Director of Debate, Bard College
Term Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Human Rights
Dr. Ruth Zisman founded the Bard Debate Union in 2004. Since then, she has worked to build a world-renowned debate program at Bard while also working to develop debate programs in Bard’s surrounding school districts and throughout Bard’s national and international networks (Bard Early Colleges, Bard Prison Initiative, Bard international network). In 2020, as part of the launch of the Open Society University Network (OSUN), Ruth founded the OSUN Global Debate Network – a network of students, faculty, and staff at OSUN partner institutions with an interest in building a culture of open dialogue and debate on their college campuses. By focusing on public debates, debate outreach work, and curricular debate initiatives, Ruth’s work with debate aims to re-conceptualize the role and function of a university debate program – to position debate not just as an extracurricular activity but as a centerpiece of higher education. Ruth earned her B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Vassar College (2004), her M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought from NYU (2008), and her Ph. D. in German Studies from NYU (2015). Ruth is also a faculty member in the Philosophy and Human Rights programs, where she teaches courses in continental philosophy, political philosophy, and the German philosophical tradition.
Deputy Director of Debate, Bard College
Director of Debate/Faculty Fellow, Bard Prison Initiative
Since joining the Bard Debate Union in 2012, David has coached Bard debaters to the top levels of national and international competition, while also founding and coaching the now internationally recognized Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) Debate Union. Before coming to Bard, David worked at the University of Vermont where he coached top teams in both policy and parliamentary debate formats. He has also taught at debate workshops and institutes in the United States, Germany, Serbia, Slovenia, Hungary, and Russia. David holds a B.S. in Communication Studies from Emporia College (2004) and a B.F.A. in Communication Studies from the University of North Texas (2006). David is also the Director of Debate and Faculty Fellow at BPI and a faculty member in the Bard Learning Commons, where he teaches courses in Public Speaking and Argumentation.
Julia Sands ’22
Captain, Bard Debate Union
Julia Sands is a 3rd year student at Bard. She is a psychology and written arts double major. She has been an active team member of the Bard Debate Union ever since arriving at Bard, and during that time she has accomplished things like winning the 2020 Women and Gender Minorities Tournament. She is happy to answer any questions about debate or the BDU.
Gwen Stearns ’21
Captain, Bard Debate Union
Gwen Stearns is a senior at Bard, majoring in Political Studies. She has been a member of Bard Debate Union since she was a freshman. In that time, she represented Bard at the Third Bard Network Debate Conference in Budapest, Hungary in March 2019, as well as speaking in numerous BDU public debates. She has also won several awards, including being champion of the Women and Gender Minorities Online Open, champion of the Empire Debates at King’s College, finalist of the Huber Debates at the University of Vermont, and finalist of the Colgate Open. When she’s not debating, she can be found reading fiction, listening to 90s hip-hop, and working as a writing tutor for the Learning Commons.