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Kaitlyn G. Patia

Kaitlyn Patia


Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse

Professor Patia is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse at Whitman College. She fell in love with the study of rhetoric as an undergraduate student who was eager to change the world. In her classes, Professor Patia hopes to kindle the same spark of wonder and excitement in her students that she felt when she first encountered rhetoric as a student. Rhetoric is the interdisciplinary study of language, politics, history, and culture, allowing students to ask big questions about how symbolic communication shapes our world and equipping them with the tools to make a difference. Professor Patia tends to adopt a discussion-oriented approach in many of her courses (especially the upper 300-level seminars), treating students as fellow interlocutors in critical inquiry of the subject matter.

In her teaching and research, Professor Patia examines how power is challenged and maintained through rhetorical and communicative processes. She explores these relationships of power and difference through historical and contemporary rhetorical efforts by marginalized rhetors to create a more just world. This is necessarily complemented by interrogating discourses of the powerful, who would maintain and expand the discriminatory policies and practices of the status quo. The aim of Professor Patia's work is to analyze the role of rhetoric in social change, and specifically what rhetorical practices tell us about how we can create and sustain a more just world.

Professor Patia teaches classes on rhetorical criticism and theory; rhetoric and public culture; rhetoric and social protest; rhetoric, gender, and sexuality; rhetoric and violence; the black freedom struggle; and rhetorics of feminism. Many of her courses count toward the Gender Studies major and minor program at Whitman, and she is available to serve on Gender Studies senior thesis committees. Her published research includes an article in the Journal for the History of Rhetoric on the 1970s intersectional feminist activism of the Third World Women’s Alliance, a book chapter (with Kirt H. Wilson) in “Thinking Together: Lecturing, Learning, and Difference in the Long Nineteenth Century” on how ideas about race and gender were constructed through popular entertainment in the late nineteenth century, and a book chapter in “An Encyclopedia of Communication Ethics: Goods in Contention” on the works of Black educator and activist W.E.B. Du Bois.

Professor Patia received her Ph.D. in Communication Arts and Sciences (Rhetoric) from Penn State and her M.A. in Communication Studies (Rhetoric) from the University of Minnesota. Her undergraduate degree is from Northwestern University, where she double majored in rhetoric and political science. She is a member of the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA), the American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR), and the National Communication Association (NCA).

Areas of Expertise

Communication, Social Movements, Social Justice, Activism, Politics, Civic Engagement, Gender, Race, Sexuality, Intersectionality

Ph.D. Communication Arts and Sciences
The Pennsylvania State University

M.A. Communication Studies
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

B.A. Communication Studies and Political Science
Northwestern University - School of Communication

Articles and Book Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)

Patia, Kaitlyn. “Feminist Movements: The Role of Coalition, Travel, and Labor in the Third World Women’s Alliance.” Journal for the History of Rhetoric 26, no. 2 (2023): 177-188.

Wilson, Kirt H. and Kaitlyn G. Patia. “Authentic Imitation or Perverse Original: Learning about Race from America’s Popular Platforms.” In Thinking Together: Lecturing, Learning, and Difference in the Long Nineteenth Century, edited by Angela G. Ray and Paul Stob, 72-94. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2018.

Patia, Kaitlyn G. “W.E.B. Du Bois: Situated Knowledge in Action.” In An Encyclopedia of Communication Ethics: Goods in Contention, edited by Ronald C. Arnett, Annette M. Holba, and Susan Mancino, 137-141. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2018.

Conference Presentations

“Teaching Rhetorical Field Methods: Reflections on Ethical Community Engagement in Contingent Times,” Rhetoric Society of America Biennial Conference, Baltimore, MD, May 26-29, 2022.

“Toward a Feminist Theory of Rhetoric and Energy,” American Society for the History of Rhetoric Symposium, Baltimore, MD, May 25-27, 2022.

Please consult my C.V. for a full list of publications and presentations.

RWPD 230 Introduction to Rhetoric and Public Culture

This course gives students the basic tools for analyzing the ways that symbols shape the world, informing peoples' fundamental ideas about reality, contributing to our sense of community, and letting us make decisions about urgent matters of common concern. We will examine rhetorical artifacts from presidential speeches and policy documents to film, television, and socially mediated discourse. Rhetorical artifacts are shaped by the identity and social position of those who compose them, the rhetorical situations to which they respond, the audiences they attempt to reach, and the cultural ideologies and power dynamics that underpin them. We will consider the impact of media form (whether a rhetorical artifact is written, spoken, audiovisually mediated) on its composition and reception, and explore some of the major theories of how symbols affect people's lives, from public memory and body rhetoric to theories of rhetorical performance and representation. Students will write several short papers that critically examine different rhetorical artifacts, and will also write, workshop, and present a longer research project. Students will practice critical writing, academic research, and use of evidence and citation as they develop their projects over the course of the semester.

RWPD 255 Rhetoric and Social Protest

This class explores the role of communication in social change. Learn about the strategies and organizing tactics that activists use to challenge systems of power. Read the words of contemporary and historical changemakers. Discuss how individuals have demanded action and organized people around social justice causes. Issues / organizations / movements covered include the civil rights movement, Black Power, feminism, ACT UP, Queer Nation, the United Farmworkers, student movements, peace activism, disability justice, environmental justice, the American Indian Movement (AIM), welfare rights, voter registration & suppression, and more. By studying the phenomenon of social protest and change, we examine how collective identification is created and how groups are motivated to act in concert, particularly in contexts where communication alone may be insufficient to alleviate injustice.

RWPD 340 Rhetorical Field Methods: Equity and Access in Education

In this course, students will research, through course readings, seminar discussions, and work with organizations in the Walla Walla community, the barriers that exist to equitable access to education. Through the course and their work with community organizations, students will be introduced to methodologies from the field of rhetoric that focus on incorporating civic engagement, advocacy, community involvement, and personal reflection into their research. Students will not only learn about the challenges surrounding access to education in Walla Walla, but will participate in local efforts to address issues ranging from trauma-informed education to college preparation, as well as related issues such as access to healthcare and affordable housing that can impede equitable access to education. Student work in the course will include weekly written reflections, formal and informal presentations to the class on selected topics, leading seminar discussion on one or two occasions, and a final public presentation of the student's work with their partner organizations over the semester.

RWPD 350 Political Campaign Communication

This course focuses on the role of communication in U.S. political campaigns. We will examine the history of various features of political campaigns, including candidate debates, advertisements, speeches, media coverage and the traveling press corps, social media and new technologies, crafting candidate image and narrative, deliberative forums, and the role of consultants. Within our exploration of these issues, we will attend to questions of power, access, and identity, including the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and class in politics. When this course is offered during a presidential election year, it will primarily focus on past and current presidential campaigns. When it is offered in a midterm election year, the course will focus primarily (but not exclusively) on past and current congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. Students will both analyze and create examples of political campaign communication. In addition to regular course sessions students are also expected to watch or attend relevant debates and/or local elections forums. May be taken for credit toward the Film and Media Studies major.

RWPD 360 Rhetorics of Feminism

Students in this course will investigate twentieth- and twenty-first-century U.S., global, and transnational feminisms through reading texts, including speeches, essays, fiction, and poetry by women's rights activists, as well as analyzing visual media such as art, film, and photographs. Through the reading of these primary texts, students will make comparisons among arguments by various women's rights and gender justice activists, attending to similarities and differences of purposes, audiences, strategies, and contexts. Discussion will focus on themes including representation, liberation, power, bodies and embodiment, and identity. The course adopts a comprehensive view of women's rights activism, focusing on the intersections of race, sexuality, class, and gender, and including discussion of Chicana and Black Feminist texts. The work of this course will include three short analytical essays, rigorous preparation for class discussions, including leading discussion once or twice, and a final project and presentation. Students who complete the course successfully should expect to gain a complex and nuanced perspective on feminist rhetoric and to improve their skills in critical reading and analysis. May be taken for credit toward the Gender Studies major or minor.

RWPD 365 Rhetoric and Violence

Rhetoric and violence are frequently separated and irresistibly connected parts of contemporary civic life. We bemoan the breakdown of discussion into violent division, and worry over rhetorical incitements to violent action, even as we draw lines between "free speech" and physically violent acts. This course examines key theoretical and historical connections between rhetoric and violence, attempting to make sense of the rhetorical impacts of physical force, the relationship between speech and violent action, and the ways that histories of violence shape subjectivity, interpersonal relationships, and political community. We will begin by studying rhetorical theorists who have posed general questions about the relationship between rhetoric and violence, the definition and scope of the term "violence", and the material power of discourse. We will then engage these theoretical debates through extended discussions of scholarly, activist and journalistic literature around several points of intersection between rhetoric and violence including rhetoric around gun violence and mass shootings, feminist discussions of gendered violence and masculinity, histories of racial violence, "fighting words" and injurious or hurtful speech, and contemporary military and political violence. We will also discuss antiviolence rhetoric that attempts to publicize, counter, or mitigate the effects of systemic violence against marginalized communities. Throughout, the course will link important political discussions with larger theoretical debates, giving us the tools to think violence in connection with rhetoric, and consider the ethics of nonviolence. Assignments will include several short response papers, seminar based discussion, and an oral presentation. May be taken for credit toward the Gender Studies major or minor.

Awards, Fellowships and Grants

Inclusive Excellence Award for Exceptional Teaching in the Interest of Inclusive Excellence, Whitman College, May 2023.

Community Engaged Learning and Research Initiative (CELRI) Collaboration Grant, “Public Memory, Indigenous Narratives, Settler Colonialism: Reckoning with Our ‘Place’” to support CEL in RWPD 230 Introduction to Rhetoric and Public Culture for the Fall 2022 semester, $1014.

Community Engaged Learning and Research Initiative (CELRI) Collaboration Grant, “Public Memory and Settler Colonialism: Reckoning with Our ‘Place,’” to support CEL in RWPD 230 Introduction to Rhetoric and Public Culture for the Fall 2021 semester, $675.

Mellon Periclean Faculty Leader (2020-2022 cohort), Andrew W. Mellon Periclean Faculty Leadership (PFL) Program in the Humanities, $4,000 to support the development and teaching of the course “Rhetorical Field Methods: Access and Equity in Education” in partnership with Walla Walla Public Schools and other community organizations.

RSA Dissertation Award Finalist (2019), Rhetoric Society of America, June 2020.

Pedagogy Innovation Grant (with Lydia McDermott and Matthew Bost) to support curricular revision and the creation of the new Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse department at Whitman College, May 2019, $1500 each.

Diversity Innovation Grant to support “Pacific Northwest Rhetoric, Race, and Media Symposium,” Whitman College, December 2016, $7020.

Diversity Innovation Grant to support “Civic Conversations in the Community” / “Walla Walla Talks” event, Whitman College, December 2016, $1299.

Please consult my C.V. for a full list of awards, fellowships, and grants.

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