English Ph.D. Dissertations


Preparing Doctoral Students in Rhetoric and Composition for Faculty Careers that Contribute to the Public Good

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English (Rhetoric and Writing)

First Advisor

Richard Gebhardt (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Bruce Edwards (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lance Massey (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Paul Johnson (Committee Member)


This descriptive study re-examines the graduate education of doctoral students in rhetoric and composition in light of the field’s civic tradition. This project explores the current preparation of rhetoric and composition students in Ph.D. programs and then focuses primarily on how doctoral programs are preparing aspiring new faculty members to learn about and engage in work that serves the public good. At the beginning of this project, I hypothesized that civic engagement activities are taking place within doctoral programs in rhetoric and composition, but the question then became how. Seven research questions were developed in order to establish exigency for the study and to make a case for how engagement can be better incorporated into rhetoric and composition graduate education. Guided by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges’ (NASULGC) Kellogg Commission’s definition of civic engagement, the empirical part of this study consisted of two modes of inquiry. Data collection in the first mode involved textual scholarship by examining the curricula offerings as reported in the 2007 Rhetoric Review Survey of the 67 Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition in the United States. In the second mode, data was collected from a pilot study questionnaire, which was electronically distributed to the directors of 70 rhetoric and composition doctoral programs in the United States as listed in the website of the Doctoral Consortium in Rhetoric and Composition. For both modes, manifestations of civic engagement were identified in specific categories based on themes that emerged from participants’ (i.e. directors of Doctoral Rhetoric and Composition Programs) responses. These categories pointed to specific opportunities where programs may become more fully engaged. In addition to this qualitative data, selective, carefully chosen quantitative data also supported the discussion. In the third mode of this project, then, I based my recommendations on these opportunities/approaches, both qualitative and quantitative data from directors’ plans for future civic engagement initiatives, and the larger body of work on engagement. To conclude this project, I made the case that bringing engagement more fully into rhetoric and composition graduate education can better prepare graduates for their future faculty work, and I argued that engaged preparation changes the nature of graduate education, from the way we discuss graduate student work and preparation to how faculty and graduate students collaborate in research.