Department Spotlight for March: Dr. Scott Harris

Scott Harris
Our March spotlight is on Director of Debate (DOD), Dr. Scott Harris. Dr. Harris has been the DOD for KU debate for 24 years, and came to KU after a short stint coaching at Louisville, and completing his PhD at Northwestern University. At the start of next season, Dr. Harris will officially be the longest running debate coach at KU, having surpassed Dr. Donn Parson by one year. Read more about him below!

It is great to sit down with you! Not everyone is familiar with what college debate is, and what you do. Could you tell us a little bit more about what it means to be the Director of Debate at KU? 

Well there are a lot of different ways to answer that, and there are sort of two different questions there. What does it mean to be the DOD at KU, and what do I do. The first part of the question, my initial reaction, was I think it means the same kind of thing as being the head basketball coach at KU, given the tradition of success that KU has. When I came here, there was a lot of pressure, Dr. Parson built a legacy of success, but that began even before him. KU is one of the historic programs in debate. So being able to be a part of that tradition and history, it is overwhelming and humbling.

What do you DO as debate coach? You wear so many hats as a debate coach. You are a teacher, you are a strategist, you are a researcher, you are a counselor, you are a budget planner, you are a receipt-taper downer, you are a travel agent. There are so many many different things you do. Yesterday it was requesting money from the student senate, there are so many parts, and it changes each day.

As you mentioned before, KU debate has had, and continues to have a lot of success. Do you have any major team goals going into nationals this month with CEDA and the NDT?

The goal for CEDA is always to make it to debate the final day, and hopefully win. The goal for the NDT is to make it to the elimination rounds and to go from there.

In addition to coaching debate, you also teach classes for the department (e.g., Rhetoric of War, Rhetoric of Sports, Argumentation). What are some of your favoriteclasses that you have taught at KU? 

I don’t know that I have a favorite subject that I teach, but my favorite classes are the one’s where students are interactive, motivated, and want to learn and–sometimes that happens in one class and sometimes it doesn’t. For me, what makes teaching fun is when you have students that want to learn, and that can happen in any subject.

Last question–we’ve asked everyone! Living in Lawrence, what is your favorite thing? 

The people. It is a friendly, communal place. Growing up in Detroit, then living in Chicago, and then Louisville- this was the first smallish town that I lived in. You definitely get that sense of community.

Thanks to Dr. Harris for sitting down with us this month! We will be cheering on the Jayhawks at they travel to Wichita, KS for CEDA Nationals and Iowa City, IA for the NDT in the next few weeks.