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Question Time with Liz Kinnaman

By Marvin Peña in News
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Clark’s new speech and debate coach Liz Kinnaman. (Kamerin Johnson / The Independent)

Getting to Know Liz Kinnaman

Liz Kinnaman is Clark’s new speech and debate coach. She has taught debate for over 10 years. She graduated with a degree in communications from Portland State and then coached the debate team there. After that she coached at Mount Hood Community College for 8 years.

How did you come to Clark?

The debate community is very small, and David Kosloski who used to be the debate coach here knew me when I was a student in college. It was just kind of an opportunity that came about and I applied for the opening and here I am.

Why did you get involved in speech and debate?

My participation in speech and debate in college and high school gave me a lot more confidence than I had initially. I was very shy and I didn’t talk very much. I think that it really kind of helped me develop a way of talking about stuff that I thought was important.

What benefit do students get from being in speech and debate?

I think its good to get college students, especially at community college, involved in speech and debate because it gives them a better sense of empowerment. When you start competing, and you go to tournaments, and when you win stuff, it validates your involvement. But then you meet people who can give you scholarships for school, who can get you jobs when you graduate. I think you just build a really strong network of people who want to see you succeed.

Those are the tangible benefits. Even if you weren’t good at it competitively, you can still become a better critical thinker and a better speaker, so you can speak more flexibly on your feet. It does definitely create a lot more mental flexibility for people.

What challenges do you have as the new speech and debate program director?

Our greatest challenge is getting our students prepared and competitive and confident in their abilities. I feel like this campus is very welcoming to speech and debate and everybody who knows about it and works with us wants to see us succeed. My challenge is always taking students who don’t know anything about speech and debate and improving their abilities to show them they can do what they want to do.

What if there are students who are shy or have an accent? Do they have the opportunity to be on the team?

I have had many students whose English is their second language form all kinds of cultures and countries. Students with speech impediments, students who think they have problems creating something, I mean we can work with anything.

My college debate partner was from Costa Rica and when she was really nervous in debates she would lapse into Spanish. So we had a note card that had the word “English” on it and I just pulled it out and put that in front of her. It was cute. The judges understood how passionate she was about it. I don’t see that as a flaw or anything.

Where do you travel and who pays for it?

We go to competitions within the region, and all that is covered by the school budget. For the international competitions we pay our flight and there is no extra burden for the school. We have a budget from school for international competitions at the end of the year.

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