About WRD

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

What is rhetoric? 

Rhetoric is the study of written, oral, and digital communication. Rhetoric teaches you how to argue, persuade, inform, and express for a variety of professional and personal reasons. Rhetoric teaches you how to invent, organize, arrange, and produce knowledge. Rhetoric teaches you how to create and share meaning. Rhetoric is the basis of all writing we do.  Web pages are rhetorical. Technical documents are rhetorical. Movies are rhetorical. Video games are rhetorical. Ads are rhetorical. Medical documents are rhetorical. Legal briefs are rhetorical. Rhetoric is everywhere we engage with ideas and content!

WRD is  dedicated to the study and teaching of writing practices, public rhetoric, and digital media. 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).

WRD also offers a minor in Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies as well as a minor in Profession and Technical Writing.

WRD supports the Composition and Communication curriculum (taught as WRD 110, 111, & 112 in our unit), which integtes 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.  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. From 2012-2015, he co-directed Wired, the College of Arts and Sciences residential college. Follow him on Medium. Jim Ridolfo’s work in the digital humanities includes the digitization of ancient Samaritan texts and a 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.  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 wrote 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 and Alvarez organize community events that draw Lexingtonians together to talk about issues of local and national importance. Lauren Cagle studies environmental rhetoric. Sharon Yam studies global citizenship and rhetoric. Karrieann Soto Vega studies Latinx rhetorica and cutlural rhetorics. 

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. Jeff Rice has written a textbook. For us, the teaching of writing is a scholarly activity of equal importance to our other work.

By the end of Fall 2018, we hope to open our computer lab on the 13th floor of POT - The Digital Distillery. The lab will function as a seminar room, research space, and computer lab for WRD students.

Stop by and talk with us. We'd love to discuss how WRD can help you at UK and in you future career goals.


Jeff Rice


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