With an excellent staff of directors and numerous graduate teaching assistants working with debate, the William Pitt Debating Union (WPDU) boasts one of the largest and most experienced coaching staffs anywhere in the country.
The current group's combination of vibrant academic interests and extensive coaching resumes establishes Pittsburgh as a leading center of argumentation theory and practice. While coaches are not expected to cut cards, they take a hands-on approach to argument innovation and development.
The Union’s coaching alums have continued coaching at the highest levels of college debate, and include current and former directors at Clarion, Macalester, Marist, Mary Washington, Northern Illinois, James Madison and Georgia.
Calum Matheson, PhD
Dr. Calum Matheson is the Director of the William Pitt Debating Union and Assistant Professor of Civic Life and Public Deliberation in the Department of Communication. He has almost twenty years of debate experience, having served for six years as a debate coach at Harvard and almost six years prior at the University of North Texas. He has coached two winners of the National Debate Tournament’s Top Speaker award, the highest individual honor given in intercollegiate debate, and many tournament winners, NDT elimination round participants, and top speaker award winners. He has also coached high school debate, winning the Acolyte Award for the best assistant coach in the country and coaching the 2009 winners of the Baker Award, a distinction given to the single team with the best season-long record in the country. Calum was selected as one of the top ten debaters and top five judges of the decade 2001-2010, the only individual to appear on both lists. As a competitor, he was top speaker nine times at national-circuit college tournaments and over a dozen high school tournaments. He has also instructed prestigious summer workshops for high school students for over a decade, and nine of the last ten Tournament of Champions final rounds have contained students from his teams or workshops.
Eric English, PhD
Eric English (PhD, Communication, University of Pittsburgh 2013) specializes in rhetorical theory, public argument, and political rhetoric. A former Pitt debater and assistant debate coach with experience in both intercollegiate policy debate and public debate, his pedagogical focus is on public speaking and debate as a form of civic engagement. He has previously taught courses at Point Park University, Washington & Jefferson College, and California University of Pennsylvania, where he also served as Director of Forensics on an interim basis. His latest research is on the persuasive appeals of landmark texts of the modern American conservative movement.