Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies Certificate Overview

 NAU’s Department of English, Rhetoric and the Teaching of Writing emphasis (RTW), is designed to address students’ needs from a variety of professional backgrounds. The undergraduate segment includes a certificate emphasis that focuses on rhetorical analysis in such areas as food and travel writing, memoir writing, and intercultural communication. Undergraduate and Graduate students are encouraged to apply knowledge from courses in diversity and language, identity studies, and many others to their areas of expertise.

The Rhetoric program is intent on preparing students to meet their personal and professional goals, and classes within the program reflect this approach. The following snippets are from interviews with faculty members in the RTW area where they provide insight and perspective into their views of teaching, rhetoric, and the role of the classroom.

Early in her career, Dr. Barron realized that “writing and communication never just stopped with the assignment,” an insight that carries over to her classes. She teaches her students how to effectively communicate orally and in writing, but also seeks to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to rhetorically evaluate a wide variety of situations.

Dr. Barron approaches rhetoric “with diversity in mind,” and encourages students to see discussions from all points of view. She focuses on developing “self-reflective” students who “understand consequence,” an aspect of rhetoric she feels is often overlooked. She believes that the study of rhetoric helps to create problem solvers, in turn preparing students to effectively respond to real-life situations they will encounter upon leaving university.

Dr. Glau was once asked to identify every type of rhetoric. His response—“I tried . . . it’s impossible”—signifies the broad understanding he hopes to instill in his students. There is “rhetoric in the food you eat, in the clothes you wear,” and his classes are structured to help students identify it in places where they may not traditionally look.

Incorporating rhetoric into different forms of writing is an essential goal of his classes, but far from the only one. He wants to give students “a range of tools to use when they’re faced with a similar situation later on,” highlighting the broad nature of the discipline. Dr. Glau reminds students that they will at the university for a handful of years, and that his job is to prepare them for “many years in civic, professional, and personal life,” an objective that influences the purpose of his classes. 
 Dr. Gray-Rosendale sees rhetoric as crucial to professional and academic environments, but also as a positive asset in everyday life. Possessing a working knowledge of rhetoric “makes you a more careful consumer of everything, including culture,” a major reason why this skillset “really transcends the classroom.” She believes that becoming an effective rhetor relies on acknowledging and responding to differences between people, opinions, and values. However, she is quick to point out that “rhetoric is not about working towards consensus at all costs,” but rather identifying common ground in an effort to investigate multiple perspectives on every issue.

Gray-Rosendale does not just see her job as simply to relay information to students, but also to help them achieve their “own unique goals.” The Rhetoric Department is “interested in [students] as whole people, not just as people who sit in chairs,” an approach that uses the classroom to help students learn about themselves, explore career possibilities, and hone in on their abilities. 

 Dr. Gruber believes that rhetoric functions as “the lifeline of communication,” essential to successfully conveying an idea to an intended audience. She wants students to walk away with the ability to listen to others and use that information to gain perspective and form intelligent arguments. Rather than seeing rhetoric as a negative force that seeks to “persuade by any means necessary,” her students learn to utilize ethical virtues in evaluation of discourse.  She also believes that how we communicate influences how we present ourselves, and more importantly, how we see ourselves.

Dr. Gruber is keen on structuring her classes to benefit students in every way. Like the Rhetoric Department as a whole, she is “very interested in how we can make the classroom work better for you,” which results in class activities that allow students to directly apply newfound knowledge to their respective careers.   


The Northern Arizona University’s Rhetoric and Writing program was established in 2010 as a program to address rhetoric, literacy, research, and writing for undergraduates and graduates. RTW faculty’s teaching is directly affected by the latest research in the fields of rhetoric, composition, literacy studies, multimedia studies, and professional writing. They apply their in-depth knowledge of the field to teach both undergraduate and graduate students on campus and online. The department stresses a diverse approach that encourages the study of language and identity, public writing, self-reflective writing, document design, and internship preparation are part of the undergraduate offerings.

[Text Prepared by Nigel Stevens. B.A. English. 2013.]