A Brief History of the Rhetoric and Composition Graduate Program at Florida State University
The graduate programs in rhetoric and composition at Florida State University have a long history, which has developed in three iterations.
In the first iteration, scholars like Kellogg H. Hunt and James McCrimmon began to make a place at Florida State for the scholarly work of composition. Their work, and that of their students, focused on the role of language in the growth of student writing and in the rhetoric of the essay.
Later, two well-known scholars—Wendy Bishop and Rick Straub—carried the work of the earlier program forward. Wendy—whose work ranged from attention to alternative writing to ethnographic research, and whose leadership included the CCCC Chairship—worked with undergraduates on writing projects and with graduate students on ways we understand and can improve the teaching of writing. Rick Straub's work in the ways that response shapes the development both of writing and of writers continues to influence the field; his Twelve Readers Reading, co-authored with FSU alum Ron Lunsford, is the only study of its kind.
The graduate program in rhetoric and composition is today in its third iteration. In 2005, Kathleen Blake Yancey joined Deborah Coxwell-Teague and departmental faculty at Florida State University and began directing the graduate program in Rhetoric and Composition. In 2006, Kristie Fleckenstein and Michael Neal joined the program, and in 2009, Rhea Lathan joined our program. In 2011, Jennifer Wells joined us to direct both the writing centers and our digital studios; and in 2012 Tarez Graban joined us as well. In addition, we have several faculty in related areas who work with our students, including Leigh Edwards in media studies and pop culture; David Gants in digital humanities; and Susan Hellstrom in publishing and editing.
Our program thus now includes seven core faculty—Deborah Coxwell-Teague, Kristie Fleckenstein, Tarez Graban, Rhea Lathan, Michael Neal, Jennifer Wells, and Kathleen Blake Yancey—whose scholarly interests range widely. We study and practice visual rhetoric; several of us are researching various forms of vernacular writing, including photographs, scrapbooks, letters, and postcards. In addition, we continue to research one of our historical strengths, the impact of specific pedagogical practices, especially given the ways that digital technologies are changing compositional and assessment practices. And we are creating new forms of digital archives, researching electronic portfolios, and studying new forms of digital and convergence culture.
Just as our faculty has grown, so too has our student body. We began with MA students; our first doctoral students enrolled in 2007; and we now have 29 students studying rhetoric and composition as a major area. Several more are taking a minor in rhetoric and composition. Student scholarship also ranges widely, from studies of the influence of community on writing programs to the role of transfer in college composition; from studies of postcards as an emerging genre to the impact of the major in rhetoric and composition on the field; from studies of 19th century woman journalists to the development of mobile printing in the 19th and 20th centuries.
For a glimpse of faculty and student scholarship, please see our project page and visit with us at many conferences around the country.