Carnegie Mellon University

Student Teaching, Research, and Service

Over the course of their doctoral study, Ph.D. students in Rhetoric have pursued a number of different teaching, service, and research opportunities.

Freshman English

Typically, Ph.D. students are responsible for one section of first-year English per semester. This intensive reading and writing course is designed to introduce first-year undergraduates to academic discourse and Ph.D. students to teaching writing. First year Ph.D. students teach from a structured syllabus and attend weekly workshops tailored to their needs. They participate in apprenticeships in which effective teaching strategies and philosophies can be developed and worked on.

Beginning in their second semester of teaching the freshman English course, Ph.D. students are encouraged to design their own course syllabi around a standardized sequence of writing assignments. For many Ph.D. students, this is a chance to develop a writing course that addresses their own research interests. Course topics have included multiculturalism and issues of difference, literacy, media studies, the culture of work and community expertise, medical discourse and ethics, the Internet and new media, science fiction, and so on.

Ph.D. students are also encouraged very early on to integrate technology into the classroom. A number of graduate students regularly take advantage of our state of the art computing facilities and networked learning environments.

Designing and Teaching Other Courses

During the summer, Ph.D. students are encouraged to design and teach their own special topics courses. Advanced Ph.D. students also sometimes teach courses in their areas of interest during the academic year. Regular session courses are typically offered to advanced undergraduates (junior and senior level), although a few of our Ph.D. students in Rhetoric have also taught graduate-level courses. As the following list of recent courses demonstrates, our Ph.D. students in Rhetoric teach a wide variety of courses across a number of disciplinary boundaries:

  • Culture, Communication, and Technology
  • Theory and Practice of Argument (for advanced undergrads)
  • Introduction to Professional and Technical Writing (for non-majors)
  • Introduction to Professional and Technical Writing (for majors)
  • Medical Communication (for advanced undergrads)
  • Style (for advanced undergrads)
  • Computer-Mediated Communication
  • Fundamentals of Graphic Design (for undergrads)
  • Communication Design Fundamentals (for grad students)
  • Document Design (for undergrads and grads)
  • Business Writing (offered in the Tepper School of Business)
  • NSF Young Researchers Seminar in Technical Writing (for advanced undergrads)
  • Professional Writing for Non-native Speakers of English
  • Community Literacy and Intercultural Communication (team taught)

Assisting in Other Courses

Ph.D. students also assist in other courses. They are sometimes hired as teaching assistants in courses offered by other departments in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In addition, The Heinz School of Public Policy and Management and the Tepper School of Business have recruited our Ph.D. students to assist in their courses. Duties often include reading and grading written assignments, but may also require other kinds of expertise, for example with non-native speakers of English.

Research Opportunities

Not all Ph.D. students teach of course; a few work on funded research projects. Some of these projects, which offer technical editing and web design work, are based in other colleges and departments. Others are the result of collaborations between the Rhetoric department and other campus departments or community groups. Other funded research projects are based in the English department, and provide Ph.D. students with an opportunity to work closely with Rhetoric faculty. Research topics have included cross-cultural communication, software design for peer review and co-authoring, computer-mediated communication, and risk communication.