Paul Heilker

Paul Heilker

Paul Heilker

Associate Professor


135 Hillcrest Hall
385 West Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061


+1 (540) 239-8175


Department Membership


Please note Dr. Heilker is currently reassigned to the Honors College and is not available for graduate student advising.


  • Modern Rhetorical Theory
  • Writing Pedagogy
  • Language, Violence, and Nonviolence
  • The Essay
  • Rhetorical Constructions of Autism

Professional Activities

  • Honors College: Director of Experiential Learning
  • Honors College: Director, Presidential Global Scholars Program
  • University Honors: Presidential Global Scholars Program
  • Phi Beta Kappa, VT Chapter
  • Blue Ridge Writing Project


  • PhD. Texas Christian University, 1992
  • M.A. Colorado State University, 1989 
  • B.A. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1985

Research Interests

    Awards and Honors

    • University Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2018
    • University Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects, 2006

    Selected Publications


    The Essay: Theory and Pedagogy for an Active Form (NCTE, 1996)

    Edited Books

    Keywords in Writing Studies (University Press of Colorado, 2015)


    • "Coming to Nonviolence."  JAEPL: Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning 20.1 (2015): 44-51. 
    • "Autism, Rhetoric, and Whiteness."  Disability Studies Quarterly 32.3 (2012).
    • "On Genres as Ways of Being."  Writing on the Edge 21.2 (2011): 19-31.
    • “Twenty Years In: An Essay in Two Parts.” College Composition and Communication 58.2 (2006): 182-212.

    Additional Information

    Central to his recent scholarship is the idea that rhetoric is a way of being in the world through language, that discourses and their constituent genres require us to inhabit and enact strikingly different ways of being in the world, and his work now focuses on the relationship of writing to violence and nonviolence. He believes that we cannot effectively re-imagine the human condition as less violent using the same discursive tools that created our currently hostile conditions, that we cannot bridge our deep disagreements and schismatic worldviews using the same schemas of discourse that constructed today's antagonistic realities. To create a less hostile and violent future, we need less hostile and violent discourses, and we need to teach these alternative ways of being in the world to students.