As a Ph.D. rhetoric student in Duquesne’s Department of Communication & Rhetorical Studies, you will become trained in the nuances of classical rhetoric, modern rhetorical theory, political rhetoric and how rhetoric comes to bear in the digital, cultural and political landscapes of our time.

You’ll become an expert in the art and study of using language effectively and persuasively in order to influence, inform or persuade an audience—developing a deep understanding of how different forms of communication can be used to create meaning and influence. You’ll discover how language and communication shape our perception of the world and how we interact with others.

Atop a broad liberal arts foundation, you will explore communication research and development, technical and professional communication and ways in which the skills you curate through your degree will prepare you for life after graduation.

As a Ph.D. student in this program, you will be invited into a learning environment attentive to narrative ground and the historical moment, where you will learn to discern and offer answers to questions confronting the human condition from the perspective of a humanities-grounded rhetoric and philosophy of communication.

As a part of the next generation of communication professors going on to educate undergraduate students, you will find yourself well prepared for a life of intellectual pursuit, academia and rhetorical exploration.



Program Information

In our Ph.D. in Rhetoric program, become an expert in the art of using language effectively and persuasively to create meaning and influence. Master the power of rhetoric and communication.



Academic Department

Communication and Rhetorical Studies

"The amount of work as well as the diversity of projects and tasks prepared me to be a good scholar, a good colleague and a better person. Find your 'why' and let it guide you, but be flexible to new ideas and opportunities."

—Abbey McCann

Ph.D. Assistantships

As a Ph.D. candidate, you’ll be eligible for 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. 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 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.

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.

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, you will be a qualified specialist 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. You will select courses in two of the three areas that will best prepare you to achieve your 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/Media Ecology

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


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.

Degree Completion Requirements

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:

  • You will receive comprehensive exam questions at the beginning of the spring semester.
  • You will write exams over a two-day period.
  • Faculty evaluate written examinations.

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

  • Reading knowledge of one language.
  • Six semesters of COMM 632: Hermeneutic Phenomenology (0 credit).

Students will work with their dissertation director to come up with a topic for your dissertation. You will later have to defend your dissertation to your dissertation director and committee members.