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Drake University - Rhetoric and Communication Stu

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Rhetoric and Communication Studies

Degree Option

Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in rhetoric and communication studies.

Description of Program

The rhetoric and communication studies program is devoted to the study of public discourse, with particular emphasis on the role of persuasion in the constitution of civil society and democratic governance. Subjects of study range from political speeches to religious texts, from commercial advertisements to Supreme Court opinions, from classical treatises to postmodern theory. Analysis focuses on individual strategies and techniques as well as larger social and cultural patterns in the production and reception of persuasive texts. Theory and case studies are combined to address perennial concerns about the relationships between language, power, identity and community.

The primary objective of instruction and advising in the department is to help the student pursue a high-quality liberal arts education. This liberal arts ideal combines study of a broad range of subjects with training in practical reasoning and the analysis of discourse, and it should culminate in the articulate citizen. Rather than preparing students for professional work in a specific career, the department attempts to cultivate qualities of leadership that are common to many areas of professional, social and political life. Each student's program includes study in a range of arts and sciences, focuses on specific problems of collective life, attends to questions of value and character and develops analytical and communicative skills.

Courses in rhetoric and communication studies emphasize the analysis of persuasive messages and the development of strong arguments. The student learns how to discover the sources of persuasive appeal in a wide range of settings and how to use the available means of persuasion to compete, cooperate, and work creatively with others. Courses emphasize careful reading of primary texts, argumentative discussion of alternative interpretations, writing of interpretive essays and research papers and oral presentations.

Students who major in the department typically go on to careers in business or public service, or to law school or graduate school in a number of disciplines (including business, communication studies, education and other fields). Many students are encouraged to complete other majors or interdisciplinary concentrations.

Requirements for Major

Each student program for a major or minor in the department is developed individually. The major or minor program is designed within a basic disciplinary framework that allows a range of options for addressing the student's educational goals, strengths and weaknesses in coordination with other programming.

A minimum of 30 credits are required for the major, and 18 credits are required for the minor.

Upper-level courses from other departments may be included in the major as they fit into the department's curricular categories, contribute to a comprehensive and cohesive program of study and advance the student's educational goals. (For example, a student interested in the relationship between religion and politics might include courses from the political science and religion/philosophy departments.) Courses from other departments should not comprise more than 6 of the first 30 hours of the major, and all selections must be approved by a committee of the rhetoric and communication studies faculty. Students are responsible for fulfilling any prerequisites for such courses.

Students also develop a supporting program of at least 15 hours; this requirement can be met with another major, minor or concentration. (For example, a student preparing for a career in business might include courses from the College of Business and Public Administration in management, marketing and business law, while a student preparing for a career in secondary education could include the courses in the School of Education taken for certification.) In every case, the complete program of study should provide a sound background in the discipline, a strong liberal arts education and the flexibility needed to complete an educational program that can prepare the student for both specific career goals and responsible leadership in a changing world.

All program decisions for the major or minor must be approved by the student's academic adviser in the department.

Departmental majors and minors must take at least one course from each of the four curricular areas:

The departmental curriculum is divided into four divisions: theory, criticism, practice and topical studies.

Theory identifies foundational concepts, patterns and problems as they have been developed in the study of effective communication from antiquity to the present. Courses in this area include:

Rhetoric as a Liberal Art

  • Philosophy of Dialogue and Interpersonal Communication
  • Communication and Conflict
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • Contemporary Communication and Rhetorical Theory

Criticism focuses on principles of judgment, techniques of analysis and problems of interpretation in the study of discourse, as well as the conditions shaping public discourse, the use of discourse to understand society and the nature of eloquence. Courses in this area include:

  • Rhetorical Criticism
  • Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics
  • The Politics of Interpretation
  • History and Criticism of American Public Address

Practice develops skills in persuasive argument and performance. Courses in this area include:

  • Public Speaking
  • Advanced Public Speaking
  • The department also sponsors student awards for public speaking.

Topical Studies examine specific media, discourses or communicative practices to understand how language operates in major forms of collective experience and why particular ideas or actions appear intelligible, rational or powerful in specific settings. Courses in this area include:

  • Political Communication
  • Communication and Law
  • Communication and Religion
  • Rhetorics of Race
  • Rhetoric and War
  • Aesthetics of Everyday Life
  • Photojournalism and Public Culture

All program planning is done by the student in consultation with a departmental adviser. All courses taught by departmental faculty can be counted toward a major or minor in the department, as long as other requirements are not annulled. Courses taught outside the department by departmental faculty include courses in the First Year Seminar program, the Law, Politics and Society program, the Honors Program and Paths to Knowledge, among others.

Independent study also is an option, particularly in conjunction with senior thesis requirements in interdisciplinary programs such as the Honors Program or the program in the Critical Study of Culture.

If the Capstone experience for the Drake Curriculum is completed within the major, it should be in conjunction with the senior seminars in classical or contemporary theory or with an independent study project.

Internships for credit are available when they can be arranged by the student and involve a component of academic reading and writing. Past internships have included work with political campaigns, in advertising firms and in community organizing.

Majors (sample curricula)

The programs listed below are a few examples of how students can develop individualized programs. The programs are listed in 4-year sequences, although they can be completed in less time. As most of our majors enter the University with no declared major or transfer from other majors, they typically are beginning the program in their second or third year of study. There are no prerequisites or required sequences of study, although it is assumed that educational benefit and student success is most likely to occur when the student follows a developmental sequence of courses.

Major Program A:

  • Rhetoric as a Liberal Art
  • Public Speaking
  • Philosophies of Dialogue and Interpersonal Communication
  • History and Criticism of American Public Address
  • The Politics of Interpretation
  • Rhetorics of Race
  • Communication and Law
  • Rhetoric and War
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • Contemporary Communication and Rhetorical Theory

    30 credits total

Major Program B:

  • Rhetoric as a Liberal Art
  • Public Speaking
  • FYS: Popular Trials
  • History and Criticism of American Public Address
  • Law, Politics and Society
  • POLS 181 (Modern Political Theory)
  • The Politics of Interpretation
  • Rhetorics of Race
  • Communication and Law
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • POLS 190 (Seminar in Constitutional Law)

    33 credits total

Major Program C:

  • Rhetoric as a Liberal Art
  • Public Speaking
  • FYS: Love and Friendship from Plato to Buddy Movies
  • Introduction to Hermeneutics
  • REL 108 (20th Century American Religion)
  • Communication and Religion
  • Rhetorics of Race
  • PHIL 123 (Ethical Theory)
  • REL 149 (Religion of the New Testament)
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • Contemporary Communication and Rhetorical Theory

    33 credits total

Major Program D:

  • Rhetoric as a Liberal Art
  • Public Speaking
  • FYS: American Character and Society
  • The Politics of Interpretation
  • SCSS 133 (Sociological Theory)
  • Communication and Conflict
  • Rhetorics of Race
  • SCSS 172 (Wealth, Discourse and Power)
  • The Aesthetics of Everyday Life
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • Contemporary Communication and Rhetorical Theory

    33 credits total

Major Program E:

  • Rhetoric as a Liberal Art
  • Public Speaking
  • History of American Public Address
  • Rhetorical Criticism
  • Photojournalism and Public Culture
  • The Aesthetics of Everyday Life
  • ENG 70: Introduction to Film Study
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • Contemporary Communication and Rhetorical Theory
  • ENG 124: Topics in Cultural History

    30 credits total

Requirements for Minor

18 hours required for the minor.

Departmental minor programs involve only courses taught by faculty in the department. There still is considerable flexibility for individual planning, as the following samples suggest.

Minor Program A:

  • Rhetoric as a Liberal Art
  • Public Speaking
  • Rhetoric and War
  • Rhetorics of Race
  • The Politics of Interpretation
  • Classical Rhetoric

    18 credits total

Minor Program B:

  • Rhetoric as a Liberal Art
  • Public Speaking
  • Paths to Knowledge (6-credit interdisciplinary course)
  • The Aesthetics of Everyday Life
  • Photojournalism and Public Culture

    18 credits total

Minor Program C:

  • Rhetoric as a Liberal Art
  • Public Speaking
  • Political Communication
  • History and Criticism of American Public Address
  • The Politics of Interpretation
  • Classical Rhetoric
  • Contemporary Communication and Rhetorical Theory

    21 credits total

Selection and scheduling optimizes coordination with the student's other areas of study (another major, concentrations in women's studies or other interdisciplinary programs) and with other educational opportunities such as study abroad. Students are encouraged to participate in additional disciplinary, interdisciplinary or international programs.

Students or prospective students are welcome to contact the faculty at any time if they have questions regarding a degree program.

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