Master of Arts in Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Program Description


The graduate program in communication and rhetorical studies (CRS) provides a vibrant and dynamic environment for students hoping to pursue further study in communication studies. Our program has a strong academic research focus and is ideal if you plan to go on to pursue doctoral-level education.

Our master of arts (M.A.) degree program features nationally and internationally prominent, award-winning faculty who balance deep roots in the discipline with interdisciplinary innovations. Its curriculum stresses theoretical and methodological diversity, close guidance and advising by faculty instructors, and high academic standards. We specialize in training M.A. candidates to thrive as teachers and scholars and to succeed at the most renowned doctoral programs in the country.

Graduate seminars and research in the CRS department offer training in the following areas, which we invite students to approach in a spirit of academic exploration and collaboration:

  • Language and Social Interaction: Courses and research in this area feature work in discourse or conversation analysis that seeks to explain communication processes in many facets of human communication and interaction. Common topics include identity, family interaction, cultural or intercultural discourse, health communication, environmental deliberation, multimodality, and digital media. Other topics that our faculty and students in this area increasingly examine include environmental and health communication.
  • Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies: This area uses a variety of critical, feminist, postmodern, and postcolonial perspectives to examine the relationship between communication and questions of power, equality, and social advocacy. Courses and research projects examine such specific topics as disparities in political representation, personal identity and difference, non-hierarchical organizing processes, alternative forms of public dialogue, community activism and organizing, and other social justice issues.
  • Rhetorical Theory and Criticism: Coursework and research in rhetoric encompass the history of public address, the rhetoric of political or social movements, and contemporary rhetorical theories. Work in this area focuses on the role of persuasive influence or symbolic action in public affairs across a variety of texts, sites, and modes of communication. Faculty-guided research in rhetoric includes studies of a presidential address, public memory, visual rhetoric and media culture, queer theory or criticism, and continental theory.

Our M.A. program is designed to allow students to either specialize in one of these areas of research or combine them to develop their own distinctive scholarly profile. Common efforts to demonstrate the importance of communication and rhetoric to vital questions of political power, social influence and personal identity unify instruction in all of the aforementioned topics. The M.A. degree in communication and rhetorical studies is a national leader in graduate education because it combines disciplinary traditions with interdisciplinary innovations to consistently produce student excellence.

Faculty accomplishments

The relatively small communication and rhetorical studies faculty has produced at last count 38 books, more than 145 articles in refereed academic journals, and more than 65 book chapters. Our faculty members have national and international reputations as scholars, teachers, and mentors, and our M.A. program is considered by most in the discipline to be the best in the nation.

CRS faculty and graduate students have earned a notably high number of research awards and competitive grants, commensurate in quantity and quality with the most prestigious doctoral-level faculty and graduate students in our field. Faculty honors and awards have been received in the following categories:

  1. Scholarly recognition from the National Communication Association (NCA), our leading professional organization, in the form of multiple book and article awards; multiple former Wallace Memorial and New Investigator Award winners, recognizing early-career scholars teaching and mentorship awards; and distinguished scholar/ship awards. Faculty has also received multiple scholarships and teaching awards at the regional and state level.
  2. Fulbright, NEH, and Humanities Fellowships at the University of Malaysia, Punjab University, Syracuse University, Massey University, and Vanderbilt University, and visiting faculty appointments.
  3. Competitive internal and external research grants.
  4. Other distinctions include a Meredith Teaching Professorship; multiple faculties, service, or teaching awards from VPA and the University.

The faculty has also distinguished itself in the prestigious disciplinary organizational positions they have held, including the presidency of the Rhetoric Society of America; National Communication Association Publications Board membership and divisional chairpersons; and book review editorships. Charles E. Morris III, professor, and chair of the department, co-founded the journal QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking at the invitation of Michigan State University Press, now beginning its third year of publication. Finally, our faculty features board members on multiple elite journals inside and outside the discipline.


Graduate students in the communication and rhetorical studies program begin with two core courses designed to introduce them to the department: Proseminar in Communication and Contemporary Theories of Rhetoric.

After these core courses (required during the first semester of M.A. coursework), students will work with their selected faculty advisors to choose from a wide variety of courses in the department and across the university to create their own unique programs of study.

Core Courses

  • CRS 601 Proseminar in Social Communication
  • CRS 603 Contemporary Theories of Rhetoric

Recently Offered Graduate Electives

  • CRS 514 Language and Meaning
  • CRS 532 Family Communication
  • CRS 535 Communication and Community
  • CRS 552 History of Rhetorical Theory
  • CRS 553 American Public Address
  • CRS 568 Rhetoric and Social Change
  • CRS 614/WSP 615 Communication, Power, and Gender
  • CRS 627/327 Speechwriting
  • CRS 600 Closet Cases
  • CRS 600 Seminar in Visual Rhetoric
  • CRS 600 Talk and the Body
  • CRS 600 Rhetoric and the Archive
  • CRS 605 Communication and Cosmopolitanism
  • CRS 630/430 Intercultural Communication
  • CRS 655 Rhetorical Criticism
  • CRS 683/483 Rhetoric of Film
  • CRS 746 Queer Rhetorics
  • CRS 862 Seminar in Rhetoric and Public Address
Last updated Jun 2018

About the School

Our faculty offers rigorous and multi-faceted learning experiences that prepare student-artists for professional and entrepreneurial careers.

Our faculty offers rigorous and multi-faceted learning experiences that prepare student-artists for professional and entrepreneurial careers. Read less