People at ILR

Samuel Nelson
people / faculty

Samuel Nelson

Director of Forensics and Senior Lecturer
Global Labor and Work (GLW)


Attended the University of Southern California on a debate scholarship and graduated in 1984. Upon graduation was selected by the Speech Communication Association's (SCA) Committee on International Discussion and Debate (CIDD) to represent the US on debating tour of New Zealand. Returned to US to take job as assistant debate coach at Cornell under the then supervision of Cornell's Director of Forensics, Pam Stepp. Received Juris Doctorate and Master's in Speech Communication from Syracuse University. Subsequently, taught debate and other speech communication courses at the University of Vermont, SUNY Geneseo, Syracuse University, the University of Rochester and currently Cornell. I also presently serve as Cornell's Director of Speech and Debate (formerly known as Forensics).

Teaching Statement

I try to democratize the classroom and try to learn as much from my students as they learn from me. I believe the critical communication skills that students take away from classes help make it easier for them to reach their professional and academic goals.

Research Statement

My research focus is on critical thinking, advocacy, and public speaking and the intersection between all three.

Service Statement

The Speech and Debate Program at Cornell has become a resource hub not just for students on campus but for the community at large. We believe sharing our skills, knowledge and experience is both a privilege and a duty.

Outreach Statement

Cornell Speech and Debate has been expanding its outreach efforts with international debate training, summer camps, prison debate programs, public debates, and high school workshops.

Professional Activities

  • Argumentation and Debate for Agri-business Leaders. Presented to Cornell University. Batavia and Albany, New York. 2018.
  • Argumentation and Debate for Agri-Business Leaders. Presented to LEAD New York. Suracuse, NY. 2016.
  • Desportifying Debate: Stop Making Points and Start Building Arguments. Koper, Slovenia. 2006.

Honors and Awards

  • Robert N. Stern Award for Teaching and Mentoring, ILR.
  • Nominee, Outstanding Teacher Award, Industrial and Labor Relations School. 2017
  • ILR School ILR Recognition Award, Industrial and Labor Relations School. 2016
  • Faculty Appreciation Award, Cornell Greek Community. 2008
  • Honorary member, Golden Key International Honour Society, Cornell University. 2005
  • The Donn Brownlee Award for exceptional contributions to the field of college debate and the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA), 2005
  • The Goergon Award for exceptional contributions through teaching, University of Rochester. 2003


121 Tower Rd -- 520 Ives Hall