Carnegie Mellon University

Ph.D. in Rhetoric Program

The Ph.D. program in Rhetoric is distinguished by its focus on rigorous method and the diversity of specialized methods/contexts (traditional-scholarly, empirical, discourse-based, classroom-based, legal, digital) in which rhetoric can be studied. Students are encouraged to pursue their interests in rhetoric in conjunction with an accomplished and supportive faculty.


The Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University is one of the oldest Ph.D. programs in Rhetoric in the United States and one of the most prestigious. Ph.D. candidates focus on how discourse broadly conceived functions across social, legal, political, cultural, gendered, embodied, and material contexts in schools, workplaces, local communities, and larger publics. Students study current theory, history, and field-leading pedagogical practices of rhetoric and discourse as core foundations that will serve them as they develop more specialized analytic methods, both qualitative and quantitative. The foundation and specialized study support dissertation work that frames and seeks to address fundamental and pressing questions in three broad and fluid areas of rhetoric, specifically (1) Civic, Political, and Public Engagement; (2) Corpus-based Writing Pedagogy Across the Disciplines; and (3) Digital Tools & New Media. Students prepare for academic careers in rhetoric and writing pedagogy, including writing program administration, careers as administrators in non-profits, or as qualitative and quantitative data analysts. Fundamental questions addressed in the PhD program including the following: 

  • How does power circulate in communication? 
  • How do historical and cultural assumptions about language conceived broadly influence the choices rhetors make in designing messages and the choices audiences make in interpreting them?
  • What role does/can technology play in shaping these choices?
  • How has the study of rhetoric and writing instruction functioned historically in the academy
  • How can we develop new models for writing and communication instruction that prepare students to respond to contemporary rhetorical challenges in their own practice?
  • What is the importance of rhetorical acumen in non-academic communities, both in the workplace and in civic society?
  • What is the relationship of rhetoric to ethics and good citizenship and how do answers to this question vary across different frameworks?

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Spotlight: Andreea Ritivoi

Professor, Department Head, and Lead for the Humanities@CMU Initiative

Andreea Ritivoi has been the Head of the English Department since 2015. Her research interests include rhetorical theory and Continental philosophy, narrative and identity, exile and transnationalism, Eastern European societies, and controversy. Andreea teaches courses on contemporary rhetorical theory, argument, research methods, international communication, and narrative theory.

As of Fall 2019, Andreea has been leading the Humanities@CMU initiative in order to promote and advance the university's strengths in the humanities

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