Frequently Asked Questions
We have arranged some of the questions most commonly asked by applications into the categories below. Please click on the white box next to the category below whose questions and answers you'd like to see.
What is UTEP’s program like—what are you good at—what kind of research can I do?
The Program Description page is probably the best place to get a meaningful answer to these types of questions. In a nutshell, the PhD program prepares graduates for careers in academe, though other opportunities in business and industry may also be rewardingly pursued after graduation. The program is intense and academically rigorous, with a firm grounding in both rhetorical theory and composition studies. Distinctive research opportunities abound within the program, many of which draw on our student population and geographic location.
I teach English in primary or secondary school. Is this degree appropriate for me?
You should be able to apply aspects of this degree to teaching English in the primary and secondary levels. However, the degree is primarily intended for people focused on teaching in the post-secondary levels and/or working as writing specialists in the workplace.
How does this degree differ from a degree in Communication?
Rhetoric and Composition typically does not involve marketing, public affairs, public relations, journalism, or speech theory.
How long does it take to finish the degree?
Students generally take 4 years to finish the degree, although one can potentially complete it in 3 or 3 ½ years. The length of time depends somewhat on the type of research you do for your dissertation.
Can I pursue the degree while working full-time?
Due to the intense nature of doctoral study, the program usually enrolls only full-time students. We also discourage anyone at the Ph.D. level to try to maintain a full-time job while pursuing the doctorate; it is a full-time job! On a selective basis, though, students with flexible work schedules will be admitted to the program. The degree, however, is very intensive and life-consuming, as many of our current Ph.D. students will attest. Moreover, UTEP offers excellent opportunities for doctoral students to pursue funded teaching and research positions while they move through the program, making a “day job” somewhat redundant.
Will I be able to get a job with this degree?
The job market for people with doctorates in Rhetoric and Composition is good. Our alumni placement demonstrates that this program opens the door to a variety of excellent opportunities.
Can I come see the campus and talk to the faculty?
We strongly encourage prospective students to schedule a campus visit. Whenever possible, we try to coordinate such visits around events such as our annual program tailgate (in the Fall) or Frontera Retorica’s annual Spring Symposium and Open House. Please contact program director Dr. Kate Mangelsdorf or assistant directors Tanya Robertson or Consuelo Salas for more information about scheduling a campus visit.
How do I apply to the Program?
You’ll first need to obtain an application to the UTEP Graduate School . Application materials may be accessed from this page of the Graduate School website. We strongly encourage applicants to contact us with questions or concerns about the application process. We currently admit new doctoral students during the Fall term each year and the application deadline is January 15, 2015.
Are GRE scores required for admission?
The doctoral program in Rhetoric and Composition does not require GRE scores for admission.
What types of writing samples should be submitted for the application?
To complete the application process, you will need to submit two writing samples. At least one of the writing samples should be a researched analytical paper. The other writing sample may be another analytical paper, a selection of writing you've done in the workplace, or a web site.
What is a concentration?
A concentration consists of three courses of your choice that will allow you to study an issue in depth. These concentrations have included digital studies, literacy studies, food studies, feminist studies, and so on.
What is the qualifying exam?
This written exam covers your 5 core PhD courses--Rhetorical History I, Rhetorical History II, Advanced Critical Theory, Rhetoric and Technology, and Composition Studies. You will take the qualifying exam after you finish your coursework during the second summer that you are in the program. In order to be ready for the qualifying exams, you want to keep excellent notes on all the reading for your core courses. Also, you’ll want to reserve the majority of the summer in which take the exams for preparation. Generally, students find it helpful to prepare for the exam collaboratively with other members of their cohort.
What does the dissertation consist of?
The dissertation is an extended piece of scholarship that explores in depth one aspect of rhetoric and composition. It consists of primary and/or secondary research, focuses solely on theory or combines theory with practice, and should be potentially publishable either as a book or as peer-reviewed journal articles. Visit our "Alumni" page for examples of recent dissertation topics.
Can I study literature in this degree?
You will be able to take several literature classes for your concentration if you wish. However, the PhD coursework, qualifying examination, and dissertation will be in the area of rhetoric and composition.
Financial support & assistanship
What kind of assistantship program do you offer? Is there a separate application for this process?
Most students admitted to the program are given assistantships, which include health insurance. (Students with these assistantships are called Assistant Instructors, or AI's). These assistantships are competitive with other programs around the country. Students are also given funds in the form of participation support to help offset in-state tuition. All AI's automatically pay in-state tuition.
What are the teaching responsibilities of an AI? What kind of classes do they have the opportunity to teach and how large are they ?
Assistant Instructors have a 2-1 or 1-2 load, which means they will teach a total of 3 courses a year. However, some students receive a one course reduction, teaching a 1-1 load, if they choose to take administrative positions within the Writing Center, the First Year Composition program, or the Rhetoric and Writing Studies program itself.
Most AIs teach either the first or second semester of FYC, RWS 1301 or 1302, or the upper level writing courses RWS 3355: Workplace Writing or RWS 3359: Technical Writing. Some of these upper-division courses are taught online.
Are AI’s allowed to develop their own curriculum?
While there has been some move towards standardizing curriculum in the FYC and the upper level writing classes, AI’s have played an important role behind the design of these curricula, shaping curricula well beyond the individual classroom. There is certainly freedom within the suggested syllabi to develop new curricular methods.
What is El Paso like?
See the "About El Paso" page for more on this. However, in brief, El Paso is a large, metropolitan Southwestern city unlike any other. UTEP is positioned near downtown El Paso and the U.S.-Mexico border. The southern tip of the Rocky Mountains runs through the city, pointing towards the downtown area and our neighbors just beyond in Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The weather is fair, fall through spring, with mild and sunny winters and hot (but not oppressive) summers. The climate is dry and sunny. Many people participate year-round in outdoor activities such as hiking in the Franklin and Organ mountains, mountain biking, and running. The UTEP campus community is vibrant, diverse, and mostly multilingual, with Rhetoric and Writing Studies faculty and students dynamically involved in both the university and El Paso community.
Do the PhD students get along—is it a friendly atmosphere?
Unequivocally yes; most of the time. We have a tremendous group of current students—in reality, they are developing professionals who take their work seriously, but also, overwhelmingly, support each other. Part of the reason for this dynamic is the truly broad and interesting mix of students in our program, and perhaps an even larger component is the caring and compassionate faculty who lead our courses. As new students are enrolled in the program, we expect this dynamic to continue and to be further enhanced. We sometimes have heated debates, in class and online, but it’s always in the spirit of charity and respect for one another. Most students will leave UTEP learning as much from each other as they do from the faculty and readings.
Frontera Retorica , our student chapter of Rhetoric Society of America , hosts professional development and social events to keep students at all levels of the program in contact with one another. Frontera Retorica meetings offer students a venue to explore and complicate current projects as well as present congenial environment of support and camaraderie.