Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) has announced the appointment of Elijah Smith as the director of the debate team, effective September 1, 2019.
Smith has a long history with the debate program at RU-N and the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA), which houses the team. While earning his bachelor of arts in public and nonprofit administration from SPAA, Smith helped the RU-N debate team achieve numerous national victories and milestones as a debater.
“We are thrilled to be welcoming Elijah back to SPAA,” said Charles Menifield, dean of Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration. “He helped the debate program embark on its path to success and will now continue to guide it through unprecedented achievements.”
Smith returns to RU-N having held debate coaching and programming positions throughout the world, including at Wake Forest University and the University of California, Berkeley, and in programs in Shanghai, China. Smith has been one of debate's shining stars as he progressed from high school and collegiate debate competition to coaching and now to leading a nationally ranked collegiate debate team at RU-N. Smith has commented that "he is very committed to the Newark debate community," and that "Rutgers-Newark's support of debate is innovative anchor institution work that promotes diversity, inclusiveness, and opportunity for social mobility." Smith will be working closely with the Newark Debate Academy and the Newark Public Schools on initiatives that support universal debate in Newark but also on college access and success issues.
"We are deeply impressed with the broad range of experience and leadership skills that Smith brings to the university in his new position as debate director, and we are excited to welcome him home," RU-N Chancellor Nancy Cantor commented.
A Newark native, Smith began debating as a student at University High School. In spring 2013, Smith helped make history in the collegiate debate world when he and his debate partner, Ryan Wash, won that year’s national Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) championship title and garnered the championship title for the National Debate Tournament (NDT), a stunning achievement unparalleled by any team in the history of the two tournaments. Moreover, Smith and Wash were the first African-American team to win the NDT and the second African-American team to win the CEDA tournament.
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a Rutgers Law School alumnus, congratulated Smith for these achievements.
"For so many reasons, I am thrilled by Elijah Smith's stunning victory in becoming a national champion of cross examination, as well as the performance of the entire Rutgers-Newark debate team. Elijah has achieved something truly remarkable through what had to have been a lot of grueling hard work, determination, presence of mind and mental agility, and God-given talent.”
An all-around stellar year for the Rutgers-Newark debate team, the team ended the 2012-13 season as the #1 ranked-team in CEDA's northeast region.
The debate program at RU-N, which started in 2008 as a partnership between SPAA and the RU-N Office of the Chancellor, has been consistently ranked as one of the top-20 best intercollegiate debate programs in the country since 2014. The team competes at the highest level nationally, attending tournaments that bring them into head-to-head competition with all the major national universities, like Harvard, Cornell, and Georgetown, making its success all the more striking.
Like Smith, many of the RU-N debaters refined their skills in the Newark Public Schools’ remarkably strong debate program, with which they maintain close ties, working intensively with high school students affiliated with the Newark Debate Academy. The current superintendent of Newark Public Schools, Roger León, also a Newark debater and nationally ranked debate champion, continues to sit on the Newark Debate Academy board.
The RU-N debate program further supports debate at the local level with internships as assistant coaches at many schools in the Newark area, ranging from elementary to secondary schools. The RU-N debate team also has organized local high school and collegiate debate tournaments as well as public debates that facilitate conversations on social justice and public policy issues.
About Rutgers University–Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration
The School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) at Rutgers University–Newark educates and motivates students to choose careers in public service and administration through its innovative and comprehensive undergraduate and graduate degrees and professional and graduate certificate programs. SPAA’s faculty generates knowledge and best practices in public affairs and administration and collaborates with public and nonprofit organizations and professionals throughout the U.S. and the world. Learn more at https://spaa.newark.rutgers.edu.
About Rutgers University–Newark
Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) is a diverse, urban, public research university that is an anchor institution in New Jersey’s cultural capital. More than 13,000 students are currently enrolled at its 38-acre campus in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, University College, the Graduate School, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the Rutgers Law School – Newark, the School of Criminal Justice, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration. RU-N is exceptionally well positioned to fulfill higher education’s promise as an engine of discovery, innovation, and social mobility. It has a remarkable legacy of producing high-impact scholarship that is connected to the great questions and challenges of the world. It has the right mix of disciplines and interdisciplinary centers and institutes to take on those questions and challenges. It is in and of a city and region where its work on local challenges undertaken with partners from many sectors resonates powerfully throughout our urbanizing world. Most importantly, RU-N brings an incredible diversity of people to this work—students, faculty, staff, and community partners—making it more innovative, more creative, more engaging, and more relevant for our time and the times ahead. Learn more at www.newark.rutgers.edu.