RCTE Course Program Overview


Students choose either the MA or PhD program at the time of application.


The coursework in the doctoral degree serves several functions:

  • orients students to major issues, concepts, theories, and practices in areas of inquiry deemed by our faculty to be important for 21st Century scholars of Rhetoric and Composition;
  • helps to solidify both graduate school and intellectual cohorts, which contribute to the short term and long term success of our students;
  • familiarizes students with the accepted and emerging professional practices related to academia;
  • facilitates student exploration of a variety of research areas, which thus helps students discern an area of specialization (needed for comps and the diss);
  • assesses students on their developing abilities to perform advanced level scholarship and function collegially in an academic setting.

Given these objectives, coursework focuses on both orienting students to major trends and concepts in Rhetoric and Composition and enabling students to pursue their avenues of specialization.

Total Number of Required Coursework hours to graduate with RCTE PhD: 48

  • Common Curriculum: 18 hours (6 courses)
    • Fall Semester | Year 1
      • Trends & Methods in Rhetorical Studies (3)
      • Preceptorship (3)
      • Colloquium (0)
    • Spring Semester | Year 1
      • Trends & Methods in Composition Studies (3)
      • Inquiry & Innovation Seminar (3)
      • Preceptorship (1)
    • Fall Semester | Year 2
      • Controversies in Rhetoric and Composition (3)
      • Specialization (3)
    • Spring Semester | Year 3
      • Preliminary Exam Workshop (3)


Specialization Curriculum: 18 hours (6 courses)

The Program will define known areas of expertise among the faculty, which will become part of our identity, but students will determine their own specialization areas as they go, with key mentoring moments built into the Program to help with their discernment (e.g., Inquiry & Innovation Seminar, Trends courses, faculty and peer mentoring). For example, consider these hypothetical Program and student focal areas and specializations:

Program Focus: Critical Writing Program Administration

  • Student 1 Specialization: Assessment
  • Student 2 Specialization: English as Second/Other Language Issues
  • Student 3 Specialization: The Politics of Organizational Structure

Program Focus: Critical Cultural and Media Studies

  • Student 1 Specialization: Radical Politics and New Media Art
  • Student 2 Specialization: Colonialism and Comedy
  • Student 3 Specialization: Revisionist Rhetorical Histories

Program Focus: Critical Community Literacies

  • Student 1 Specialization: Racism and Public Educational Policy
  • Student 2 Specialization: Power and Queer Youth Literacy
  • Student 3 Specialization: Central and South American Non-alphabetic Literacies

Courses need not be offered in students’ specialization area per se; rather, faculty will automatically offer courses in the Program’s focal areas (that’s just the nature of the work we do), and students will build up their specialization by taking coursework that’s interesting to them and that they feel they can build their specializations around.


  • Electives Curriculum: 12 hours (4 courses)
    • open to any subject area offered at the graduate level anywhere on campus;
    • may be applied to the Comparative Cultural Requirement (see the CCR Proposal for details);
    • may be applied to a minor (9 hours minimum required by Graduate College).


College of Social and Behavioral Sciences