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John Rief

Assistant Professor
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Communication & Rhetorical Studies

341 College Hall
Phone: 412.396.2639


Ph.D., Communication, University of Pittsburgh, 2012
M.A., Bioethics, University of Pittsburgh, 2013
M.A., Communication, University of Pittsburgh, 2008
B.A., Communication and Philosophy, Regis University, 2005

Dr. Rief hails from Denver, Colorado where he was a student at Regis Jesuit University, completing BAs in Philosophy and Communication. He was also a member on Regis' nationally competitive debate team, reaching the elimination rounds of several major invitational tournaments and the National Debate Tournament.

Dr. Rief completed his PhD in Communication (2012) and MA in Bioethics (2013) at the University of Pittsburgh. His doctoral work was supported by a fellowship in clinical and translational research awarded by the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Clinical Research Education and funded by the National Institutes of Health. His dissertation project ("Searching for the Good Life: Rhetoric, Medicine, and the Shaping of Lifestyle") was selected among the top three best dissertations of the year by the American Society for the History of Rhetoric and is now being developed as his first book project. While completing his degree, Dr. Rief coached (and, for one year, was the associate director) of the policy debate program in the William Pitt Debating Union. He also worked closely with the public debate program there, assisting in the planning and implementation of several debates on a wide range of topics including police brutality and public health.

After the completion of his PhD, he was selected for a postdoctoral scholarship in health services research awarded by the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Clinical Research Education and RAND-University of Pittsburgh Scholars program and funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Dr. Rief teaches a variety of courses in the department including the history of communication, argument in the global public sphere, and public speaking. He is also the Senior Debate Consultant for the Duquesne Debating Society, a role that includes assisting the society in planning events, developing opportunities for curricular integration of debate into the department's courses, and coordinating scholarly research related to debate. His current research focuses on debate and argumentation theory, the intersecting histories of rhetoric and medicine, and communication issues in contemporary chronic care. His work has appeared in Argumentation & Advocacy, Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies, Health Education & Behavior, Contemporary Argumentation & Debate and the selected works volumes of the AFA/NCA (Alta) conference and the International Society for the Study of Argumentation conference, among other venues.


Recent Scholarship

Journal Articles (2012 - Present)

John J. Rief, "(Re)Designing the Debate Tournament for Civic Life," Speaker & Gavel. Volume 55, Issue 1 (2018): 36-58. Available at https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/speaker-gavel/vol55/iss1/3.

John J. Rief, Megan E. Hamm, Susan L. Zickmund, Cara Nikolajski, Dan Lesky, Rachel Hess, Gary S. Fischer, Melissa Weimer, Sunday Clark, Caroline Zieth, and Mark S. Roberts, "Using Health Information Technology to Foster Engagement: Patients' Experiences with an Active Patient Health Record," Health Communication. Volume 32, Number 3 (2017): 310-319. PubMed ID: 27223684.

John J. Rief, "Building the Case for an ‘Architectonic' Function of Rhetoric in Health Services Research." POROI: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Rhetorical Analysis and Invention. Volume 10, Issue 1 (2014). Available at http://ir.uiowa.edu/poroi/vol10/iss1/9/.

John J. Rief, Gordon R. Mitchell, Susan L. Zickmund, Tina D. Bhargava, Cindy L. Bryce, Gary S. Fischer, Rachel Hess, N. Randall Kolb, Laurey R. Simin-Silverman, and Kathleen M. McTigue, "Promoting Patient Phronesis: Communication Patterns in an Online Lifestyle Program Coordinated with Primary Care," Health Education & Behavior. Volume 40, Number 3 (June, 2013): 311-322. PubMed ID: 22984212.

Encyclopedia Entries (2012 - Present)

John J. Rief, "Stephen Toulmin: Theory and Practice," in An Encyclopedia of Communication Ethics: Goods in Contention, edited by Ronald C. Arnett, Annette M. Holba, and Susan Mancino (New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2018), 488-493.


Recent Honors and Awards


2015-16 Rice Fellows Program fellowship awarded by the Center for the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the Center for Community-Engaged Teaching and Research at Duquesne University for the development of a public debate program at Pittsburgh Milliones, University Preparatory School in Pittsburgh, PA.

2015 Faculty Development Grant awarded by the Office of International Programs at Duquesne University for the development of a Maymester course in Kigali, Rwanda.


Dissertation ("Searching for the Good Life: Rhetoric, Medicine, and the Shaping of Lifestyle) selected among the top three finalists for the 2012 American Society for the History of Rhetoric dissertation award.


June, 2012-August, 2012: Marcella L. Feingold Summer Research Fellow in the William Pitt Debating Union at the University of Pittsburgh (summer stipend).

October, 2012-October, 2014: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funded Postdoctoral Fellowship, RAND - University of Pittsburgh Scholars Program, Institute for Clinical Research Education and Center for Research on Health Care, University of Pittsburgh (stipend, tuition benefits, research and travel support).




Contributing Associate Editor at Timely Interventions: A Translational Journal of Public Policy Debate (August 2015-present)

Offices Held

Chair, National Communication Association's Committee on International Discussion and Debate (2018).

Vice President, National Educational Debate Association (April 2016-present)

August 2016-Present: Senior Debate Consultant, Duquesne Debating Society