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Ph.D. Literacy, Language and Culture

The Literacy, Language and Culture Program concentrates on issues related to learning about literacy and language in formal and informal settings such as schools, communities, and families. Some of the issues that can be explored within the Literacy, Language, and Culture program include biliteracy and bilingualism, children’s and young adult literacy, digital literacy, diversity and critical literacy, early literacy development, elementary literacy development, English education, literacy assessment, literacy in the disciplines, and writing. This program provides rich experiences and expertise of faculty and fellow students to provide a student-centered environment in which both groups engage in research, exploration, and inquiry.

The Literacy, Language and Culture Ph.D. program at Clemson University is grounded in research and inquiry, and built on the rich experiences and expertise of its faculty and students who acknowledge the centrality of culture on literacy and language practices. We seek strong applicants with potential and drive to serve as innovative leaders in the field of literacy. Applicants with unique personal and professional experiences and diverse perspectives are expected to engage with and be challenged by faculty and fellow doctoral students.

The program provides in-depth, advanced education to individuals who hold a master’s degree in education and are pursuing careers as researchers and teacher educators at the college and university levels. The Ph.D. in literacy, language and culture prepares knowledgeable and skilled educators who promote equitable and effective instruction to improve literacy and language for students of all ages in a myriad of educational and community contexts.

The program prepares educators and scholars with sophisticated understandings of the relationships among literacy, language and culture, and the ability to use this knowledge to improve learning in in- and out-of-school contexts.

Program graduates will be able to:

  • Review, analyze and synthesize empirical research and theoretical literature in literacy, language and culture.
  • Apply theories and research to policy and current issues in the field.
  • Use knowledge of cultures’ influence on in- and out-of-school language and literacy practices to
    • capitalize on the cultural and linguistic strengths of learners and their families as resources for literacy teaching and learning; and
    • foster relationships with learners, families and communities in ways that honor the culturally specific ways of knowing and being in the world.
  • Analyze the relationships among economic and social inequality and literacy, and language development.
  • Critique and conduct research relevant to language, literacy and culture.

Admission to the Program
Literacy, Language and Culture applicants may only begin the program each fall.

Application Deadline
All application materials must be submitted by the following deadlines:

  • January 15, priority deadline
    • Applications will be reviewed and considered for assistantships
  • April 15, traditional deadline
    • Applications will be reviewed, but assistantships may or may not be available

Application Requirements
To be considered for the program, applicants must:

  • Have a minimum of three years teaching experience or the equivalent
  • Have completed a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
  • Submit a Graduate School application which requires:
    • Unofficial transcripts (Official transcript will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
    • Competitive GRE scores
    • A current resume
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • A sample of professional writing
    • A letter of intent communicating the following: (a) professional goals, (b) teaching philosophy, (c) research interests and (d) purpose for seeking the doctorate degree
    • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students

In addition to the requirements above, meritorious applicants will participate in an on-campus or Skype interview. Additional information concerning supporting materials can be found at:

Participants are immersed in a culture of intellectual curiosity aimed at developing the next generation of scholars who will advance knowledge leading to innovative, adaptive and transformative practices in schools and communities. The program focuses on acquisition of deep and critical knowledge of various theoretical perspectives, current data and diverse research methodologies in an effort to further literacy as a means for enhancing personal and social wellbeing. Public, civic and social engagement is expected as a necessary and natural extension of academic scholarship within and beyond the program.

Literacy, Language and Culture Ph.D. (66 credit hours minimum):

  • Core Literacy, Language and Culture courses (15 credit hours)
  • Cognate courses (12 credit hours)
  • Research methods courses (16 credit hours)
  • Departmental doctoral seminar (2 credit hours)
  • Teaching internship (3 credit hours)
  • Dissertation (18 credit hours minimum)

In addition, students will:

  • engage in scholarly writing, publication and presentation of research and papers at national and international professional conferences;
  • complete qualifying examinations and/or projects;
  • develop an approved dissertation research proposal; and
  • successfully conduct original research and write and defend a dissertation.

Applicants can review information about tuition and fees for our program. Please also see the Financial Aid website for up-to-date information regarding financial aid options, and contact that office directly with questions.

Lisa Denise AkerLisa Denise Aker, Ph.D.

Aker received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Literacy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2018. Lisa worked in Virginia public schools for 11 years as an elementary classroom teacher, reading specialist, and leveled literacy intervention coach. Her research focuses on teacher professional development, literacy coaching, early literacy intervention, and metacognition. She is currently serving as the Co-Editor of Reading Matters, the Journal of the South Carolina State Council of the International Reading Association.


Celest (C.C.) BatesCeleste C. (C.C.) Bates, Ph.D.

Bates’s research interests include use of technology in teacher training, classroom management and differentiated reading instruction in the primary grades. Bates is an associate professor of literacy education, and is also the director of the Reading Recovery® and Early Literacy Training Center for South Carolina.


Mikel ColeMikel Cole, Ph.D.

Cole's areas of interest include English language learners in K-12 settings, equitable and effective pedagogies for emergent bilinguals, the preparation of teachers to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students, and the intersection of language policy and practice in schools and classrooms. He is an associate professor in Literacy, Language and Culture.


Emily Howell Emily Howell, Ph.D.

Howell has taught English and writing at the secondary and collegiate level and currently teaches pre-service teachers and graduate students in education employing both online and face-to-face classroom environments. Her research interests include multiliteracies, adolescent literacy, writing instruction, and digital tools. Emily approaches research through partnerships with teachers using methodologies such as design-based research. Her research has been published in journals such as Journal of Literacy Research, The Reading Teacher, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, and Professional Development in Education.


Susan Crindland-HughesSusan Cridland-Hughes, Ph.D.

Cridland-Hughes’ areas of interest include adolescent literacy; morality-literacy studies, history of literacy, culture and literacy, and English education. She is an assistant professor in English education.


Pamela DunstonPamela J. Dunston, Ph.D.

Dunston’s research focuses on struggling readers, digital literacy, and adolescent literacy and reading motivation. She is an associate professor of literacy education.


Susan King FullertonSusan King Fullerton, Ph.D.

Fullerton’s research interests include strategic reading processes, comprehension instruction, literary response and discussion, struggling learners (including deaf/hard of hearing), and teacher expertise and decision making. She is an associate professor of literacy education.


Kathy HeadleyKathy Headley, Ed.D.

Headley’s research interests include adolescent literacy, writing, and interdisciplinary specializations in comprehension and vocabulary. As professor of literacy, she is actively involved in literacy policy and implementation at the state, national, and international levels. Beginning July 1, 2019, Headley will serve as president of the International Literacy Association (ILA).


Jacquelynn MalloyJacquelynn A. Malloy, Ph.D.

Malloy’s current research emphases include learner engagement, particularly as related to instructional design, and discussion as a tool for learning and developing communities of learners – particularly in the content areas. She is also investigating teacher visioning and transformative teaching practices with a focus on equity education. She is enthusiastic about the contribution of formative and design experiments in advancing transformative educational goals.


Jonda McNairJonda C. McNair, Ph.D.

McNair specializes in literature intended for youth with an emphasis on books written by and African Americans. She is a past chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee and was recently appointed to serve as chair of the 2021 John Newbery Medal Award Selection Committee. She is a professor of literacy education.


Rachelle SavitzRachelle Savitz, Ph.D.

Prior to receiving her doctorate from the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2017, Dr. Savitz was a public school educator for 12 years. Her research explores teacher self-efficacy and professional development, student-centered pedagogy that focuses on inquiry and equity for all students, adolescent literacy, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and young adult literature.


Phillip WilderPhillip Wilder, Ph.D.

Wilder received his Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Literacy, Language, and Culture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. A former secondary teacher and literacy coach, his work from 2007-2013 in a school-university partnership through the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities supported how middle and secondary teachers employed responsive pedagogy to support the disciplinary literacies of adolescents. Now at Clemson, his research explores the intersection of humanizing pedagogy, mindfulness, and literacy.


For more information regarding the program or questions associated with applying to this program, please contact Julie Jones at or 864-656-5096.