WRD 422: Public Advocacy

            WRD 422:  Public Advocacy is one of several courses that engages the work writing and literacy do in the world in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies (WRD) at the University of Kentucky, a large public land-grant university with a combined undergraduate and graduate population of over 30,000 students, and growing. The course is one of the upper-division electives for the WRD undergraduate major and minor—one of the newest majors/minors offered in the College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Kentucky’s largest college. According to the WRD catalogue, “The course is designed to connect the study of persuasion in specific social movements, campaigns, and genres with opportunities for students to create texts and campaigns. This course may offer a historical or contemporary focus, and may examine local, regional, national, or transnational movements” (“Course Descriptions”). WRD 422 is repeatable with different instructors, as it will change depending upon instructors’ approaches to teaching and learning about public writing. Prerequisite courses are WRD 320 Rhetorical Theory and History and/or WRD 322 Rhetoric and Argument, two courses that are also electives for majors and minors.

Institutional Context

Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies was initially a division within the Department of English at the University of Kentucky. In 2014, WRD became a stand-alone department. Since then, the WRD undergraduate major and minor has also added a minor in Profession and Technical Writing. The dynamic flexibility of the WRD major makes it appealing to students who choose to major or double-major. The WRD BA/BS major offers students three tracks: 1) Professional writing and editing, 2) rhetorical theory and practice, and 3) digital studies. The first track is geared for students who look to engage in editing and publishing or writing for the non-profit or business sectors. The second track is for students who seek to get involved with rhetoric through community advocacy, government, or law. The third track is for students who want to write, design, and produce content for online spaces, learning digital literacies by making multimodal projects. From these three tracks, students choose from a range of electives that connect to their interests working toward a senior portfolio. WRD students are required to complete 27 elective credit hours for the major and 18 for the minor. The variety of courses touching on public writing, like WRD 422, address local literacy practices as social action. In the realm of public advocacy, WRD 422 falls largely in the second track for the major/minor, but bears significance for students who examine the rhetorics of social movements and how local communities are taking part in larger sociopolitical conversations.

The two required courses for the WRD BA/BS are WRD 300 Introduction to WRD and WRD 430 Advanced Workshop Senior Project. WRD 300 introduces students to the theory of rhetoric and composition. Students examine the theoretical, ethical, and stylistic issues connected to writing in various rhetorical situations, including digital environments. WRD 300 intends to be a theoretical foundation for all other WRD courses. WRD 430 at the other end of the spectrum is the culmination of the WRD major, a student-driven capstone project under the direction of a faculty member with the collaboration from classmates. Flexible course hours that supplement an existing course or provide advanced training in a particular area of writing, rhetoric, or digital studies. WRD senior portfolio projects can take three forms, 1) a traditional thesis (for students going to graduate school), 2) a digital installation (presented live and/or online), and 3) a portfolio (in print and/or online format) demonstrating distinction in a range of projects.