Daniel Ybarra is quickly becoming an expert on all things humanities. He is triple
majoring in three Humanities majors (Communication, Writing & Rhetoric Studies, and
Middle East Studies), lives in the Humanities House on campus, and is among the star
competitors of the top debate team in the country housed right here at the U, the
John R. Park Debate Society. He is also the winner of the College of Humanities’ prestigious
Steffensen-Cannon Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year.
Daniel was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and first discovered his love
of debate while attending Rio Hondo Community College in LA county. “Forensics challenges
me to communicate critical theories, develop techniques in communicating my arguments,
and allows me to advocate for diversity – of voices, people, and ideas – within my
community,” he explains.
“I chose the University of Utah because of the John R. Park Debate Society. When I
first attended the U’s college tournament in 2014, I was both charmed by the campus
and enamored with the presence of the competitors from across the nation,” he reflects.
“I was certain that I wanted to be involved with this university – it attracted me
The Debate Society hosts a number of forensics tournaments that serve Utah high schools
and universities, as well as out-of-state institutions. In addition, the team regularly
competes against collegiate forensics programs from across the nation, and is in the
national spotlight as a top competitor every year. In 2017, they became National Champions
for the first time in history. For Daniel, the Debate Society offers an unmatched
opportunity to hone his communicative skills, form clear and concise arguments on
both sides of issues, and compete with teammates he’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Daniel says he has gained much from immersing himself in so many humanities fields.
His triple majors in Communication, Writing and Rhetoric Studies, and Middle East
Studies contribute to a worldview and self-confidence he could not have fathomed before
stepping foot on campus.
“I believe a background in the Humanities bridges every gap in society. I have sharpened
my skills as a leader by learning from excellent models of pedagogy. My professors’
criticisms are well received and without question I know they are critical for my
development as a member of a global community,” he explains. “The course work is an
interactive experience for me. I have gained a definite respect for all walks of life
and I am always seeking out new experiences to diversify my thinking.”
In an effort to expand his worldview, he will travel to Tajikistan for a study abroad
program this summer to immerse himself in another language and culture. Funded by
a Foreign Language and Area Studies scholarship he received from the College of Humanities,
he will learn Farsi and earn eight college credits for this immersive course. “I plan
to integrate everything I have learned as a student of the humanities and absorb as
much information as I can of the Tajik culture. I will attend mosque and socialize
with all the wonderful people. It is an experience of a lifetime and reinforces the
fact that studying the humanities is the path to discovery and understanding. I learn
how to relate to others. I learn from the experiences of my professors and colleagues.
The humanities is overflowing with rich experiences that satisfy my soul.”
Daniel is now applying for the Conflict Resolution Graduate Certificate Program in
the College of Humanities, where he says he will learn to better facilitate how to
discover shared interests between opposing parties. This fall, he plans to apply to
become a Fulbright Scholar and attend the University of Amsterdam to earn a master's
degree in Conflict Resolution and Governance. He says he has a dream of facilitating
conversations of understanding between Atheists, Christians, and Muslims within the
United States that would be centered on culture and community. “I hope to practice
the traditions of storytelling to spark better understanding of others’ lifestyles.
I want to moderate open discussions to find common links between our differing interests
and backgrounds,” he explains. “I believe shared interests of all sorts will be essential
tools, uniting ourselves in this country, and creating friendships with people across
“I am not a theologian by discipline; I am a budding Communication scholar who hopes
to practice these methods I’ve learned to create dialogue between groups that will
subvert tensions and bring much-needed perspectives to different situations. I want
to see people be less afraid of the other, and I believe the College of Humanities
has given me the tools to facilitate these types of uniting conversations,” he says.