Our collective research agenda studies the use of language and rhetoric to engage with pressing social and cultural issues.


Program Goals

The Ph.D. in rhetoric and writing at Virginia Tech will prepare you:

  • to conduct independent, original research in rhetoric and writing
  • for an academic positions as a scholar or teacher
  • for research and writing positions in industry, government, and non-governmental organizations
  • to contribute to your professional communities, including membership, participation, and leadership
  • to apply your knowledge to problem solving in academic, professional, and civic settings

Graduates of the program will demonstrate understanding of:

  • the literature of rhetoric, composition studies, and professional writing, including their history, theory, research methods, genres, and practice
  • the ways in which knowledge is constructed, organized, managed, used, and diffused through language in writing, including print, visual, and digital media
  • the history and theory of rhetoric and related theories of language use
  • the history and theory of a specific rhetoric  (e.g., medical or environmental rhetoric)
  • best practices of language use in a variety of settings (academic, corporate, public)
  • writing pedagogy theory and practice
  • opportunities and challenges posed by technology in rhetoric and writing

Steps to Apply

Steps to Apply

Application Deadline: February 1

Start Your Application

  • Complete the online Application for Graduate Admission:
    • select rhetoric and writing from the alphabetical list of degree programs
    • upload a personal statement of academic and professional goals
    • upload required writing sample
    • submit the names and contact information of three individuals who will provide letters of recommendation
    • upload resume/CV
    • pay applicaiton fee ($75)
  • Submit transcripts from all colleges or universities where you completed undergraduate or graduate coursework or degrees
  • Send GRE scores: our code is #005859
  • Send TOEFL scores (for applicants who are not native speakers of English)

Additional Notes

  • We begin review of applications in January. Students who wish to be considered for teaching or research assistantships will have the best chances for this award if their applications are complete by January. Admissions and assistantships are usually announced in March. 
  • If you wish to be eligible for university-supported campus visits in February, you should complete their applications by late December. Our department may only nominate three students.


Graduate Assistantships

Details about Assistantships

Students must be enrolled full time in the graduate degree program to qualify for a position. Most positions are offered to entering students.

A full-time position requires 20 hours of work per week, usually fulfilled by teaching or assistanting faculty with research.  

The positions require enrollment in 12 hours of graduate credit each semester. 

Other opporutnities for graduate teaching assistantships or graduate research assistantships are available across the university.


 Graduate Assistantship Examples:

  • Teaching Assistant in Composition, Instructor of ENGL 1105, 1106, H1204, or 3754
  • Teaching Assistant in Professional Writing 
  • Research Assistant in the CSRS 
  • Assistant Editor of the Minnesota Review 
  • Writing Center Tutor 
  • Assistant to the Director of the Writing Center 
  • Assistant to the Director of Composition • Teaching Assistant in Engineering Communication 
  • Teaching Assistant in Civil and Environmental Engineering 
  • Research Assistant in CATH


Duration of Funding

Our students are fully funded for four years by maintaining satisfactory progress.  An additional year of funding may be available pending individual circumstances and departmental resources.

Benefits of Assistantships

Assistantships provide these benefits:

  • tuition waiver
  • stipend
  • health insurance program (see the Graduate School benefits page for details)


You can find details on benefits and fees under "financial matters" at the Graduate School website: www.grads.vt.edu.

Graduate teaching assistants receive a stipend for teaching courses and graduate research assistants receive a stipend for collecting and analyzing data for research projects. 

Students pay non-academic fees. Students are advised to apply for Virginia residency as soon as possible (after one year in residence). 

Applying for Funding

A question on the Graduate School application asks whether you want to be considered for a teaching assistantship. If you check yes, you will automatically be added to our list of candidates. All new GTA positions begin in the fall semester.


After reviewing the English website, please determine if you have a question about our graduate programs or funding opportunities.  If so, please contact Sarah Helwig

Travel Support

The Graduate School and Department of English support graduate students traveling to professional conferences to present research or to sites to conduct research. Students must apply for the funds in advance and early applicants have the best chances of support before funds are depleted. We ask students to seek funding through the Graduate Student Assembly as a condition for receiving department funds.

Graduate Student Assembly Travel Fund

This program provides graduate students with funding for travel, accommodation, registration, and meal expenses associated with the presentation of their research at professional conferences, symposia and other similar events. Application deadlines are generally in October and March. For more information, visit the Graduate Student Assembly website.

Department of English Travel Support

We will support up to $350 per person per year for participation in a professional conference such as reading a paper, presenting a poster, chairing a session, a reading of one's creative work. Contact the program director for additional information.

Applying for travel and reimbursement is a three-step process.

  1. Submit a travel request form, budget, and evidence that the paper or poster has been accepted to the Director of Graduate Studies for approval.
  2. Submit a travel reimbursement form to Judy Grady within 30 days of returning.


The department seeks evidence that you have applied for GSA funding as a condition of providing department support.

English Graduate Student Organization

The English Graduate Student Organization is a professional and social organization for our graduate students. We host a number of annual events including book fairs, a graduate student conference, and social outings. You will receive regular invites to the meetings and functions.

Contact Us

Program Inquiries:

Katrina Powell
Director, PhD in Rhetoric and Writing
445 Shanks Hall
(540) 231-6150

Application Inquiries:

Sarah Helwig
Graduate Programs Coordinator
310 Shanks Hall
(540) 231-4659

Department of English

Shanks 323 (0112)
181 Turner Street NW
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061