Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design


Degrees Offered


The Ph.D. in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design (RCID) 
is a relatively new program, enrolling its first students in August 2005. The RCID program is located in the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities (AAH) at Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina, in the upstate region near the Blue Ridge Mountains and on Lake Hartwell. Clemson is situated about 2 hours from Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Columbia, SC; and 4 hours from Charleston, SC, on the coast; and is in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson metropolitan area of over one-million people.

The RCID program—not being located in any academic department, but in the College of AAH—has a Director who is responsible for the program and who works with and reports to the Dean of AAH. The Director also Chairs and works with the RCID Advisory Committee (RCID AC), which is composed of faculty as well as students in the program.

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design is an academic-professional degree, preparing students to conduct research and to disseminate their findings through teaching in the university and through publishing in professional and popular journals. RCID prepares students, through research, to be consultants for and to work within industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. RCID prepares students to be professionals in traditional and emerging economies. At present, virtually all of the students wish to work primarily in academia. We expect that they will be of value to the growing demand for innovative faculty in colleges of liberal arts and humanities: Specifically in Departments of Art, Communication Studies, English, Rhetorics, Writing, New Media, as well as Departments and Centers whose names have yet been determined in an ever-emerging economy for undergraduate and graduate education.

The RCID program, however, attempts so much more in as much as it seeks an overall balance of ecologies in rhetorics and communications and, thereby, features a cross-cultural, transdisciplinary curriculum with a conceptual emphasis on Aristotle’s triad of knowingdoing, and making, that is, on theoretical, practical-pedagogical, and productive approaches to knowledge. Communications is not simply speaking and writing. The RCID curriculum emphasizes, in addition, the study and multimodal production of language-communication apparatuses such as pictographic and alphabetic rhetorics, or more specifically, gestural, silent, oral, aural, temporal-spatial, visual, written and digital rhetorics.

 Interested applicants should contact the Director, Victor J. Vitanza.



More information can be found in this graduate handbook.


Program of Study

The program has four "stages":

Enrollment in core and cognate seminars (ten seminars, 30hrs, required and elected);

Engagement in research in two studios (6hrs) and through independent studies, mixed possibly with additional seminars, as determined by the student’s Chair and committee, in an area of specialization (one primary area and two support areas);

Preparation and completion of exams in the primary and support areas and final submission of the dissertation prospectus; and

Successful defense of the dissertation.

The core curriculum is from both humanistic and social-science perspectives as practiced in communication technologies. The core seminars are

Histories of Rhetorics • Cultural Research Methods • Empirical Research Methods • Visual Rhetorics • Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Technologies.

The cognate areas—incorporated in transdisciplinary ways—include seminar work from the interdisciplinary fields of Communication Studies, Literature, Writing, Technology and Communication, Professional Communication, Philosophy, Languages, and Art (history and studio), as well as from allied fields. The cognates are both standing and topics seminars:

Pedagogy, Administration, and Assessment • Perspectives in Information Designs • Cultural Critiques of Mechanical Reproductions • Selected Topics in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design, drawn from student-faculty colloquia.

Most students take pedagogy workshops as well as seminars in the summer and fall terms in preparation for teaching undergraduate courses in the Advance Writing Program, Communication Studies, as well as other areas of the curriculum that focus on multimodal writing. The variety of teaching assignments that students are expected to participate in complement the RCID curriculum, allowing for the merging of both theory and practice.

Upon completion of the core and cognate seminars (two years), students begin their independent studies in two studios by specializing and studying for their exams, which prepare them for researching and writing their dissertation project (two years).

Students may take their exams in the early fall, third year. There are three written exams (one major area, two support areas) and an oral with multimedia presentation on the dissertation project. Or if additional work is recommended, students may take, prior to exams, up to three, elective seminars within RCID or within other programs at the MA or Ph.D. level in support of their research project.

Throughout the four years, the seminar work as well as research is supplemented with standing scholarly colloquia that students are expected to participate in with faculty. The various colloquia, depending on the specific application of topics, may serve as informal seminars. Every attempt is made by the chairs of the colloquia to design the readings and discussions according to students’ needs.


Application Information

 Interested applicants should contact the Director, Victor J. Vitanza.

Required Documents


The School or Program offers a number of graduate assistantships to students each year based on merit. These are offered in the form of stipends and the additional benefit of tuition remission. Students must be enrolled in a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester to qualify for a graduate assistantship and must work a minimum of 10 hours a week as a teaching or research assistant or perform other tasks assigned by the School or Program.


Program Contact(s)

Program Coordinator(s)