What to Expect

The Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies recruits by inviting faculty and students into Duquesne University's story of Education for the Mind, the Heart, and the Spirit. We educate the whole person within the University mission of Catholic and ecumenical values committed to liberal arts and professional education. We build upon the University story, which frames the department commitments: communication research and development, the ethical difference, and walking the humanities into the marketplace. Research, a clarity of commitment to communication ethics, and engagement with the marketplace permit faculty and students to understand who we are, thereby enabling an informed decision about whether or not to join this intellectual community.

Our recent faculty hires reflect the University mission commitments: to Catholic and ecumenical values, to the pragmatic and theoretical importance of communication ethics, and to a textured understanding of the marketplace that includes the academy and professional life outside the campus community.

We invite students into a learning environment attentive to narrative ground and the historical moment. We seek to discern and offer answers to questions confronting the human condition from a humanities grounded rhetoric and philosophy of communication perspective. Our department educates the next generation of communication professors whose primary mission is to educate undergraduate students.

Scholar-Teacher Model of Learning

Our faculty work within a dual commitment of a teacher-scholar model of student accessibility and a scholar-teacher commitment to publication and public intellectual life. We are situated within an assumption that the story is greater than the individual members. The story guides faculty and student interaction.

Embedded Inquiry

The department openly encourages value-laden inquiry, applied rhetoric, and public admission of the limits of theory and practice. Embedded agents working within stories and historical particulars offer possible answers and temporal suggestions, not universal proclamations.

My time as a graduate student in the Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies at Duquesne was transformational. At the core, the program taught me how to use theory as a guide to leadership. I walk theory into my marketplace every day, and the communities I serve depend on my ability to do so. Duquesne allowed me to be responsive to the demands of my sector and to grow as a professional.

Hannah Cherico Karolak, Ph.D graduate


Program Requirements

The theoretically rigorous core in Rhetoric & the Philosophy of Communication is distinctive because it effectively applies enduring and emerging ideas from the humanities (rhetoric & philosophy) to marketplace problems and practices. Through completing the core curriculum, all graduates of the program will be qualified specialists in Rhetoric & the Philosophy of Communication. These courses include:

  • COMM 609 Rhetorical Theory
  • COMM 604 Communication Ethics
  • COMM 659 Philosophy of Communication
  • COMM 611 Rhetoric & Hermeneutics

Each area of emphasis consists of three courses beyond the Core. Students elect courses in two of the three areas that will best prepare them to achieve their personal and vocational goals.

Communication Ethics & Crisis in the Public Sphere

  • COMM 626 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Free Speech
  • COMM 616 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Interpersonal/Intercultural Communication
  • COMM 614 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Crisis Management

Integrated Marketing Communication/Corporate Communication

  • COMM 636 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Integrated Marketing Communication
  • COMM 617 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Organizational Communication and Leadership
  • COMM 605 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Public Relations and Advertising

Rhetoric of Technology

  • COMM 628 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Technology
  • COMM 610 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Cyberspace
  • COMM 618 Rhetoric & Philosophy of Humanities and the Marketplace

Degree Completion Requirements

Comprehensive Examination

There are four areas of examination:

  • One area from the Core Curriculum
  • One area addressing the rhetorical and philosophical mission & praxis of the Ph.D. in Rhetoric
  • Two areas addressing the student's selected program emphases

The following elements describe the comprehensive examination process:

  • Students receive comprehensive exam questions at the beginning of the Spring semester
  • Students write exams over a two-day period
  • Faculty evaluate written examinations

Language Proficiency

In addition to satisfactory completion of all required coursework, you must demonstrate language proficiency by completing any of the following two options:

  • Reading knowledge of two languages
  • In-depth knowledge of one language


Students will work with their Dissertation Director in order to come up with a topic for their dissertation. The student will have to defend their dissertation to their Dissertation Director and committee members.

Application Process

Students must complete the online application demonstrating undergraduate and graduate study sufficient and appropriate to undertake doctoral study in the field of rhetoric and philosophy of communication.

Submission of official transcripts, recording all baccalaureate and graduate work, and substantiating receipt of degrees. Students must have valid master's degree documentation from an accredited institution, or its professional (J.D., M.D., etc.) equivalent.
Students must submit sufficient GRE scores (verbal and analytical scores are of greater concern than quantitative scores).
Students must submit three letters of recommendation, at least two of them willing to speak to your academic career.
Completion of a statement describing why the Ph.D. Program in Rhetoric at Duquesne University is appropriate for your educational development as a teacher/scholar (not more than 500 words).
Students should include a writing sample produced for an audience (a course paper or a published article).
A TOEFL score submission is only required for international students where English is not your first language.


Ph.D. Assistantships

Support Through Instructional Opportunities

The Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies offer doctoral assistantships that include teaching and research assignments. 

A limited number of on-campus doctoral teaching assistantships are awarded for Fall and Spring terms on a competitive basis by application. To be considered, you must be fully admitted to the Ph.D. Program and have submitted complete application information prior to the application deadline. Contact the Director of the Ph.D. Program for additional information.

Assistantships include tuition remission and stipend, offering the following opportunities:

  • Classroom preparation and experience in a scholar/teacher model of higher education
  • Associate instructor designation given to assistants when assuming primary instructional responsibility for a course
  • Close interaction and mentoring through teaching meetings with course faculty
  • Opportunity to work with faculty on course preparation and instruction assistance
  • Collaborative research projects with faculty members
  • Professional development opportunities

Other Instructional Opportunities

The program works to provide support for as many doctoral students as possible. Therefore beyond a limited number of assistantships other students are able to secure partial support for their doctoral studies by serving in instructional roles within the department. As instructors within the department, doctoral students receive partial tuition remission and a modest stipend.