Interim Executive Director

Derek Liles has lived and breathed debate for nearly 20 years. Born and raised in Dallas, he debated for Jesuit College Preparatory in high school. In college, he continued his debate career at the University of Texas at San Antonio, becoming a nationally ranked competitor on the CEDA/NDT policy debate circuit.


After graduating with a B.A. in Political Science in 2012, Derek returned to Dallas to coach debate at Jesuit. He took on a part time position at Dallas Urban Debate, which was in its fifth year of operation.


From 2012-2016, Derek engineered a massive expansion in Dallas Urban Debate programs and participation. Before he left in 2016, the number of schools and students involved had more than doubled - with more than 1,000 students participating his last year on staff. 

In 2016, Derek left Dallas Urban Debate to become a teacher at one of its member campuses: Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet. While there, he taught AP US Government and became the first teacher in Dallas ISD to teach AP Comparative Government. He also coached the Law Magnet debate team, working through sudden and complete budget cuts to qualify students to UIL State, Urban Debate Nationals, NSDA Nationals, and the exclusive Tournament of Champions. 


Over the course of 3 years, he distinguished himself as a compassionate and supportive teacher - earning the highest student survey scores on campus two years in a row. He also continued to support Dallas Urban Debate, running coach training and student workshop sessions. When DUDA experienced a staff shortage, he returned as a tournament director for its middle school events. 


In August 2019, he officially returned as the Director of Programs. Within 2 months, Dallas Urban Debate hosted its largest middle school tournament in history. In December, the previous Executive Director (Renee Gadson) announced her departure to move to United Way - and Derek was tapped by the Board of Directors to fill in as long-term plans for staffing could be evaluated.  

With 9 years of experience as a competitor, 10+ years as a coach, 3 years as a teacher, and nearly 5 years as an administrator, Derek brings a wealth of perspective to Dallas Urban Debate as the Interim Executive Director - and looks forward to reinvigorating its programs to better serve students with these insights to guide him.