Director of Debate and Speech
Dr. Ben Voth is an academic expert in debate, argumentation, communication, public speaking and rhetoric. He is specialist on questions of genocide, political debate, humor and politics, and general public controversies. He researches and teaches with a goal of equipping individuals to have a voice in the world. He has published four books on how individual communication abilities can positively change the world: James Farmer Jr.: The Great Debater (Lexington Books, 2017); Social Fragmentation and the Decline of American Democracy: The End of the Social Contract (Springer, 2017, with Robert E. Denton Jr.); and The Rhetoric of Genocide: Death as a Text (Lexington Books, 2014 and 2016). The Rhetoric of Genocide won the American Forensic Association’s 2015 top national book award, the Daniel Rohrer Memorial Outstanding Research Award, for research in the field of speech and debate. His most current book Debate as Global Pedagogy: Rwanda Rising (Lexington Books, 2020) details a variety of efforts globally to combat genocide with debate instruction while focusing on the unique events of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and a 25 year anniversary debate institute he helped lead for 400 high school students and more than 50 high school teachers in Rwanda in 2019. Voth’s writing has been featured in The Dallas Morning News, Fortune magazine, American Thinker and discussed on various NPR affiliates including KERA Dallas. His expertise is cited in national publications such as The Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report, and has been discussed on The Rush Limbaugh Show. His communication collaborations with national and international institutions include: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, the U.S. State Department and the government of Rwanda. His students often work to overcome human rights problems in a variety of international settings including Burma, North Korea, Rwanda, India and Europe.
Voth’s unique approach to communication emphasizes the role of free speech, dissent, and argument in preventing and reversing problems of human injustice. Specializing in a rhetorical studies approach allows him to teach courses in public speaking, argumentation and debate, persuasion theory, political communication, communication and ethnoviolence, communication and genocide.
As director of speech and debate, Voth has coached more than a twenty five national and international champions of collegiate speech and debate events including International Public Debate Association’s varsity competitions, novice policy debate, persuasive speaking, communication analysis, and impromptu speaking.
Ph.D. in Communication Studies, University of Kansas, 1994
M.A. in Speech Communication, Baylor University, 1990
B.A. in Communication and Journalism, Baylor University, 1989
Rwanda Rising: Debate as an Empowering International Pedagogy (2020). Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.
with Robert E. Denton. Social Fragmentation and the Decline of American Democracy: The End of the Social Contract. Macmillan/ Palgrave. (January, 2017).
The Rhetoric of Genocide: Death as a Text. Lexington Studies in Political Communication: Rowman & Littlefield. (2014).
“The Presidential Debates 2020,” The 2020 Presidential Campaign: A Communication, Perspective Robert Denton, Editor: Lexington/ Rowman & Littlefield (forthcoming).
“Journalistic Hegemony Of Blue Privilege: Tracing The Use Of Identity Politics Toward A Political Economy Of News Coverage,” in The 2016 American Presidential Campaign and the News Media: Implications for the American Republic, Jim Kuypers, Editor: Lexington Books: Lanham, Maryland (2018), pp. 203-222.
“Presidential Debates and Election 2016,” in The 2016 Presidential Campaign: Political Communication and Practice. Robert E. Denton, Jr., Editor: Palgrave MacMillan, (2017), pp. 77-98. Top three most downloaded chapter in the most popular Political Campaigning and Communication imprint for Palgrave in 2017.
“President Bush’s Rhetoric and Policy Against Genocide,” in George W. Bush Presidency, Volume III, Meena Bose and Paul Fritz, Editors:. Nova Science Publishers: New York (2016), pp. 161-174.
“Chapter 3: Debate #3 Boulder, Colorado October 28, 2015.” Debating the Donald. Edited by Aaron Kall. Amazon Digital Services. 2016.
“The Worldwide Phenomena of Nationalism versus Globalism: A Rhetorical Perspective,” World Complexity Science Academy Journal, volume 1 (1). Spring 2020, pp. 73-79. https://wcsajournal.com/journal_article/the-worldwide-phenomenon-of-nationalism-versus-globalism-a-rhetorical-perspective/.
“George W. Bush's Public Arguments for Democracy and Freedom in the Middle East,” Reasoned Argument and Social Change: Washington: Selected papers from the 17th Biennial Conference, National Communication Association and the American Forensic Association, July 2011, pp. 703-707.
“Great coaches making Great Debaters,” Contemporary Argumentation and Debate, (September 2009), Vol. 30, pp. 76-77.
“Argumentation and the International Problem of Genocide,” with Aaron Noland, Contemporary Argumentation and Debate 28 2007 (2009), pp. 38-46.
“The New Anti-Semitism,” in Scott Jacobs, Concerning Argument, Washington: 15th Biennial Conference, National Communication Association and the American Forensic Association, presented in 2007 (2009), pp. 722-739.
Coached more than a twenty five national and international champions in collegiate speech and debate events. Qualified more than a dozen teams to the National Debate Tournament. Coached teams to the elimination rounds of the National Debate tournament four times including a 3rd place finish overall.
Research and Academic Publications
Debate and Speech
SMU's award-winning debate program provides the strongest preparation for developing a student's voice. With competitions based on intense research concerning important national and international policy questions such as immigration, energy and human rights, students participate in tournament debate to test themselves against the best advocates at colleges and universities around the nation. Service learning connected to the debate program brings students in contact with Dallas Independent School District (DISD) students associated with the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance (DUDA). DUDA, in collaboration with SMU debate, prepares at-risk students in DISD for debate at a variety of special events hosted on the SMU campus. Various public debates provide opportunities for students to lead their peers in important civil discussions. Students can gain academic credit for participating in debate.
For more information about debate, contact:
Dr. Ben Voth
Director of Debate