About WRD

Welcome to the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies!

The newest department in the College of Arts and Sciences, we are dedicated to the study and teaching of writing practices, public rhetoric, and digital media. With 15 faculty (9 tenure-stream faculty and 6 lecturers) and 2 staff members, we serve over 5,000 undergraduates each year. The WRD BA/BS major offers students three tracks: 

  • Professional Writing and Editing (for those who want careers in editing and publishing or writing for/within a nonprofit or business)
  • Rhetorical Theory and Practice (for those who want to get involved in public advocacy, government, or law)
  • Digital Studies (for those who want to write and produce content for electronic spaces and understand how those spaces are designed).

We are best known for the innovative Composition and Communication curriculum (taught as WRD 110, 111, & 112 in our unit), which integrates instruction in oral, written, and visual communication, and the Writing Center. The Composition and Communication Program is the first cross-college program of its kind in the nation. The University Writing Center celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014.

Our faculty includes national leaders in social and digital media. Adam Banks is the national expert on African American rhetoric and technology, and focuses on social media. His blog, The Talking Book, explores social media and race in America. In 2014, he served as the Program Chair for the Conference on College Composition and Communicaiton.  Bill Endres has become famous across the pond for his scholarship and digitization of St. Chad’s Gospel, one of the four most important medieval illuminated manuscripts in the UK, and writing about visual rhetoric.  Brian McNely, a national specialist in workplace writing, studies the way nonprofit organizations and businesses incorporate social media into their workplace practices. Tom Marksbury is a documentary film writer who teaches documentary film history and production. His films, screened worldwide, have won awards at the Savannah and New Orleans film festivals, as well as best documentary awards at the Western Heritage Museum.  Jeff Rice holds the Martha B. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, writes on media and network theory and brings national speakers to campus to speak on digital media. He also co-directs Wired, the College of Arts and Sciences residential college and blogs at Yellow Dog.  Jim Ridolfo’s work in the digital humanities includes the digitization of ancient Samaritan texts and a forthcoming co-edited volume, Rhetoric and the Digtial Humanities, exploring the intersections of rhetoric and the digital humanities.

Our faculty also includes national leaders in public rhetoric.  Steven Alvarez studies the literacy practices of new immigrant Mexican families and has already helped Spanish-speaking Lexington teenagers publish a book of their stories.  He helped bring about the A&S Year of Mexico (2013-14).  Jan Fernheimer studies Jewish rhetoric across the diaspora, focusing especially on racial identity within Jewish communities.  She co-leads the A&S Year of the Middle East (2014-15).  Roxanne Mountford has published on gender and rhetoric in the public sphere, and Jenny Rice studies the nature of public debate through case study methodology, most recently of an environmental conflict in Austin. Brandy Scalise works on public controversies centered around science and religion.  Beth Connors-Manke writes for the local newspaper North of Center and is involved with many local issues. Katherine Rogers-Carpenter is a playwright and former graphic designer who teaches and writes about labor and feminist issues. Connors-Manke, Alvarez and Banks organize community events that draw Lexingtonians together to talk about issues of local and national importance.

Finally, we are all writers who are deeply committed to the teaching of writing. Josh Abboud studies film as a way of thinking about composing. Judy Prats runs the Writing Center, working with Rachel Elliott, a painter and art educator, to develop workshops and tutoring in visual design as well as expanding the hours and services that the Writing Center provides to undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. Roxanne Mountford is currently writing on pedagogies developed between the World Wars to integrate instruction in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Jeff Rice has written a textbook. For us, the teaching of writing is a scholarly activity of equal importance to our other work.

We are a new department under construction. Watch for our new courses and for all the innovative work we do!

Jeff Rice

Interim Chair

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