Speech communications instructor Rob Ruiz was recently named director of forensics at the University of La Verne.
Ruiz, who broke the team’s semi-finals curse in 2007 by winning the national championship as an undergraduate here, will take over administrative duties in fall 2011.
He follows Josh Martin, the previous debate coach, decided to step away from the team to pursue other interests.
As director of forensics, Ruiz will oversee the debate program.
Ian Lising, chair of the speech communications department and longtime La Verne debate coach, chose Ruiz to fill the position.
“Ian named me since I know the team, I know debate, I know the program and I was raised by him so I know how to make some winning teams,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz has big goals for the team, including another national title and structuring the program to be like an Oxford West, which is a style of competition employed the some of the nation’s top debate teams.
Ruiz also hopes to host the U.S. Nationals in 2013 on the La Verne campus.
“We have planned really big events in spring, our centennial, 100 years of debate since 1912, with very prestigious guest speakers coming to participate in debates with the team,” Ruiz said.
“He is an anomaly,” senior speech and communications major, Isaac Ramirez said. “Not only is he really personable, he is responsible and it is a really good dynamic he brings to the team,” Ramirez said.
“(Ruiz) is … on one hand very committed to the success of the team, but he also is committed to building a unified team,” said senior political science major Corey Teter.
“He cares about the social aspect and is a very good team builder,” Teter said.
Ruiz and assistant debate coach John Patrick work had in hand, creating a balance that should help build strong competitors.
“He and I really have a functional team when it comes to coaching,” said Patrick, adjunct professor of speech communications.
“His vision and my storytelling creates a culture that the students can buy into,” Patrick added.
The partnership between Patrick and Ruiz began when they were both undergraduates at ULV.
Ruiz, who served as team captain at the time, helped Patrick hone in on his skills as a debater.
“Rob taught me a lot about debate in that first semester on the team that really made me good,” Patrick said.
“He took me from being someone who can hold his own in a round to someone who can win.”
Team members said they admire Ruiz’s coaching style because he brings himself down to their level, making for a comfortable learning environment.
“He is more than just a coach, I also feel that he is my friend and my mentor at the same time,” freshman speech communication major Cindy Lopez said.
“I can talk about school and my progress in debate, along with things that are going on in my life because he allows me to talk about it and feel welcome,” Lopez said.
“He coaches in a way where you actually feel like he cares about your progress in debate so he pushes you to do your best,” she said.
“At the same time, he makes you feel good about yourself by telling you both the good things you’re doing, along with things you need to work on,” Lopez said.
“If anyone was going to be changed into the role, Rob was the perfect guy to go in,” Ramirez said.
“I think he really encompasses what the spirit of debate is. We are an organization; there is the scholarly side but it is also a good time.”
“We have many traditions that build comradery within the team that makes it so much more than just an after school thing where you go and debate, it’s like a family,” Ramirez said.
Rachel Creagan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.