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Rhetoric, Writing and Culture

Program and Application Information
Department Chair:Dr. Elizabeth Birmingham
Graduate Coordinator:Dr. Verena Theile
Department Location:318 Minard Hall
Department Phone:(701) 231-7143
Department Web
Application Deadline:February 1
Degrees Offered:Ph.D.
English Proficiency Requirements:TOEFL ibT 100; IELTS 7

Doctor of Philosophy

The Rhetoric, Writing and Culture Ph.D. degree program is open to all qualified graduates of universities and colleges of recognized standing. The Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Writing and Culture provides students with employable skills in the area of professional and technical communication. This innovative and regionally unique program invites students to work at the intersection of rhetorical, textual, and cultural studies. The number of positions available in technical communication significantly surpasses the number of new Ph.D.s produced each year by a sizable margin. Graduates from NDSU's program may pursue careers as:

  • professors in universities or colleges;
  • training and development specialists, user-experience experts, and human-computer interaction specialists in industry;
  • technical, scientific, or professional writers and editors in research and development organizations, high-tech companies, non-profit organizations, or government agencies.

Hands-on experience is essential to our program. The Rhetoric, Writing and Culture Ph.D. requires six credits of experiential learning. Students can work with professors or mentors in disciplinary writing. Others opt to intern for non-profits or local industries.

NDSU offers opportunities for students in the Ph.D. program to teach discipline-specific writing, such as writing in the sciences, writing for engineers, and writing in business and finance. Ph.D. students are eligible for Presidential Doctoral Graduate Fellowships.

To be admitted with full status to the program, the applicant must fulfill all of the requirements set out below.

Admission Requirements

  • In most cases, applicants are expected to have completed a Master of Arts or Science, but exceptional candidates may be admitted directly out of the Bachelor's degree
  • Have completed a BA, BS, MA, or MS from an accredited educational institution.
  • Have a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.5.

Conditional admission may be granted to students who do not meet all requirements for admission or have deficiencies in prerequisite course work, but demonstrate potential for graduate study. Such students may be required to take additional courses to address deficiencies in prerequisite course work.

In addition to the Graduate School required materials, applications must include:

  • an academic writing sample, not to exceed 20 pages, that reflects the student's academic or professional interests and that demonstrates the student's critical and analytical abilities
  • A statement of purpose that includes the following:
    • coursework you plan to complete in the program
    • faculty members with whom you wish to study
    • research you plan to pursue
    • a sense of what you hope to do once you have completed a Ph.D. degree in English
    • how your education and/or life experience have prepared you for graduate work
  • official transcripts from all previous undergraduate and graduate institutions
  • a letter stating your interest in and qualifications for a teaching assistantship.

Preferred additional materials:

  • Practical and / or Professional writing sample not to exceed 10 pages

Financial Assistance

Teaching assistantships are available and awarded based on the applicant's scholastic record and letters of recommendation. Students need to apply to the Graduate School to be considered for admission in the Department of English and before they are eligible for an assistantship. Letters of interest for teaching assistantships, detailing prior experience (if applicable) and qualifications, need to be submitted as part of the application to the program.

Teaching assistantships are reviewed and renewed annually based on academic and professional performance, as well as funding. The annual stipend is $14,000, which is in addition to tuition waivers (including summer) for the duration of the degree program; TAs are responsible for books and fees. In rare cases, teaching fellowships may be granted to advanced doctoral students who have passed their comp exams and completed their course work. Scholarships  are available through the Department, the College, the Graduate School, and the University. 

The Ph.D. program requires 90 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree and a minimum of 60 graduate credits taken beyond the M.A. and at NDSU.

  • Students must take a minimum of 30 credits at the 700- or 800-level.
  • English 764: Teaching Strategies is required of all Graduate Teaching Assistants who have not taken a similar class elsewhere.
  • Students must take 48 of 60 credits at NDSU from within the Department of English.
  • Students with a master’s degree in another discipline may be required to complete additional graduate course work in specific areas of English, as specified by their adviser and supervisory committee.
  • No more than 10 credits may be transferred into the program
Plan of Study
Core Courses12
Composition Theory
Composition Research
Graduate Scholarship
Critical Theory
Other Research Methods3
Students select, in consultation with their adviser, at least one of the following methods courses.
Qualitative Research Methods in Communication
Rhetorical Criticism
Methods of Historical Research
Qualitative Methods
Quantitative Methods
Students select, in consultation with their adviser, at least one of the following pedagogy courses.
Qualitative Research Methods in Communication
Classroom Strategies For TA'S
Upper Division Writing: Pedagogy, Practice, and Technology
Teaching Literature
Addition Courses21-51
Students must take English courses that match their research goals and deepen their understanding of the field. Three additional methods, theory, or pedagogy courses may be taken from outside the English department, as approved by adviser and graduate director. Courses in the category may be at the 600-,700-, or 800-level.
Usability and User Experience
International Technical Writing
Literacy, Culture and Identity
Researching and Writing Grants and Proposal
Rhetorics, Poetics Of New Media
Rhetorics of Science and Technology
Topics in Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture
History of Writing Instruction
Writing: Invention to Innovation
Research Methods in Communication
Quantitative Research Methods in Communication
Theories of Persuasion
Additional English options: Students with no background in English studies must include courses in literature and linguistics in their plan of study and that topics/studies courses may be repeated.
History of the English Language
Social and Regional Varieties of English
Language Bias
American Realistic Literature
20th Century American Writers
Native American Literature
Topics in American Literature
Medieval Literature
Renaissance Literature
Topics in British Literature
18th Century Literature
Romantic Literature
Studies in American Literature
Studies in British Literature
Experiential Learning6
Flexible credits for English 795: Experiential Learning may be earned in the following ways:
1) Teaching Mentorship (0-6 credits), may be taken twice. Students work with faculty to read theory and co-teach 200-, 300-, or 400-level class.
2) Internship (0-6 credits), may be taken twice. Students work outside or inside academia in administrative, editing, or consulting roles.
3) Life-Experience Credit (0-3 credits). Students submit, in consultation with their advisor and the graduate director, a portfolio that reflects their professional experience prior to enrolling in the program.
Comprehensive Exams
Comprehensive exams are taken after the successful completion of 72 credits (grade B or higher) and are administered by the student’s supervisory committee, which is comprised of a committee chair and two readers from within the depart¬¬ment. The exams consist of two timed, written exams and conclude with the defense of the dissertation proposal.
Language Requirement
Students are required to demonstrate foreign language competency by the time they begin to write the dissertation.
ENGL 899Doctoral Dissertation (The dissertation proposal concludes the comprehensive exams and precedes formal work on the dissertation. The supervisory committee is comprised of the three members of the exam committee, plus a Graduate School Representative (GSR) from outside the department. )15
Total: 90 credits

Anastassiya Andrianova, Ph.D.
City University of New York, 2011 
Field: British Romantic and Victorian Literature, Drama, Translation, Pedagogy, Postcolonial Literature, Slavic Literature, Animal Studies

Lisa R. Arnold, Ph.D.
University of Louisville, 2011
Field: Rhetoric and Composition, Writing Program Administration, History of Writing Instruction

Elizabeth Birmingham, Ph.D.
Iowa State University, 2000
Field: Rhetoric and Professional Communication, Gender Studies, Architectural History, Theory, and Criticism

Kevin Brooks, Ph.D.
Iowa State University, 1997
Field: Rhetoric and Professional Communication, Computers and Composition, Writing Program Administration

Muriel Brown, Ph.D., Emerita
University of Nebraska, 1971
Field: Medieval Literature, Modern Drama, Women's Studies

Sean Burt, Ph.D.
Duke University, 2009
Field: Ancient Jewish Literature, Genre Theory, Ancient Hebrew Poetry, Poetics, Horror Literature & Theory

Gordon Fraser, Ph.D.
University of Connecticut, 2015
Field: Nineteenth-Century and Early American Literature; American Studies; Nationalism and Revolution

Adam Goldwyn, Ph.D.
City University of New York, 2010
Field: Medieval Studies, Medieval Greek World, Influence of Ancient Greek Culture in the Middle Ages

Alison Graham Bertolini, Ph.D.
Louisiana State University, 2009
Field: Contemporary American Literature, Literature of the Southern United States, Women's Literature, Contemporary Ethnic and Postcolonial Literature

Linda L. Helstern, Ph.D., Emerita
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, 2001
Field: Native American Literature, Modernism, Contemporary Poetry, Literature and the Environment

R.S. Krishnan, Ph.D., Emeritus
University of Nebraska, 1981
Field: Restoration and 18th-Century British Literature, Postmodern Theories, British Novel, Postcolonial Literature

Bruce Maylath, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota, 1994
Field: International Technical Communication, Rhetoric and Composition, Linguistics

Robert O'Connor, Ph.D., Emeritus
Bowling Green State University, 1979
Field: Romantic Literature, Science Fiction and Fantasy

Kelly Sassi, Ph.D.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2008
Field: English Education, Composition and Rhetoric, Native American Literatures, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Dale Sullivan, Ph.D., Emeritus
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1988
Field: Rhetoric Theory and History, Rhetoric of Science, Rhetoric of Religion, Technical Communication

Amy Rupiper Taggart, Ph.D.
Texas Christian University, 2002
Field: Writing and Rhetoric, Pedagogy, Literacy Studies

Verena Theile, Ph.D.
Washington State University, Pullman, 2006
Field: 16th/17th Century Literature, Shakespeare, Early Modern Drama, European Literature, Literary Theory, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Film and Adaptation Studies

Emily D. Wicktor, Ph.D. 
Kansas, 2010
Field: 19th Century British Literature and Culture, particularly Victorian Sexuality and Sexual History; Rhetoric, Composition, and Pedagogy; Literary Theory; Modern British and American Drama; Research Methods and Methodology