Professor Scott Jensen came to Webster University 20 years ago with the goal of helping the forensics and debate program grow. This year, he will be walking away as director of the program and handing it to his wife, Gina Jensen.
Scott Jensen has his professional and personal reasons for retiring from forensic and debate coaching and teaching, but he said the move did not come without anxiety.
Before making his decision, Scott Jensen wanted to make sure the program was going to continue to grow going forward. He said he would not have retired had the opportunity for Gina Jensen to succeed him not presented itself.
“I spent a lot of time trying to make sure that I was willing to let go, because I didn’t just want to sort of let go,” Scott Jensen says. “I wanted it to be a situation where I was really turning it over because that’s the only fair way to do it for the students, for Gina and for Tom [Serfass].”
Gina Jensen will be the new director of the forensics and debate program. Tom Serfass, assistant coach of forensics and debate, will continue to be a part of it as well.
“It’ll be weird not having him with us because we’ve always done it together, but I’m excited about the challenge,” Gina Jensen says.
Scott Jensen’s reasons for retiring include growing new programs at Webster and focusing on personal goals and family life. He calls forensics and debate a “labor of love,” but it is also time-consuming, and it was difficult for him to chase professional and personal goals.
“It’s a unique time with a lot of opportunities that are in front of me,” Scott Jensen said.
Scott Jensen is currently coordinating a new major, Sports Communication, which will be offering its first courses this fall. He said the program had a soft launch, with very little marketing beyond word-of-mouth and being listed on the school website. He said he met with four juniors in the last few months concerning the program and welcomed around five freshmen.
“For not having marketed it at all, it’s off to a really good start,” Scott Jensen said.
Scott Jensen is also looking to revamp the speech communication program to help strengthen its viability. Part of that is making the program available online. He is also looking to do some writing in his spare time. He has written chapters for books relating to forensics and learning, and sports rhetoric.
Scott Jensen has two book projects in the works: one about the experience of youth coaching and one about the rhetoric of baseball hall of fame speeches. He is also using his time to spend it with his four children, who he says are all in transitional periods in their lives.
“This gives me a little bit more time to be a dad,” Scott Jensen said.
Scott Jensen says his role now will be more like an alumni role, where he says a lot of former students who participated in forensics and debate have come back to be guest coaches. He will continue to help when needed, but he says it is important for him to let Gina Jensen and Serfass take control.
“When there’s a need, I’ll step up in the same way that our alumni always step up,” Scott Jensen said.
The awards won are not going to be what Scott Jensen remembers most as he looks back on his 20 years at Webster. For him, it was seeing students grow both in performance and in citizenship and seeing how their lives have changed due to joining the forensics and debate program.
“It’s [teaching forensics] helped me to appreciate the value and the importance in balancing competitive goals with goals of personal growth and citizenship preparedness,” Scott Jensen said.
Gina Jensen, a former national president of Pi Kappa Delta, the oldest national collegiate organization in the United States, is looking to continue the standard of excellence with the program, which she says will happen if they continue to adapt to growing trends.
Gina Jensen said Scott Jensen has provided her with leadership skills that will be valuable to her new role.
“I think it’s a good time for a transition,” Gina Jensen says. “I think the team can handle a transition.”
Scott Jensen said when he and Gina Jensen came to Webster, they were coming to a forensics and debate program that was not as resource-rich as the one they were part of in Louisiana. However, opening up the program to whoever wanted to join had helped them build it to where it is now.
“I’m really excited to be able to step back and watch Gina and Tom navigate a new team through that new horizon,” Scott Jensen said.