Kristen Hamilton Tudor is a natural teacher and debate coach. But the self-described Navy brat and erstwhile snowboarding devotee didn’t have that in mind when she graduated from high school.
Tudor took several years to find her calling. Her collegiate journey took her from Santa Rosa Junior College to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and Mills College in Oakland. She debated for the first time at Santa Rosa and developed a passion for the give and take of forensic combat. And she has been excelling at her craft ever since.
She became Sacramento State’s debate team coach eight years ago. “I came here to earn a master’s degree and was asked to take over the team,” she says, “having coached squads at Santa Rosa and College of Eastern Utah.”
Tudor’s success in generating enthusiasm for Sac State debate, combined with her classroom talents, has prompted her postgraduate hiring as a Communications Studies lecturer. The size of her spirited debate squads has increased dramatically, and they have become a regional force, winning tournaments and hosting an annual novice tournament, hosting teams from across the nation.
“This year’s debate class of 25 is one of my largest,” she says. It’s a younger group, but she relishes the challenge to hone their debating skills over time. A case in point is Chantel Crane, her “amazing assistant coach,” who is pursuing a graduate degree in economics and was a key member of the 2009-10 region's top-ranked squad.
“Amazing” is an adjective Tudor’s team uses to describe the coach whose no-nonsense manner is leavened with wit. She puts her squad through its pre-match paces with rapid-fire instructions. “I teach them to speak quickly and concisely for maximum effect in a contest where rapid, persuasive presentation is essential.”
Tudor concedes the difficulty of balancing her full teaching load, debate duties that include travel and the demands of a growing family. But her passion for debate remains undiminished. “Competing gave me a focus early on in college, and I can see it in my students,” she says. “They see the connection between debating and the courses they are taking and their experiences."
Kristen Hamilton Tudor has not only found her calling; she’s inspiring her students to do the same.
– Alan Miller