Rhetoric & Writing at BGSU
Frequently Asked Questions
For several years, we've tried to keep track of questions asked by people interested in the program and or answers sent in response. Maybe you will find answers to some of your questions here or by clicking various buttons along the left side of the Program's web page. Please feel free to email or call the graduate secretary or the program director for additional information about the program, your professional interests, and matters of doctoral-program application, in this program or generally. --Richard Gebhardt (September, 2010)
Can you tell me something about the students in the program?
Could you tell me something about the program’s faculty?
What courses will I take in the program?
Are there supporting groups or activities for students in the program?
How can I develop a strong application?
What kind of work does an assistant do?
How do students typically move through the program?
What are Preliminary Exams like in the program?
What kind of dissertations do students write in your program?
Can I specialize in . . . ?
Will my interest in writing and technology fit the program?
Is an MA required for application?
Are there options for the language requirement?
Is the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program well established or fairly recent?
What sort of job-placement rate does the program have?
What colleges and universities have hired program graduates recently?
Students come to the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program from across the United States, and beyond. For instance, the fall entering classes of 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 include women and men from graduate programs in West Virginia, Washington, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and China. Students have a variety of academic backgrounds (composition, literature, technical/professional writing, education, creative writing) and a wide range of scholarly interests, but they share a common interest in writing instruction. You can find brief notes on many current students and a list of some of their conference papers and publications by clicking the Student and Alumni button. And you can learn a lot about the interests and activities of our students by clicking the Newsletter button and looking at Rhetoric & Writing Notes, especially its Fall issues.
The core faculty members of the Rhetoric and Writing PhD Program have wide-ranging scholarly and professional interests, including rhetorical history, computer-mediated writing, feminism and composition, rhetorical and critical theory, writing administration, cultural studies, writing assessment, writing in the disciplines, discourse analysis, and the preparation of writing teachers. All of us share a common interest in writing instruction and in helping graduate students develop as the scholars and teachers they need to be in order to have successful careers as college and university faculty members. For some information on Program faculty; click the left-side Faculty button. And here are email addresses in case you want to contact individual faculty members: Kris Blair, Bruce Edwards, Sue Carter Wood, Lee Nickoson-Massey, Andrea Riley-Mukavetz
The Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program requires eight Core Courses: Rhetoric and Composition as a Discipline, Rhetorical Theory, Rhetorical History (2 seminars), Research, Computer-Mediated Writing, Scholarly Publication, and a Special-Topic Seminar (Writing Administration, Writing Assessment, and Writing Across the University regularly and there are other topics too). Students take at least three elective Rhetoric & Writing courses (e.g. 7800 "special topics" seminars). And in addition to the 33 hours of Rhetoric & Writing Core and Elective courses, students may choose to take cognate courses in areas relevant to their research or teaching interests. There are also a number of general requirements, among them a Language Requirement, Prelim Exam hours, and Dissertation hours. The Courses button goes to a sketch of requirements and related information. There is a two-page overview of the Program linked from the Welcome page and from the Application Information page.
Monthly “Third Friday” meetings bring students and faculty together to discuss professional issues and program-related matters, with agendas developed by a student steering committee. Two “Post-Prelim Groups” bring advanced students and faculty together for information, support, and feedback while people write their dissertations and conduct job searches. A volunteer “Alumni Mentor Group” helps Rhetoric & Writing PhD students develop a realistic sense of faculty life and work at different kinds of colleges and universities. Student and faculty potluck lunches scatter through the year, too, and students support their colleagues by attending dissertation-proposal sessions and dissertation defenses. And there is a good deal of collaboration--both student/student and student/faculty--on conference presentations, research, publications, and other professional activities; for some examples you could check the Student Collaboration link on the Students and Alumni page.
- One key to applying effectively to any doctoral program is get a good sense of the focus of a program and of the scholarly interests of its faculty so you can send materials that help the review committee see the “fit” of your interests and professional aspirations.
- Do not wait until a university's published deadline since that forces the review committee to leave your application until later while it reviews complete files. Keep in mind that it takes time (lots of time, in some cases) for transcripts to get to the university and then to be evaluated by the Graduate College. So if you think in the fall that you are going to apply, the best plan probably is to get the application process started then.
- Your application letter should go beyond just saying you want to apply. Rather it should give information about your background,your scholarly interests, your professional goals, and your reasons for applying to the program. The personal statement is another place to clarify such matters. It should be compact (a couple pages) since the review committee will be reading lots of files, but it should be detailed enough to represent you and your reasons for wanting to become part of the program--and, of course, it should be an example of your best writing.
- It would be good if one or more your reference letters could touch on your fit with the program and if at least one of them could deal with your background in rhetoric and composition and/or your work as a writing teacher. Reference letters can be mailed to the Director of the Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. Program, or to Dr. Lawrence Coates, the English Department Graduate Coordinator. (English Department, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403.) Either way, letters will get to Graduate Secretary Mary Ann Sweeney and into your application file. Don’t worry a great deal if a recommender does not get a letter done as promptly as you might like, but do check with the Graduate Secretary occasionally to see how letters are flowing in. By the way, if time is tight you could let recommenders know that it is OK to attach a letter (to Mary Ann Sweeney at firstname.lastname@example.org) and then send the signed letter on letterhead via US Mail.
- In selecting your writing sample, you will naturally want to show you best academic work. As you select it, keep in mind that the review committee will be reading to get a sense of your ability to work with complex scholarly materials, as well as the clarity and overall effectiveness of your writing. Two shorter pieces could work well as a single sample, if they are not long (up to 20 pages total).
- Your official application goes to the Graduate College. Online application is the most efficient way to begin your application, but be scrupulous about following online directions. Graduate College review of applications and transcripts can be time consuming (since transcripts need to get to BGSU from other institutions before review can start). So it is a good idea to apply much earlier than February 1.
- Lots of materials--such as reference letters, writing samples and personal statements--should be mailed to the English Department and directed to the Graduate Secretary, Mary Ann Sweeney (Graduate Secretary, English Department, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403). Mary Ann will be glad to help with detail questions you have about the application process and how materials are flowing into your file.
- Click the Application Information button for a variety of information and materials about applying to the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program.
- GRE scores are a useful element in application files, but the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program does not require the GRE for applicants with graduate degrees from accredited U.S. and Canadian universities. (This new policy was approved fairly recently, and the GRE is required for other English Department programs; for both reasons you may find some contradictory information in department application materials.)
The most frequent assistantship assignment is teaching in General Studies Writing (Bowling Green’s first-year writing program). Over the four years of funding, assistantship assignments typically give experience in addition to first-year writing classes, for instance: teaching Intermediate Writing, working as a consultant in the Writing Center, serving as a mentor of new teachers in the General Studies Writing Program, working with the web journal Computers and Composition Online, or being an administrative assistant for the R&W Ph.D. Program. Also, each year several Non-Service Fellowships are available to support dissertation work in the final year of funding. By the way, you can be in the program without funding--an option several students are pursuing now because they have positions at nearby colleges.
- As you would imagine, lots of variables influence the way different students move through the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program. But this rough and incomplete time line may be useful in understanding how the Program unfolds over four years.
Students take courses during the first four or five semesters (and the summer terms between them). During this time, students work with the Program Director as advisor.
- During the second year, students work with their advisor so that their Preliminary Exam Committees are set up during the spring semester. Advising then shifts from the Program Director to the Prelim Committee Chair (who later becomes the Dissertation Committee Chair).
- Often students utilize the summer following the second year to study for General Exams and prepare Specialized Portfolio Exams
- Usually students take Preliminary Exams in the fall semester of the third year.
- At this point students become part of the Post-Prelim Group at this point and meet periodically with the faculty and other students who are working toward and on dissertations.
- The semester following completion of Preliminary Exams, students give their Graduate Lectures (our approach to dissertation-topic approval). Students work with committee chairs as they develop substantial proposals and working bibliographies. They submit the work to the committee two or more weeks before the Graduate Lecture. Then they give compact Graduate Lectures based on the proposal, and they interact with committee members and others who come to the public presentation.
- Following topic approval, students work on dissertation research and writing in close contact with their dissertation advisors (AKA committee chairs). Typically, they share chapters or other segments of the dissertation with the rest of the committee when the chair advises them to. They also meet periodically with the Post-Prelim Group for strategies and mutual support during dissertation drafting and job hunting.
- When dissertations are complete, students give copies to all committee members well in advance of the public Dissertation Defense. Following the Defense, students usually have some revision/editing to complete before submitting the dissertation electronically.
The Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. Program works to make Prelims functional as preparation for later research and dissertation work. That is why the Specialized Prelim is a Portfolio focused on professional activities and the future dissertation. For more information about the Core Exam and Specialized Portfolio, click the Preliminary Exams button.
Rhetoric & Writing PhD students are interested in a wide range of subjects and scholarly approaches, so students pursue a wide range of research approaches and dissertation topics. You can find a list of graduates' dissertations (many with links) at the Students and Alumni button. Here are some representative dissertations by Program graduates: Here are some representative dissertations by Program graduates: Post-9/11 Rhetorical Theory and Composition Pedagogy; Rhetoric and the Scholarship of Engagement; The Girls of Myspace: New Media as Gendered Literacy Practice and Identity Construction; The Multimodal Kitchen: Cookbooks as Women's Rhetorical Practice; Dynamic Criteria Mapping: Rhetorical Values in Writing Placement; Preparing Doctoral Students in Rhetoric and Composition for Faculty Careers that Contribute to the Public Good; Speaking of Sex: The Rhetorical Strategies of Frances Willard, Victoria Woodhull, and Ira Craddock; Acquiring Literacy: Techne, Video Games and Composition Pedagogy; Audience Matters: Exploring Audience in Undergraduate Creative Writing Pedagogy; From Cyberspace to Print: Re-Examining the Effects of Collaborative Online Invention on First-Year Writing; A Rhetorical Analysis of Change in the Holocaust Memorial Center; Weblogs, Adolescent Girls, and the Cybermuse Community; Rhetorical Analysis of Framing of Pre-Raphaelite Pictures; A Story of Geography and Composition Pedagogy; A Descriptive Taxonomy of Police Reports on Conjugal Violence; The Classical Trivium in Contemporary Contexts; Ethos in the Reflective Voice of James Morris; Portfolio Based Testing and Mandated Assessment; Dramatizing Writing: Reinstating Delivery in the Classroom.
This is a good question and one that interested students ask so frequently every year that I once did an article about it for our program newsletter, Rhetoric & Writing Notes. Part of my answer to the question is that specializing in any area within the broad field of rhetoric and composition centers in the dissertation and other post-course-work requirements in the last years of doctoral study. Any program is going have its required courses and, naturally, they can’t all match every student’s research interests exactly. But some of those courses may give you a chance to explore a research interest in a seminar paper; on the other hand, you may discover a new research interest while taking core courses. Either way, you will advance your research agenda while preparing for the specialized component of preliminary exams (a Specialized Portfolio, in our program) and in developing your dissertation proposal (what we call the Graduate Lecture). Naturally, you become even more specialized in the research area during a year or more of dissertation work. This evolving sort of specialization is why the previous section lists such a wide range of dissertation topics, very few of which, by the way, align exactly with specific core courses taken in the first couple years of the Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. Program.
Lots of Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. students share your interest, and I would say that there is a strong computer culture among the students and faculty here. One of our seven program goals (and student learning outcomes) is to prepare students theoretically and practically to work in computer environments. Throughout their time here, students develop online portfolios demonstrating work relevant to the program goals, and they later develop professional online portfolios for use in their job searches. ENG 728,Computer Mediated Writing: Theory and Practice” is a required course taught by Dr. Kris Blair, a specialist in technology in writing instruction who edits Computers and Composition Online here at BGSU and who was the winner of the 2007 Technology Innovator Award from 7Cs (the CCCC Committee on Computers). Other faculty are interested in this area, too. Dr. Bruce Edwards and I were setting up campus computer labs and publishing about computers and writing in the early 1980s. Bruce helped Bowling Green evolve its whole approach to web-based learning and he now serves as BGSU’s associate provost for technology matters. All core faculty use Blackboard and/or other web-based enhancements in their teaching, and most of us have taught fully online courses. Some students do dissertation work emphasizing computer mediated writing and/or web-based issues in rhetoric and composition. Some teaching assistantship assignments fall in this area, too--for instance, teaching computer-lab sections of first-year writing or web-based intermediate writing, and doing web-site development or maintenance--and some students get involved with Computers and Composition Online.
Sorry, but this question evades a simple answer, so feel free to check with me for more information. Most applicants to the Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. Program have MA degrees, but under BGSU’s Continuing Ph.D. Option we occasionally admit extremely capable BA graduates who have strong backgrounds and/or interest in rhetoric and composition and the teaching of writing. Continuing Ph.D. Program students complete a non-thesis MA in which they take introductory courses in linguistics and literary theory, several Rhetoric & Writing courses, and a selection of courses from technical writing and other areas (e.g., speech-communication, women’s studies, literature). Since students take some R&W Ph.D. courses in their first two years, the Continuing Ph.D. Program tends to be more time-efficient than doing an unrelated MA and then starting a doctoral program. Unfortunately, in most years, assistantships are not available for Continuing Ph.D. applicants. An approach some BA applicants have considered is applying for funding in BGSU’s strong Textual Studies MA program, planning to take a couple elective rhetoric courses and then apply to the R&W PhD Program during their second year of MA work.
While GRE scores can play a useful role in application files, the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program does not require the GRE for applicants with or completing graduate degrees from accredited universities in the United States and Canada. (They are required for students applying directly from undergraduate programs.)
There are quite a few options, ranging from taking an exam from an appropriate language department, to taking a course in computer programming or American Sign Language. Lots of students take language brush-up courses in the summer, with the grade satisfying the requirement. Some students have found a summer study in France program run by the Romance Languages Department a very interesting way to satisfy their requirement in French or Spanish. Others have used the online WebCape program, available through BGSU, to validate earlier course work in French or Spanish.
Now in its 30th-anniversary year, the Bowling Green doctoral program is one of the longest-running among the seventy or so doctoral programs in rhetoric and composition. A listing of programs published a few years ago shows that just a few rhetoric and composition PhD programs were founded earlier than ours was, and that a large number were founded later (among them, Penn State 4 years later, Ohio State 5, Arizona 9, Illinois 10, Washington 12, and Minnesota 13). Our ninety or so graduates hold faculty and administrative positions in colleges and universities across the United States and beyond (see the next question). There is a good deal of information about our alumni at the Students and Alumni button. News about alumni activities is appears in our newsletter Rhetoric & Writing Notes, especially in Spring issues; click the Newsletter button.
The placement rate for graduates of the Rhetoric & Writing PhD Program approaches 100%. And graduates usually get tenure-line and other stable career positions at colleges and universities, except when they must limit their job searches (for instance, to a specific geographical region). From 2003 through May 2010, for instance, 42 students defended their dissertations and graduated. Thirty-one of them (74%) took or continued in tenure-line and other stable career positions, two (5%) took term positions before moving to tenure-line positions, and two others (a dual-career couple) declined individual tenure-line offers at distant universities to take lectureships in the same high-profile writing program. Of the other 7 graduates, 1 returned to her university in Vietnam; 1 continued in the newspaper editorial position she had while pursuing her degree; 3 were BGSU instructors when they graduated and remained in those positions; and because of limited searches, 2 have yet to locate tenure-line or other stable career positions.
From 2003 to 2010, graduates accepted (or continued in) tenure-line positions at: New Mexico State University, Morningside College (Iowa), Southeast Missouri State University, University of Michigan-Flint, Lincoln University (Missouri), Dixie State College of Utah, Parkland College (Illinois), Capitol University (Ohio), Grandview University (Iowa), Paine College (Georgia), University of Findlay (Ohio), East Central University (Oklahoma), Owens Community College (Ohio), Ball State University (Indiana), Georgia Southwestern State University, University of Louisiana-Monroe, Augusta State University (Georgia), Missouri State University, Mercy College (Ohio), Buena Vista University (Iowa), Louisiana Tech, Bob Jones University (South Carolina), Southwest Missouri State University, Penn State University-Harrisburg, Georgia Institute of Technology. And here are some institutions where graduates took (or continued in) positions from 1998-2003: Savannah State University, Lorraine Community College (Ohio), University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, James Madison University (Virginia), University of Findlay (Ohio), University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Yakima Community College (Washington), Utah Valley State College, Bemidji State University (Minnesota), Rhodes State College (Ohio).