Rhetoric and Writing (Ph.D.)

Our program focuses on Rhetoric in Society across areas of inquiry including technical communication, composition studies, rhetorical history and theory, critical theory, and cultural studies. 

60 Hours of Coursework

12 Hours of Foundation

12 Hours of Rhetoric in Society

3:1 Student Faculty Ratio

Our Doctoral Program in Rhetoric and Writing

We study rhetorical activity in public, academic, corporate, and governmental settings. With a foundation in methods, history, and theory, students conduct research at the cutting edge of current scholarship. Their interdisciplinary work often takes advantage of VT’s programs in Women’s and Gender Studies, Science and Technology Studies, HCI, and Communication.

Why Study Rhetoric and Writing Here?

Virginia Tech’s Rhetoric and Writing doctoral program has distinguished faculty whose research attends to social problems, disciplinary questions, and the information demands of a cyberconnected world. Areas of strength include medical rhetoric, data visualization, human rights, human-computer interaction, user experience, and cultural and feminist rhetorics. 

Studying Rhetoric at Virginia Tech

As a comprehensive land-grant university, Virginia Tech is an ideal place to study rhetoric in society. The land-grant context provides ample support for serious intellectual commitment as well as civic engagement. Students in the RW doctoral program are immersed in a rigorous course of study in the discipline, while at the same time imbued with the spirit of the university’s motto Ut Prosim, that I may serve.

Job Placement

We have a 95% placement rate for graduates of the program. Our students have gone on to academic positions at a variety of institutions of higher education, from small liberal arts colleges to major research universities. A few of our graduates work in the nonprofit sector and the government. 

Assistantship Opportunities & Professional Development

The RW program offers a variety of graduate assistantships to support students while they are studying and to help prepare them for their positions after graduating. GTA positions include composition teaching and administration, Writing Center tutoring and administration, teaching in Engineering Communication, editing for the minnesota review, teaching in professional and technical writing, and working as a research assistant in the Center for Rhetoric in Society.

The RW program supports students’ professional development through GTA mentoring, funding for conference travel, workshops, guest speakers, and job market preparation. The Graduate School at Virginia Tech also provides professional development opportunities, as does the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Our Faculty 

  • First-Year Composition
  • Rhetoric of Race and Identity
  • Writing Assessment
  • Writing Centers
  • Classical and Modern Rhetorical Theory
  • Rhetoric and Public Policy
  • Critical Theory
  • Argumentation Theory
  • Critical University Studies
  • Professional and Technical Writing


  • Civic engagement
  • Communicating science
  • Veterans in society
  • Scholarship of teaching
  • Social inequality
  • Modern rhetorical theory
  • Writing pedagogy
  • Language, violence, and nonviolence
  • The essay
  • Rhetorical constructions of autism

View Profile

  • History of rhetoric
  • Contemporary rhetorical theory
  • Rhetoric of health and medicine
  • Genetic risk
  • Material rhetorics
  • Displacement narratives
  • Human rights rhetorics
  • Identity and self-representation
  • Performative autobiography
  • Displacement narratives



  • Cultural rhetorics
  • Asian american rhetoric
  • Information design
  • Computers and writing
  • Digital rhetoric
  • Data visualization
  • Data journalism
  • Materialities of writing
  • Rhetorics of technology


  • Theories and Practices of Composition
  • Research Methods and Methodologies
  • New Media and Digital Rhetorics
  • Network Studies
  • Writing Pedagogies

Rhetoric and Writing Research Highlights

  • Carlos Evia received the Society for Technical Communication's Frank R. Smith award for distinguished article in the journal Technical Communication. The paper recognized is Evia, C., Priestley, M. Structured authoring without XML: Evaluating Lightweight DITA for technical documentation. Technical Communication. 2016; 63(1): 23-37.
  • Bernice L. Hausman, “Immunity, Modernity, and the Biopolitics of Vaccination Resistance,” Configurations 25.3 ( Summer 2017): 279-300.
  • Pender, Kelly.  “Somatic Individuality in Context, A Comparative Case Study.”  Public Understanding of Science (November 2016): 1-14. DOI:10117710963662516678116.
  • Babcock, Rebecca Day, Sheila Carter-Tod, Terese Thonus, “Writing Center Directors as Researchers.”  WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship. (May/June 2016)
  • Jennifer Sano-Franchini, “‘It’s Like Writing Yourself into a Codependent Relationship with Someone Who Doesn’t Even Want You!’ Emotional Labor, Intimacy, and the Academic Job Market in Rhetoric and Composition.” College Composition and Communication 68.1 (September 2016): 98-124.
  • Sano-Franchini, Jennifer, Terese Guinsatao Monberg, and K. Hyoejin Yoon, eds. Building a Community, Having a Home: A History of the Conference on College Composition and Communication Asian/Asian American Caucus. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press, 2017.

Students interested in applying to the Rhetoric and Writing (Ph.D.) degree should contact the program director, Katrina Powell, by email at kmpowell@vt.edu or by phone at 540-231-6150.

Visit our office at 323 Shanks Hall, 181 Turner Street NW, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Domestic Application

*Fall: February 1

International Application

*Fall: February 1

*Deadline for admission with full consideration for funding: February 1


Program Inquiries:

Katrina Powell
Director, PhD in Rhetoric and Writing
Center for Rhetoric in Society
340C Shanks Hall
(540) 231-6501

Application Inquiries:

Sally Shupe

Graduate Programs Coordinator

310 Shanks Hall

(540) 231-4659


Department of English

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