The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Speech & Debate Coach Robert Hawkins Helps DVC Take Gold at National Championships 

Robert Hawkins, 2023 Teacher of the Year award winner, has been a professor at DVC since 2015. Courtesy of @dvcforensics via Instagram

Professor Robert Hawkins has much to be proud of.

After winning the college district’s Teacher of the Year award in 2023, and watching his students take home gold medals from the recent national debate championship in Reno, Nev., Hawkins, a coach of Diablo Valley College’s Speech & Debate team, shared his passion for the work and reflected on how he started in the field.

“Growing up in the Bay Area as a first-generation student of color experiencing hardships, my journey through education was all about finding my purpose,” Hawkins said in a recent interview with The Inquirer.

As a freshman at James Logan High School in Union City, Hawkins said he developed an interest in speech and debate and joined the school’s team.

His high school coach, Tommie Lindsey, inspired Hawkins to continue through his senior year and participate in speech and debate at San Francisco State University, where he moved on to compete in larger tournaments.

“[Lindsey] was an incredible mentor, teacher, and educator,” Hawkins said. “I was incredibly lucky to be in his program.”

After completing his master’s degree in communication studies at San Francisco State University, Hawkins took a job teaching at the high school level and realized he enjoyed mentoring others in speech and debate. So he started a debate team at the school, then moved to the college level to pursue the work full time. 

Now, Hawkins serves as chair of the Communication Studies Department at DVC, where he has been working for nine years — and winning awards during many of them.

This semester, the Speech & Debate team won the State Championship for the third time in the last four years.

In fact, as a coach, Hawkins has led the team to advance to the final round in every national tournament it has attended.

In 2020, the team was ranked in the top 10 in the nation, and in 2022 it brought home 31 awards from the Phi Rho Pi Forensics National Championship.

Last year, the Contra Costa Community College District honored Hawkins with the highest honor for teaching faculty, bestowing him with its annual Teacher of the Year award.

But for Hawkins, all of the success comes back to the great students he gets to teach. 

“We have a big, wonderful, intelligent, diverse group of students who have so many academic interests, who come to us with so many different life experiences and stories,” Hawkins said.

One of four coaches of DVC’s Speech & Debate team, Hawkins said the school’s communications program is a great opportunity for students who are interested in expanding their skills, and strongly encouraged new people to consider joining.

“It’s an incredibly creative group of people and a tremendous privilege to be able to work with students who have so many interesting ideas,” Hawkins said.

“We have a lot of support here,” he added, because “this program has been around for decades.”

“It started way before me, and it was successful way before me. I’m just lucky to come to a place where our administration cares about the student voice.” 

Celebratory team photo taken after DVC’s Speech & Debate team took home over 30 individual awards. Photo courtesy of @dvcforensics via Instagram

In his various roles on campus, Hawkins works closely with students to fine tune their skills based on their own interests, offering group practice and individual appointments based on students’ schedules.

Students can enroll through Comm-163, and choose how many units they want to take based on the number of tournaments they want to attend. The team competes in one to two tournaments per month, totaling around five to seven per semester. 

This spring, the Speech & Debate team swept the floor with multiple wins in all of its tournaments, taking first place in Parliamentary Debate, Persuasive Speaking, Communication Analysis, and more.

At the National Speech and Debate Championships in Reno, which finished in March, DVC’s team won gold overall, silver in speech, and took home the Sylvia Mariner Perpetual Sweepstakes Award — given to the team that receives the most points over the year — for the first time. 

For Hawkins, as the accomplishments of his students keep adding up, this semester offered a moment to reflect on what he and the program have been able to achieve.

“I’d like to thank Diablo Valley College for giving me this tremendous honor,” Hawkins said. “It is an incredible privilege to serve such a wonderful and diverse community of learners.”

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Reece Revell, Staff Writer

Comments (0)

By commenting, you give The Inquirer permission to quote, reprint or edit your words. Comments should be brief, have a positive or constructive tone, and stay on topic. If the commenter wants to bring something to The Inquirer’s attention, it should be relevant to the DVC community. Posts can politely disagree with The Inquirer or other commenters. Comments should not use abusive, threatening, offensive or vulgar language. They should not be personal attacks or celebrations of other people’s tragedies. They should not overtly or covertly contain commercial advertising. And they should not disrupt the forum. Editors may warn commenters or delete comments that violate this policy. Repeated violations may lead to a commenter being blocked. Public comments should not be anonymous or come from obviously fictitious accounts. To privately or anonymously bring something to the editors’ attention, contact them.
All The Inquirer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.