Communication and Rhetoric, Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric represents the growing interface of the basic sciences, social sciences, and engineering that constitutes the “New Polytechnic” and their intersection with the humanities.

Program Overview

The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric offers a multidisciplinary curriculum that engages students in questioning the complex textual phenomena they encounter, as conveyed through media and communication technologies. An integrated curriculum in communication, culture, design, and media prepares students to contribute to sustainable and resilient national and international communication infrastructures. Students conduct humanistic and empirical research focused on the development and analysis of multimedia, multicultural, and multimodal texts that enable them to orient and otherwise operationalize diverse media and communication technologies to contribute to the sustenance and preservation of humanity and the environment and effect positive global change.

The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric provides a research platform for studying humanity's mediated interactions with texts for social or political advocacy, cultural expression or engagement, and cognition. The stories told through mediated texts — like Twitter, television, games, data, software, novels, still and moving images, robots, and indigenous and vernacular artifacts and processes—shape intellect, individual and collective identities, aspirations, perceptions of others, and behaviors. And such stories profoundly affect political, cultural, and social institutions in our local and global communities.

Situated within the nation’s oldest technological university, the graduate program through its renowned faculty, evolving graduate student constituency, and interdisciplinary curriculum creates opportunities for cutting-edge research in human cognition, communication, and culture — a signature thrust of the “New Polytechnic” that is Rensselaer.

Program Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:

  • Conduct advanced scholarly research by developing competence in the following three categories: a) theoretically informed analysis of historical and contemporary communication practices; b) analysis and critique of historical, legacy, and new media technologies; and c) mastery of a set of methodologies necessary to carry out projects in the field of communication and rhetoric.
  • Design and articulate research problems and conduct independent, original, and significant research.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the historical, social, cultural, and rhetorical contexts that shape, and are shaped by, diverse communication practices and media environments.
  • Communicate effectively to specialized and general audiences.

After Graduation

Graduates of the Ph.D. program in Communication and Rhetoric leave equipped with critical, creative, and methodological abilities, as well as self-awareness, empathic cognizance, and ethical principles for using language, in all its varied forms, in multicultural, multimedia, and multimodal environments.

The program's freshly minted scholars are ready to contribute expertise in cultural, communication, and media studies; design thinking and making; visualization; and humanistic literature to virtual communities and immersive and mixed-reality environments, as well as to traditional textual environments involving word, image, and sound.


These graduates possess an analytical, applied, empirical, and theoretical knowledge set that enables them to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams working to address global challenges in the world. Thus, they are competitive on the job market, readily finding careers in business, government, and academia.


The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Russell Sage Laboratory (SAGE) 4307, 110 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180
(518) 276-2576

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