Graduate work in Composition and Rhetoric at UNL prepares teacher-scholars as active contributors to their school, disciplinary, and community settings. We provide students a rich understanding of both historical and contemporary questions, issues, and ideals that shape the field of Composition and Rhetoric.  From this exploration, we offer students support and guidance in determining their own lines of scholarly inquiry and pedagogical commitments, which, in turn, contribute to the field’s knowledge.

UNL's Composition and Rhetoric program identifies the graduate seminar classroom as one among many sites of important scholarly work.  Equally important are the many ways teacher-scholars collaborate on research projects, teaching and curriculum design, program administration and development, and outreach to the communities surrounding UNL.  

During their programs of study, our students’ professional activity often includes the following:

  • serving as associate coordinators of our composition program and writing center
  • mentoring new TAs
  • participating in and/or facilitating the Nebraska Writing Project
  • conducting research with faculty members and peers
  • participating in monthly composition colloquia, where faculty and graduate students come together to discuss issues in the field, both local and national
  • engaging with visiting scholars, who give lectures and meet with graduate and undergraduate students. (Past visitors include Eileen Shell, Nancy Welch, Brenda Brueggeman, Linda Flower, Kristie Fleckenstein, Anne Ruggles Gere, Ted Lardner, Andrea Lunsford, Krista Ratcliffe, Cynthia Selfe, Richard Miller, and Denny Taylor.)
  • attending national conferences
  • collaborating with faculty and students in related departments, especially Communication Studies and Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education

UNL's English graduate students are an engaged and dedicated group of professionals that have a history of initiating colloquia, reading series, brown-bag discussions and conferences in response to professional interests and important community concerns as they arise.

Our alumni serve as K-12 teachers, university composition and English education faculty, writing center directors, writing administrators, and grant writers, among other roles.

Our graduate program offers a generalist M.A. and an individually-tailored Ph.D. program. There are no core or required courses at the Ph.D. level. Ph.D. students design an individual program of study with faculty in their area(s) of interest. Our advising documents describe the program of study, language requirement, exam and dissertation process.

To support students’ development, our curriculum features inquiry in the following core areas:

Public Rhetorics

Our rhetoric seminars examine the relationship among language, culture, identity and agency.   Through both historical and contemporary inquiry, we consider how rhetoric shapes public discourse, social conventions and norms, and expectations for writers.  

We also examine rhetoric as a tool for social action, looking at how rhetors who represent diverse perspectives and positions discover and employ the “available means of persuasion,” so as to speak back to and revise cultural norms and practices.   

Literacy Theory and Practice

Literacy seminars examine how practices and processes of reading and writing—as well as assumptions about what “being literate” entails—are shaped by social, cultural, political and economic contexts.  These courses may consider issues of:

  • literacy acquisition
  • the variance of literacy practices across cultures
  • the influence of digital media on literacy practices
  • linkages between literacies and identities
  • contemporary and historical debates over literacy instruction

Composition Theory and Practice

Composition seminars invite students to explore historical and contemporary approaches to writing instruction, considering how composition theory converses with changing institutional and cultural exigencies, assumptions about teachers and students of writing, and understandings of the purpose of writing instruction.

Our program’s strong K-16 emphasis invites regular dialogue between K-12 and university teachers of writing.

Socially Committed Pedagogies

Our program is committed to teaching as an intellectual enterprise, worthy of study and reflection. We focus especially on pedagogies committed to expansive and critically-oriented processes of learning, including queer, feminist, place conscious and critical pedagogies.  

In addition to coursework that examines the cultural and political implications of pedagogical theories and practices, we provide many outlets for pedagogical development, including mentorship of new TAs, writing center consulting, composition colloquia, and work with the Nebraska Writing Project.  

The connection between K-12 and university education is a long-standing, vital commitment at UNL, and our Nebraska Writing Project site sponsors regular opportunities for collaborative teacher learning.

The program at UNL is home to faculty and graduate students with a wide range of interests that overlap and inform our studies.  This range is one of our program’s greatest assets. To learn more about this work, please visit our graduate student page;  our faculty page; and our alumni page.  We welcome your questions about the program. Please contact Composition Program Director Shari Stenberg for more information.