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 to 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.

I had the opportunity to support faculty research projects, where I participated in all stages of their research, from compiling literature reviews, to participating in the conduct of field studies, to writing grant proposals. All of these experiences were incredibly influential in my own research trajectory.

Heidi Lawrence Assistant Professor, George Mason University

Expert mentorship sets the program apart from other programs in the field. The faculty approach their work with graduate students with unparalleled energy and genuine excitement. My experiences in the CRS were noteworthy in this regard: I conducted sustained qualitative research, participated on interdisciplinary grant writing teams, and co-authored an article for a leading journal.

Brian Gogan Associate Professor, Western Michigan University

In my years at VT, I taught several different courses, wrote grants and collaborative articles, developed public programs, served on program committees, and helped manage a journal. I had the opportunity to work with and learn from remarkable scholars at VT.

Ashley Patriarca Assistant Professor, West Chester University

Professional mentoring is one of the program's greatest strengths. I received tremendous guidance in... understanding the norms and expectations of professional work in rhetoric and writing. I draw on these lessons and experiences each time I revise a report, draft a literature review, or submit a proposal for funding.

Tim Lockridge Assistant Professor, Miami University of Ohio
Faculty Research Interests

Dr Sheila

- Rhetoric of race and identity

- Writing assessment

- Writing centers

- Composition

- English as a second or other language


Dr James

- Civic engagement

- Communicating science

- Veterans in society

- Scholarship of teaching

- Social inequality


Dr Carlos

- Human-computer interaction in the humanities

- Occupational safety and health communication for Hispanic workers

- Entertainment education for risk communication

- Creating technical documentation


Dr Bernice

- Medical rhetoric and medical humanities

- Narrative medicine

- Maternity and breastfeeding

- Gender theory and feminism


Paul Heilker

- Modern rhetorical theory

- Writing pedagogy

- Language, violence, and nonviolence

- The essay

- Rhetorical constructions of autism



- History of rhetoric

- Contemporary rhetorical theory

- Rhetoric of health and medicine

- Genetic risk

- Material rhetorics


Dr Katrina

- Displacement narratives

- Human rights rhetorics

- Rhetorics of social justice

-Identity and self-representation

- Performative autobiography


Jennifer sano

- Cultural rhetorics

- Asian American rhetoric

- Information design

- Computers and writing

- Digital rhetoric



- Activity theory

- Digital intellectual property

- Rhetorical genre studies

- User experience design

- Technical communication



- data visualization

- Data journalism

- Materialities of writing

- Rhetorics of technology


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


Contact Us

Program Inquiries:

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

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