RKS Scholars - The Concept

Maya Angelou was a long-time professor on the campus of Wake Forest. She encouraged her students to think creatively and speak with passion. Fortunately, this tradition of speaking with passion was not lost on a generation of teachers and students. While he did not pack lecture halls of undergraduates with poetic words of wisdom, Ross Kennedy Smith did inspire a passion for policy debate in all its iterations. It is through this history Learn how to read, think, compare, understand, analyze and speak from the best in order to become the best! 

Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley, Dr. Calum Matheson, Daryl Burch, and Amber Kelsie will serve as the lead instructors.

Your mind, heart, and soul will get exercise every day.

Unlike previous years where there was a “Seniors Lab” and an “Race Kritikal Scholars lab”, we have eliminated that distinction. This format will allow students to have arguments guided based upon their interests. By eliminating these distinctions, we plan to get all students the flexibility to work with more quality instructors.

Wake Forest is extremely honored to be able to have amazing debate teachers lead the RKS labs this summer at Wake Forest.  We can think of no group of people who have a longer or more successful track-record of critical and plan-based debate pedagogy.  Together the accolades both from teams they coached and from the debaters they coached who turned out to be national champions are too many to be counted.

So many debates are won with a combination of great evidence, great execution, and great individual theorizing by the speaker.  Students will initially spend the bulk of their time engaging and discussing critical readings with two phenomenal teachers.  A heavy emphasis will be on reading and understanding theory.  The students here will have great cards, but the real work is done in working with great instructors.

Typical Schedule

9:30-10:45 AM - Morning Lecture from senior Lecturer

11-12:15 - Small Break-out groups and practice on the lecture

1:15 PM - Practice Debate

3:45-5:30 PM - Research time with Instructors

7 PM - Skill work, rebuttal redoes, block writing exercises


We want students to be better speakers when they leave.  There will be a heavy emphasis placed upon practice!  Rebuttal redoes, practice debates, mini debates, and drills that don't involve just reading will all be integrated.  Every time a student learns a new concept, they will practice it.  Unlike other workshops, when practice debates are scheduled very few, if any, debaters will have byes.  We have made sure to hire enough quality instructors to allow for both frequent practice and quality feedback.

LEt us know WHO YOU Want to Work WITH

Each student will identify one of the primary lab leaders they want to work with. Each and every student will have an opportunity to spend time with the person they most want to work with. If the application arrives on time, you will find out if you are admitted by March 1 to allow you plenty of time to consider your other options. This will also allow our lab leaders to engage with you in the weeks leading up to the workshop, extending the workshop experience well beyond the five weeks you are at Wake Forest.  We know that a workshop is a big commitment in terms of time, money, and effort; we want students to know who they are working with well ahead of time.


Each student will work to produce their own signature file. Rather than rush through a multitude of research assignments that simply aim to collect the best evidence around, we will push students from start to finish through multiple drafts and subsequent mini-assignments so that they learn the process of file construction not merely a product. The students in last year's senior lab overwhelmingly found this process both self-fulfilling and immensely helpful and becoming the best debater they can


When the year starts, debaters will have to face opponents who use all different styles of arguments.  We know from experience at Wake Forest that the summer is the best time to learn the widest possible variety of arguments.  If you only debate one style of argument over the summer, you will be forced to learn in the middle of a debate.  Instead, come to the RKS and practice debating all styles. Not everyone wants to be a “flex” debater, but if you do, we can make sure that you are equipped to succeed.

Race Kritikal Scholars

Critical Race Scholarship of many varieties will be explored and welcomed.  Those who wish to be in it may specialize as Race Kritikal Scholars. Some can be fit into academically neat labels: Futurists, Pessimists, Optimists, Feminists, Womanists, Trans pessimists, Coloniality, De-Coloniality, Deleuzians, etc.  Other pieces are timeless like Aint I a Woman? or "Still I Rise".  There is always new critical theory on the horizon to discover and make. Those that are interested primarily in critical debate will have the opportunity through research assignments and selection of argument to do that. Those that are interested in more of a flex or policy approach will have that opportunity as well.