“I continually look for opportunities to build students’ confidence and encourage them to see writing and learning as social activities, not as things they must suffer through alone.”
For many, the term “rhetoric” conjures images of ancient Greek orators, masters of the spoken and written word, compulsively searching for the perfect turn of phrase to persuade an audience to adopt an idea or undertake an action.
Few in the fast-moving twenty-first century, where words are reduced to single characters and sentiments are conveyed with emoticons, ponder the value of rhetoric in our everyday communications.
But Kerri Hauman understands fully how these two worlds collide. And she wants to help students see the value in crafting writing that effectively informs, persuades, argues, or critiques—even if the message is relayed via social media.
Explains Hauman, “While some people might feel uncomfortable about incorporating digital media into a liberal arts education, our program recognizes that a basic tenet of rhetoric—the necessity for a rhetor to consider all available means of persuasion—requires us to weigh other options in addition to the spoken word or printed texts.
“As a writing teacher, I see myself as someone who works alongside students to discover or rediscover familiar and new ways to write for varied purposes and audiences, using various modalities and technologies. Ultimately, I aim to help students have experiences and gain skills that will make them more thoughtful, critical readers and writers who are able to participate effectively in society.”
Rhetoric was, of course, critical to the original concept of a liberal education—a compulsory skill for any engaged citizen. But before you can articulate a well-formulated opinion or write for a broad audience, it’s important to have an understanding of the wider world. And that’s another way Transylvania’s liberal arts curriculum helps students become better communicators.
“A person studying writing, rhetoric, and communication should have a broad base of knowledge in order to consider various worldviews and determine how to best communicate within a particular situation," says Hauman.
“The liberal arts education Transylvania offers—where teachers and students really get to know each other, where students necessarily build their education from a broad base of disciplines and classes, where writing and small group discussions are privileged, where cultural events are emphasized alongside traditional classroom activities— ensures that students have many and varied opportunities to practice and test the theories we talk about in class.”
It’s hard to imagine a contemporary profession or career that doesn’t demand clear communication and effective writing. Whether it’s preparing lab reports, summarizing case studies, marketing a product, documenting a technical specification, or communicating policies to your staff, you will be more successful in your job if you communicate clearly.
After all, we’re all part of society, of a community that requires regular interaction among its members. And while Hauman strives to be respectful of her individual students—their interests, their learning styles, their peculiar anxieties about writing—her goal is to help them be active participants in this larger world.
“For me, the best part of teaching is learning with students and watching them grow as thinkers, writers, and intellectuals.”