooke Rakes

15th Speaker:               Kassi Sandstrom


Lincoln Douglas Debate:

MacLean Andrews: Open Division National Champion

James Wilson: Semi Finalist Open Division

Ben Carney:  Co National Champion Novice Division

Brian Bentley: Co National Champion Novice Division


Individual Events Results:


Daniel Nadal:  Open Impromptu Third Place

Ashley Nuckels: Open Extemp Third Place;  Open Rhetorical Criticism Fourth Place

Kim Jensen: Open Informative Sixth Place

McKayla Carpenter: Open Impromptu Semi Finalist

Communications & Theatre

Our mission at PLNU is to equip students to become future leaders in our community.  We welcome Point Loma residents to visit campus and become involved with our programs. To learn more about how PLNU is making an impact on our community, we invite you to view our 2010 annual report at, or if you prefer, you can request a print copy by mail.

To request a copy of the annual report, or if you are interested in making a donation to support a student scholarship, program, or department, please contact Sandy Liarakos at (619) 849-2992.









Office of Community & Government Relations
Hey golfers! Come play in the 28th annual W. Shelburne Brown Golf Classic

on Monday, March 21 at Sycuan Resort.  Tee time is 1 p.m. for the 18-hole,

four-person scramble format.  The cost is $195 per golfer and includes a steak sandwich

lunch, banquet dinner, awards, and tee prizes. Join us to support PLNU athletics!

For more information, visit, or call (619) 849-2265!



Office of Community & Government Relations

Bill Jager is the principal of Columbia Elementary School in Bakersfield. Before he was a principal, he taught the first autism class in Kern County, where the number of students with autism has grown by 500 percent in the last 10 years.

Bill knows all about the need to give children with autism a great education. He and his wife, Carrie, also teach an autism class at PLNU’s regional center in Bakersfield.

At Bill’s school, where Carrie is also the special education director, students with ASDs have opportunities to get help with struggles like language and social skills. For example, Columbia holds a “film festival” once a week where students watch clips of unusual social situations from TV shows and discuss what people in the scene must be thinking. For students with ASDs, “theory of mind,” or the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, is difficult, so getting perspective on what others are thinking is necessary to develop social skills.

Columbia’s resident speech and language therapist also accompanies children with ASDs on the playground. When a difficult social situation arises, he walks through the process with students.

Bill also helps students with autism individually. One of his students is terrified of fire drills, so Bill created a “social story,” a short story about a particular child that helps put a challenging situation into visual perspective. The story simply states that there are fire drills, gives reasons why they are important, and outlines what the ideal response to them would be. Bill meets with the student the day before each fire drill.

It’s no surprise that parents of students with ASDs are often referred to Columbia.

“I see our staff as detectives asking ‘what are these children trying to tell us?’” said Bill.

Bill says it’s the greatest reward when together they discover the ways they can communicate.


Sarah (Wilson) (07) Reed, who earned her bachelor’s in liberal studies and master’s in education from PLNU, teaches 11 students from Kindergarten to third grade in her moderate/severe special education class. Four of those students have diagnosed autism. For those four students, finding balance is key.

“Most of my students with autism have sensory integration disorder… their bodies need help achieving balance. Without balance, it’s difficult for them to focus,” said Reed.

Reed will help these students receive the sensory input they need by squeezing their arms, legs, or fingers so they can concentrate. She uses a special brush to achieve the same integration. Other students need more sensory input, so they will push on a wall or carry heavy objects. One of her students wears headphones throughout the day to help minimize anxiety and sensory overload. Reed also uses the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

“Students use icons to describe what they want, which will eventually and hopefully lead to speaking,” she explained.

Even with recent budget cuts and the dissolving of the autism team at her school, Reed says her students continue to get a “fabulous education in a positive environment.”

“My students have access to a myriad of resources onsite, including occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and speech therapists who are on call if I ever need help,” said Reed.

Reed has a heart for her work, passion that is key to the success of her students.

“The greatest joy [of teaching] is finding out what my students enjoy… Seeing a child with autism when they know we ‘get’ even a piece of them makes all the schedules, tantrums, and diapers worthwhile.”



The Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC), under the direction of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS), provides a learning environment for both children and university students on PLNU’s campus, a dynamic that Susan Rogers, director of the ECLC, calls a “classroom within a classroom.”

PLNU students taking a class in the development of the special needs child give one-on-one support to children with autism in the ECLC. Since children with autism tend to cling to organization and order, they may have individualized schedule boards or cards that have pictures or words lining up the day’s activities.

A poster board on the wall of the ECLC is covered with pictures of the different activities in the classroom. As a way of augmented communication, a student with autism can point to the various pictures to indicate where he or she would like to play. One boy in the class has a plastic keychain attached to his schedule that bends and swivels – a coping mechanism for sensory integration.

In Tamara Heinz’s 3-year-old class, she has a “sensory box,” a play table filled with objects of different textures that help sooth and perhaps ground the children to take in different stimuli.

“Giving a child with autism something tactile is just a calming tool,” said Heinz. “Giving children tools for transitions helps since change can be hard for them.”

Children can also jump on the trampoline or run through the trees outside the classroom if they need to move. These are just a few examples of the different avenues the ECLC provides for children to feel more comfortable and to listen and participate more on their own terms.

Children in the ECLC are not the only ones being impacted by a rich learning environment. FCS students get 100 hours of classroom time at the ECLC, giving them priceless field experience for their future careers.

“Many of our students have been inspired to become special education teachers,” said Kay Wilder, Ph.D., chair of the FCS department. “Many others now have the knowledge to identify a child with a learning disorder, which is helpful in many different situations.”

“It’s a real ministry,” said Rogers. “Our students will be helping children and families for the rest of their lives.”