Feb 24, 2021  
Rensselaer Catalog 2020-2021 
Rensselaer Catalog 2020-2021

Communication and Rhetoric Ph.D.

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The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric is distinguished by its commitment to the integrated, interdisciplinary study of media, communication, and society.

Situated within the country’s oldest technological university that brings together science with the humanities, the CMRT Ph.D. is a unique and flexible program that draws from numerous disciplines, not only in the communication fields, but across the humanities, arts and social sciences. 

Building on our historic reputation in media and communication studies within technological environments, the CMRT Ph.D. prepares students to study contemporary interactions with multimedia, multicultural and multisensory texts, with a faculty strongly grounded in theory and research as well as technology and media.

Our internationally recognized research faculty in the Department of Communication and Media work at the cutting edge of media-centered disciplines, including Media Studies (Film/Video, TV, Photography, and Social Media), Technical Communication, Data Visualization, Human-Centered Design, Visual Culture, Mixed-reality Pedagogy, Creative and Strategic Writing, Sensory Studies and Anthropology.  

The CMRT Ph.D. consists of an interdisciplinary core with flexible tracks that students can tailor to their research interests under the direction of their advisors in the Department. The migration of theory, method, and research across disciplines is profound and exciting, and HASS offers a centralized curriculum of foundational seminars in theory, method, and practice that complements offerings within the Department of Communication and Media. Students may work with cognitive and computer scientists, artists, critical game theorists and STS scholars, and to utilize labs and other experimental spaces throughout the campus.  These rich and diverse opportunities position students in the CMRT Ph.D. to make highly innovative contributions to their fields of research.

The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric requires satisfactory completion of 90 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, which includes an appropriate master’s degree, which will be counted as 30 of the required 90 credit hours. After completion of an appropriate master’s degree, students are required to take 36 credit hours of course work at Rensselaer. More information about this program can be found at  https://hass.rpi.edu/communication-and-media/communication-and-rhetoric.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:

  • Learn to integrate varied theoretical perspectives and methodologies of an interdisciplinary degree program in Communication and Rhetoric.
  • Gain critical and reflective knowledge of concepts in a discipline or set of disciplines.
  • Master critical, interpretive analysis and application of written, visual and multi-media texts.
  • Learn qualitative and quantitative methods to evaluate, interpret, and analyze empirical data and evidence.
  • Gain the ability to design and articulate research problems, and conduct independent, original and significant research.
  • Learn how to apply theory and research to media design and practice.
  • Gain understanding of the historical, social, cultural and rhetorical contexts that shape, and are shaped by diverse communication practices and media environments.
  • Communicate effectively to specialized and general audiences.

Graduation Requirements

  • Ninety (90) credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, which includes an appropriate master’s degree, which will be counted as 30 of the required 90 credit hours.
  • At least two-thirds of the total credit hours, excluding dissertation credits, must contain the course numbers 6000-7999.
  • Individual course requirements can be waived or substituted - in exceptional circumstances - by the Department without decreasing the total number of credits required for the degree.
  • Formal Presentation/Publication Requirement: please refer to PhD in CMRT Graduate Handbook for details.
  • Successful completion of the Qualifying Exam, Candidacy Exam, and Dissertation Defense.



  • At least one (1) course taught outside of the Department of Communication and Media


  •  4000- or 6000-level Electives & Independent Studies3,4

    • Can be taken any semester


  1. These credits may be taken as a three-credit block in a single semester or as one- or two-credit blocks over several semesters.
  2. Students may register for Dissertation credits during the semester of their Qualifying Examination and in subsequent semesters until graduation.
  3. No more than 21 credits at the 4000-level are to be allowed. Additionally, credit(s) from 1000- and 2000-level coursework cannot be applied to the Plan of Study.
  4. All course selections must be made in consultation with the Faculty advisor.

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