All Awards

Dissertation Award

The RSA Dissertation Award is presented yearly to recognize an exemplary dissertation in the field of Rhetorical Studies completed by a student member of the Society.


In consultation with the RSA President and the Chair of the Committee on Committees and no later than December of the year prior to the award date, the Awards Steering Committee (ASC) Chair identifies four RSA members to serve on the dissertation award selection committee.

  • Unless all ASC members have a conflict of interest, the Chair of the dissertation award selection committee will also be a member of the Awards Steering Committee.
  • The other three members of the ASC should reflect the diversity of rhetorical studies with regard to rank, institution type, and identity categories.


To be eligible for the Dissertation Awards, a dissertation must…

  • Have been defended between January 1 and December 31 of the designated calendar year. For the 2024 Award, dissertations completed between January 1, 2023 and December 31, 2023 are eligible.
  • Have been completed by a student member of the Society.


Nominations are reviewed by the RSA Dissertation Award selection committee, a sub-committee of the Awards Steering Committee, which recommends winners to the Board for final approval.

When more than 15 dissertations are nominated for the Dissertation Award, the selection committee will conduct a first round review to identify semi-finalists for the award. In that review, the nominated dissertations are randomly divided into two groups. The dissertations in each group are read by two committee members. Those committee members identify approximately five semi-finalists from their list to forward to the full selection committee for review.

The full selection committee reviews the semi-finalists (or the entire list if fewer than 15 dissertations are nominated) to identify finalists and the award recipient. 

In reviewing nominees for the Dissertation Award, the selection committee considers:

  • The dissertation’s contributions to rhetorical studies (e.g. expanding, synthesizing, correcting, and/or re-directing previous rhetorical scholarship).
  • Effective, generative use of methodological and/or analytical tools.
  • Engagement with primary and secondary texts: Here, we were thinking about demonstrating depth and breadth of knowledge of text and context.
  • Clear, accessible, engaging prose and style.
  • The dissertation’s contribution to the Society’s IDEA and/or social justice values through topic, content, citational choices, and/or framing.
  • Strong prospect for publication as a book and/or evidence of the project’s readiness to contribute to the field.

Deadline for nominations: January 24, 2024

Conflict of Interest for the Dissertation Award

No one who has served as a member of the dissertation committee for any nominee may sit on the Dissertation Award selection committee.  Members of the selection committee who feel that they are unable to be impartial in judging any nominee must recuse themselves from discussion of that nominee.

Ratified by the RSA Board of Directors May 2004. Amended October 29, 2021.


Each nomination must include:

  • A completed nomination form, including affirmation that the dissertation was defended during the eligibility period.
  • A letter of nomination written by the supervising professor, a member of the dissertation committee, or–with approval from the ASC chair–another person familiar with the dissertation.
  • An abstract of the dissertation no longer than one double-spaced page.
  • The complete dissertation as a pdf file absent identifying information regarding dissertation chairs.
  • A 35-page, double-spaced (12pt font) extract from a chapter of the dissertation, including all materials, e.g., references, charts, or images (the extract should be taken from one complete chapter, not a composite of multiple chapters).

Dissertations that depart from traditional written formats (e.g. multimodal projects, collaborative projects) are welcome. All nomination materials are to be submitted electronically to the chair of the selection committee.


Please contact the society’s Awards Committee with any outstanding questions about the nomination, submission, or selection processes.

Award Recipients

Stephanie Jones

2023 Award

Afrofuturist Feminism as Theory and Praxis: Rhetorical Root Working in the Black Speculative Arts Movement. (Completed under the direction of Gwendolyn Pough)

Florianne Jimenez

2022 Award

“Echoing and Resistant Imagining: Filipino Student Writing Under American Colonization.”
University of Massachusetts Amherst – Rebecca Lorimer Leonard 


2021 Award

“Technical Beauty: Rhetorics and Aesthetics of Science.”
Penn State University – Debbie Hawhee

2021 Dissertation Award Video

Brandee Easter

2020 Award

“Weird Code: Gender and Programming Languages.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Christa Olson


2019 Award

“Diffuse Threats: Counterterrorism as an Anxious Affective Infrastructure”
University of Texas, Chairs Dana Cloud and Joshua Gunn

Jose Angel Maldonado

2018 Award

“Diana’s Confession: Precarious Rhetoric in Post-NAFTA Mexico”
University of Utah, Chair Kent Ono

Christopher Earle

2017 Award

“Dead Words: Prisoners’ Constrained Rhetorical Agency and the Possibility of Rhetorical Action”
University of Wisconsin, co-chairs Michael Bernard-Donals and Christa Olson


2016 Award

“Affective Ecologies:The Cultural Public Sphere in a Digital World”
University of Colorado – Boulder, Chair, Gerard A. Hauser


2015 Award

Minding “Our Cicero”: Nineteenth-Century African American Women’s Rhetoric And The Classical Tradition
University of California, Santa Cruz, Chair, Kirsten Silva Gruesz

Jean Bessette

2014 Award

“Composing Historical Activism: Anecdotes, Archives, and Multimodality in Rhetorics of Lesbian History”
University of Pittsburgh, co-chairs Jessica Enoch and Jean Ferguson Carr

Lindsay Rose Russell

2013 Award

“Women in the English Language Dictionary”
University of Washington, co-chairs Anis Bawarshi and Colette Moore

Henrietta Rix Wood

2012 Award

“Praising Girls: The Epideictic Rhetoric of Young Women, 1895-1930.”
University of Missouri-Kansas City with advisor Jane Greer.


2011 Award

Constitutive Visions: Indigeneity, Visual Culture, and the Rhetorics of Ecuadorian National Identity
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign under the direction of Debra Hawhee and Ralph Cintron, English


2011 Award (Honorable Mention)

Walk Me Home: How Bodies Move and are Moved in the Breast Cancer Walk
University of Washington under the direction of Leah Ceccarrelli, Communication.

Sarah Overbaugh Hallenbeck

2010 Award

Writing the Bicycle: Women, Rhetoric, And Technology In Late Nineteenth-Century America.
Duke University, under the direction of Jane Danielewicz & Jordynn Jack


2009 Award

Mapping Rhetorical Frontiers: Women’s Spatial Rhetorics in the Nineteenth-Century American West.
Penn State University under the direction of Cheryl Glenn.

Charlotte Robidoux, PhD

2019 Award (Honorable Mention)

‘More children from the fit, less from the unfit’: Discourses of Hereditary ‘Fitness and Reproductive Rhetorics, post Darwin to the 21st Century.
Miami University under the direction of Cindy Lewiecki-Wilson.


2008 Award

Unlikely Rhetoric Allies
University of Maryland; directed by Jeanne Fahnestock


2007 Award

Politics of Public Confession: Expressivism and American Democracy
Dissertation completed at Penn State University


2006 Award

“Rhetorics of Consumption: Identity, Confrontation, and Corporatization in the American Vegetarian Movement”
Department of English, University of Arizona

Shevaun Watson

2005 Award

“Unsettled Cities: Rhetoric and Race in the Early Republic.”
Dissertation completed at Miami University.


2004 Award

Never Mind What Harvard Thinks: Alternative Sites of Rhetorical Instruction in American Colleges, 1873-1947
Written at the University of Texas at Austin under the direction of Linda Ferreira-Buckley