NEWARK, NJ - Elijah Smith, a Newark native and graduate of University High School, will begin as the Rutgers University-Newark debate team director on September 1, 2019. 

While earning his Bachelors of Arts in Public and Nonprofit Administration from the School of Public Affairs and Administration, Smith was a debater. He helped the team win many national competitions. 

“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.”

Sign Up for E-News

Smith returns to Rutgers University-Newark 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. 

In 2013, Smith and his partner, Ryan Walsh, won the National Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) and National Debate Tournament (NDT) championship, an achievement unparalleled by any collegiate 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. The Rutgers-Newark debate team ended the 2012-13 season as the #1 ranked-team in CEDA's northeast region.

“I am very committed to the Newark debate community," said Smith. "Rutgers-Newark's support of debate is innovative anchor institution work that promotes diversity, inclusiveness, and opportunity for social mobility." 

Like Smith, many of the Rutgers University-Newark 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. 

Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León, also a Newark debater and nationally ranked debate champion, continues to sit on the Newark Debate Academy board.

Smith will also be working closely with the Newark Debate Academy and the Newark Public Schools. He will help support universal debate in Newark in addition to college access and success initiatives.

The debate program at Rutgers University-Newark started in 2008 as a partnership between SPAA and the Rutgers University-Newark Office of the Chancellor. It has been consistently ranked as one of the top-20 best intercollegiate debate programs in the country since 2014, competing nationally against universities like Harvard, Cornell, and Georgetown. 

"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," said Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor.