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Rhetoric and Public Address, Bachelor of Arts

Rhetoric, Communication and Theatre


The ability to speak clearly, eloquently, and effectively has been recognized as the hallmark of an educated person since the beginning of recorded history. Under the label "rhetoric," the study of the theory and practice of communication was a central concern of Greek, Roman, medieval, Renaissance, and early modern education. In the United States, rhetorical training has been a part of formal education since Harvard's founding in 1636. As a new millenium dawns, rhetoric has once again assumed a central role in discussions of the "post-modern" world.

Department Contact

Jeremiah Hickey, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
[email protected] 

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For more information about admission to this and other acclaimed undergraduate programs at St. John’s University, please visit Undergraduate Admission


In addition to the basic course, Public Speaking for the College Student (SPE 1000C), the Department of Rhetoric, Communication and Theatre offers a variety of courses that emphasize the history, theory, and criticism of communication as well as performance skills. 

Courses recently offered include College Debate, Persuasion, Argumentation, American Public Address, Rhetoric of Pop Culture, Rhetoric of Social Movements, Intercultural Communication, Legal Argumentation, and others.

The major consists of 39 credits including:

  • Public Speaking for the College Student and Special Topics Seminar
  • Nine credits in Rhetorical Performance (courses such as College Debate, Advanced Public Speaking, Argumentation)
  • Six credits in Rhetorical History (American Public Address, for example)
  • Six credits in Rhetorical Criticism (such as Rhetoric of Pop Culture)
  • Six credits in Rhetorical Theory (such as Persuasion or Classical Rhetoric)
  • Six credits in communication, internship, and/or independent study. 

Internships in the field are often available.

Career Outcomes

Excellent communication skills are important in both social and career settings. A U.S. Department of Labor study indicated that there are 16 qualities for high job performance. Ten of these qualities are commonly studied in the field of communication: listening, speaking, creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, reasoning, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, and integrity/honesty. Another study indicates that the most essential skills need to be a competent employee are: interviewing, listening, planning and conducting meetings, resolving conflicts, and public speaking. All of these are communication skills.

By majoring or minoring in Public Address at St. John's, you will gain invaluable skills that can be applied in a variety of careers including law, education, business, religious vocations, media, and public service. More importantly, the study of communication will equip you for leadership in whatever career you eventually pursue.

Additional Information

Rhetoric and Public Address majors gain an academic and professional edge by joining the Epsilon Delta honor society.