Timothy M. O’Donnell, Professor of Communication and Director of Debate, earned a Ph.D. (2000) in communication from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A (1997) in communication and a B.A. (1992) in philosophy from Wake Forest University.
O’Donnell is the chair of the National Debate Tournament Committee, as well as a nationally-recognized leader of the campaign to help historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) field high-quality debate teams on crucial public policy issues. O’Donnell’s recent interview about his effort to revive debate at HBCUs aired on the “With Good Reason” public radio program.
In 2009, he and the UMW debate program collaborated with HBCUs to plan and host a week-long debate workshop at UMW to promote intercollegiate debate’s revival. In addition, O’Donnell co-organized the first ever Inaugural Debate Series—which invited HBCUs and other schools including UMW to D.C. on the eve of the 2009 inauguration to debate Obama administration priorities. He also has been a co-organizer of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Water Wars” Debate Series.
As the UMW director of debate, O’Donnell has coached the university’s nationally ranked intercollegiate policy debate team to win the American Debate Association National Championship in 2009 and four other times since 2001 and to finish second twice. He has received the association’s Robert Lambert Coach of the Year Award for Excellence and Service in Intercollegiate Debate. He also administers, plans and organizes on-campus public debates and assists a variety of outreach projects including UMW’s James Farmer Scholars Program, which he has assisted as a longtime instructor.
In addition to chairing the National Debate Tournament Committee since 2006, O’Donnell has held leadership positions in such groups as the American Debate Association, the American Forensic Association and the American Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology. Media outlets from around the globe, including the Associated Press, the Christian Science Monitor and Pravda, have interviewed O’Donnell on issues related to presidential debates.
He has taught courses in public speaking, argumentation and debate, public argument, rhetoric of controversy, rhetoric of science, and rhetorical theory and criticism. He has had articles published on such topics as the art of the debate speech, adolescent culture in argumentation, climate change, and the future of debate. O’Donnell has made numerous scholarly presentations throughout the United States on a wide range of subjects, including the rhetoric of climate change, rhetoric of science controversy, rhetoric of technology, public argument and the national science policy, the art of public speaking, and the history of intercollegiate debate.
He is an active member of the University community, having served on about two dozen committees since his 1999 arrival at UMW. He currently serves on the Executive Vice President’s Budget Advisory Committee, the Chief Information Officer’s Year of the Digital Campus Planning Committee, the Provost’s James L. Farmer Visiting Professorship Steering Committee, and departmental committees. He has been a longtime advisor for the Freshman Advising Program.