A writing associate helping a student in the main library.
Program Overview

Rhetoric and Composition

Develop agency in writing and speaking.

Bikalpa Baniya ’18, a peer writing associate (left) works with a student during finals week.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97

Communicate with Confidence and Authenticity

The Department of Rhetoric and Composition at Oberlin empowers students to be effective and savvy communicators and careful readers and consumers of texts of all kinds. Our classes stress language as a dynamic, changing, multifaceted cultural phenomenon that can be put to use for various purposes. Students learn to mobilize all their linguistic resources to be compelling communicators and to negotiate various rhetorical situations. In our classes, students both find their voices, speaking and writing with authenticity, while learning how to adapt to audiences and situations.

A Supportive and Engaged Community

Oberlin was one of the first liberal arts colleges to develop the curriculum-based peer writing support system now known as the Writing and Speaking Associates Program. Housed in the Mary Church Terrell Library, Oberlin’s Writing and Speaking Centers offer a dynamic space for students to think critically, be creative, and collaborate with their peers. Staffed with trained peer instructors in writing and speaking, our mission is to help students gain confidence and become more conscious and conscientious communicators. In addition to one-on-one consultations, Oberlin’s rhetoric and composition department also offers a range of workshops throughout the year on speaking in both academic and professional settings, such as conference presentations or job interviews.

Oberlin’s writing center launched in 1977. It has flourished ever since and is now the Writing and Speaking Center.

First Year Seminars

Oberlin’s First-Year Seminar Program (FYSP), in close alignment with the Peer Advising Leaders (PAL) Program, will not only hone your skills in critical and creative thinking, discussion, and writing, but also acquaint you with resources available for your learning at Oberlin.

Cortney Smith
As part of the Writing Associates Blog students reflect on code-meshing, genre and other central issues in the study of how we communicate across different discourse communities
WA Journal

A Legacy of Impactful Journalism

Oberlin’s integrative concentration in journalism equips students to navigate a fast-changing media and news landscape. Through a combination of coursework and experiential learning, students explore the different sectors of nonfiction storytelling, from newspaper and magazine reporting to radio production, documentary filmmaking, and digital narrative.

A student speaking at a panel.

Featured Courses

RHET 100

Academic Writing for the American Classroom

This course is designed for multilingual and international students interested in exploring the writing process in English, with particular focus on American academic conventions and expectations of inquiry, argument, and attribution of sources. The class will serve as a writing community in which students read and discuss the work of classmates. Students will write often, reflect on their individual writing process, and meet regularly with the instructor to discuss progress.

Taught by
Hal Sundt ’12
RHET 103

Re-envisioning Writing: Connection, Negotiation, and Empowerment

In this course, students explore their writing processes, learn how to read more critically, write in a variety of forms and develop research skills. The class serves as a writing community in which to discuss essays and writing strategies and share written work. Assignments are designed to challenge students and involve them in the kinds of reading, writing, and research that will serve them well at Oberlin and in their lives outside the college.

Taught by
Laurie McMillin
RHET 210

Rhetoric and Social Protest

This course is dedicated to exploring the various theories, contexts, and rhetorical strategies of resistance. Through both a historical and a contemporary perspective, we delve into the limitations and possibilities of protest rhetoric. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of rhetoric to enact advocacy, students will read rhetorical theory and criticism, primary texts, and complete written and oral assignments. Students will develop an understanding of the rhetorical underpinnings of social activism and the role it plays in societal change.

Taught by
Cortney Smith
RHET 320

Community News Reporting

In this course, students undertake advanced projects of pitching, researching, writing and producing news stories about the Oberlin town community. Ethical treatment of sources, balanced and contextualized reporting, verification of facts and multiple modes of producing will be stressed.

Taught by
Jan Cooper

Student Profiles

Fulbright Fellow in Hong Kong

At Oberlin, Julia Berrebi ’19 worked in the Oberlin College Writing and Speaking Associates Program. After graduation, she applied her skills in a global context as a visiting English tutor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Julia Berrebi.

From Oberlin to The Atlantic

English major and former editor in chief of the Grape, Luke Fortney ’18 earned a prestigious fellowship at the Atlantic after completing multiple rounds of interviews.

Luke Fortney.

What does Rhetoric and Composition at Oberlin look like?

A writing associate helping a student at a table in the main library.

Peer writing associates guide students early in the writing process by helping to clarify prompts and assignments, brainstorm ideas and topics, and develop research strategies.

Photo credit: Matthew Lester
A writing associate helping a student.

“Our writing center helps students negotiate the various contexts they find themselves in, and to have agency to make informed choices about what they’re doing,” says professor Laurie McMillin, director of the Writing Center.

Photo credit: Pang Fei Chiang ’19
Two students recording a podcast in a classroom.

As part of professor Jan Cooper’s winter term project “Podcasting Oberlin News,” students were introduced to the history of the emerging podcasting industry and then charged with creating their own podcast episode.

Photo credit: Yvonne Gay
Three student panelists at a symposium.

The Oberlin Review hosted a symposium featuring aluni panelists now working for The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, and Think Progress.

Photo credit: Yvette Chen

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


Exterior view of Carnegie Building.
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones ’97