Founder and Managing Director
Our mission is to foster speech and debate education in the Richmond region. Our virtual and in-person programs guide students through our curriculum to brainstorm proper arguments, conduct quality research, and present arguments with conviction and civility.
RDI began as a passion project to grow a competitive and education activity -- speech and debate. Along with our partners at the Richmond Forum, we help schools, coaches, and parents coordinate tournaments, host online learning programs, and build community. Phyl is a yearly speaker at the Virginia Association of Forensics, Theater, and Debate Coaches (VAFTDC), serves as a consultant to the Richmond Region Speech and Debate Initiative (RRSDI) and works full time as a strategy associate at LEK Consulting.
As the assistant director, Meredith plays a pivotal role in making our programs come to life. She brings years of classroom experience and student management to RDI.
Meredith is a 5th grade teacher in Chesterfield County and a graduate of William & Mary with a masters in Elementary Education. Prior to her role in Chesterfield County, she has spent several years teaching English online to Chinese students age 5-15, and is passionate about teaching the skills of research, writing, public speaking, and discourse to students.
Our Summer Instructors
Dr. Anand Rao
University of Mary Washington
University of Richmond
Dr. Anand Rao is a professor of communication at the University of Mary Washington, where he has served as Director of the Speaking Center and the Director of the Speaking Intensive Program. He is also the Co-Founder of Millennial Debate, and has more than twenty-five years of experience with speech and debate at the high school and college level, and served as a consultant on a documentary about the National Debate Tournament. We are excited to have Dr. Rao teach at Richmond Debate!
Zach Perry is the assistant debate and forensics coach at the University of Richmond, where he also obtained a B.A. in Philosophy. He is also a member of the Virginia Association of Forensics, Theatre and Debate Coaches (VAFTDC) and assists with various high schools in the RVA and NOVA area. Previous experiences have included: competing internationally, hosting the traveling Committee for International Discussion and Debate (CIDD) team, and debates with the German, "Konstanz Debattierclub". With over 10 years of experience in over a dozen speech events, six forms of debate, Model UN, Future Problem Solvers, theatre, and improv, Zach utilizes these skills to foster a holistic methodology when exploring the art of rhetoric and communication.
Head Speech & Debate Coach
Millburn High School
University of Virginia
Jordy Barry has years of coaching experience at the national level, particularly with Congress Debate. She regularly consults NSDA for Congress matters, has judged NSDA and TOC finals in Congress debate, and has also personally coached the Congress debate champion in 2018. Jordy currently serves as one of the head Speech & Debate coaches for Millburn High School (NJ), and also works as a political consultant. We are very excited to have Jordy lead our Congress debate.
Kiko is a fourth year Philosophy student at the University of Virginia, with law school aspirations. Currently, Kiko is the assistant debate coach of Clover Hill High School, and leverages his expertise in critical thought and debate to lead our coaches and develop our curriculum. In his high school tenure, Kiko was ranked 32nd in the nation, a Nevada State Champion, and a competitor at Tournament of Champions.
Maggie L. Walker Governor's School
Maggie L. Walker Governor's School
Varun Mandgi is a current senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s school and the Captain of Lincoln-Douglas for the school team. With multiple first and second place finishes at regional tournaments, placement at the state CFL tournament, and participation in national circuit tournaments, Varun is an active member of the Richmond speech and debate community. He is the Director of Debate for SPEAK RVA, a nonprofit for public speaking education, and he helped found the Middle School Debate League in partnership with the Richmond Debate Institute.
Anna Murray is a current senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School and has debated in Public Forum for the past two years. Having placed first at a VCFL regional tournament and qualified twice for state tournaments, she is an active member of the Richmond Speech & Debate community. Anna looks forward to a successful semester, and she can’t wait to share her love for debate with students.
Manchester High School
Atlee High School
Elijah is a junior at Manchester High School, and serves as the president of the debate team there. Since joining the speech and debate team at Manchester high school, he found that he is passionate about arguing issues of current events. This euphoria gained from debate made him look towards becoming a lawyer, in particular, a prosecutor. With the help of RVA debate, he is glad to be a mentor and hopes to help others love speech and debate like he does.
Chrysanna is a sophomore at Atlee High School and has been a member of the Atlee Debate team for 3 years. She began public speaking in middle school and was introduced to debate her freshman year of high school. Last year she placed in VHSL regional tournaments for both Impromptu speaking and Lincoln Douglas debate. Chrysanna loved working with the middle schoolers in the fall and is excited to see what the spring will bring.