skip to contentThe University of Texas at Austin

Mission & Values

Our Mission

The Department of Rhetoric and Writing (DRW) was established to provide excellent writing instruction for undergraduates at UT-Austin. That core mission has not changed, but, as the unit has matured, other complementary goals have emerged:

  • To provide superb training and support for all assistant instructors -- graduate students who teach our writing courses.
  • To provide best-in-the nation professional preparation for future scholars, administrators, teachers, and professionals in rhetoric/composition and writing-related fields.
  • To be a national leader in mapping and transforming the relationships among writing, rhetoric, and technology.
  • To be a national leader in raising standards for public and professional discourse, reaching out in particular to teachers in elementary and secondary education.

Our Values

The DRW is proud of being an independent writing program with a national profile. As a unit within a research institution, we appreciate the opportunities we enjoy and the expectations that follow. We hire, tenure, and promote faculty on the basis of outstanding scholarship, teaching, and service. We staff our courses primarily with regular faculty and fully trained graduate students, a circumstance increasingly rare in American higher education. As a faculty, we affirm the following professional values:

  • Rhetoric and instruction in writing belong within the liberal arts tradition.
  • Teaching writing effectively requires professional status and disciplinary training.
  • Writing can be taught well using a variety of methods, theories, and technologies. There is no one right way.
  • Professional issues need to be discussed frequently and fairly -- and without acrimony or repercussions.
  • Policies of the DRW should be set by a well-informed, engaged faculty following established procedures.
  • A strong sense of community is desirable among all working in the DRW -- regular faculty, assistant instructors, staff, and students.
  • Faculty should design and teach courses that reflect their professional interests and strengths.
  • We have a responsibility to offer routinely any courses our students will need in an RHE minor or major.

Statement on Climate

At the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, we are unambiguous in our commitment to fostering a diverse, inclusive, and respectful professional and educational climate. We recognize that this climate arises from the contributions of everyone who participates in the department as students, staff, faculty, administrators, speakers, and campus guests. We also recognize that departmental members can have multiple roles and we commit to cultivating a climate that respects all of our members across different sites, including the classrooms, labs, offices, and off-campus locations where we learn, teach, and socialize together.

Additionally, we uphold the university’s core values and nondiscrimination policy through accountable decision-making and governance, leadership with open lines of communication about climate, training on professional standards, and clear policies for addressing misconduct.

It is vital to maintain a climate for preventing and eliminating misconduct and to support anyone who experiences misconduct in this professional and educational environment. To that end, we continually seek and put in place best practices to build an inclusive departmental structure and community. Our goal in fostering a climate based on diversity, inclusion, and respect is to ensure that everyone who labors and learns here can thrive, regardless of their current role or status in the department.

This climate statement is a living document that expresses our values and practices. We invite anyone with questions or concerns about departmental climate to contact the Chair and Associate Chair of the DRW, or Monique Pikus, the Director of Diversity and Organizational Climate in the College of Liberal Arts.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

To facilitate a holistic approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to center this work in all department priorities and practices, each of the DRW’s units and standing committees responded to the following charge issued on November 10, 2021: 

  •  Review the departmental climate statement.
  •  Identify some concrete changes you can make to your work—including policies, actions, steps, and documents—to live out the commitments in that climate statement.
  • Identify at least one pilot program or set of changes that you can implement in 2021-2022 and monitor results.
  • Report the results to the faculty for deliberation by April 1, 2022

Below is the executive summary of each report. 

Major committee: The DRW will redesign its home page, offering profiles and additional information collected from a survey and intended to reflect our new faculty's expertise, the diversity of our students, and their wide range of accomplishments after graduation.

LDCC Pedagogy Subcommittee. The LDCC Pedagogy Subcommittee has explored ways to better integrate inclusive pedagogy into our first-year writing course and into instructor preparation. This year, we reviewed our curriculum and identified targeted changes we can make for fall 2022, including reevaluating our grading scheme, broadening the set of discursive strategies students can use, supplementing the textbook with additional readings, and supplementing the Instructor’s Guide with relevant materials. In future years, we will evaluate the results of these changes and consider deeper changes to class materials, structure, and grading system.

University Writing Center. The UWC has engaged in a variety of activities aimed at (1) aligning ourselves with the Department of Rhetoric and Writing (DRW) climate statement and (2) increasing the amount and reach of our work for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Fall semester 2021: We composed a collaborative “values statement” (https://uwc.utexas.edu/about/mission/) in line with the DRW climate statement. Spring semester 2022: We sponsored biweekly meetings of JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion), comprised of our linguistic justice coordinator and 6-8 undergraduate consultants. JEDI and UWC administration worked to design an IRB-approved study of DEI practices and needs at the Center, making use of questionnaires and focus groups. Next year, we will work with the results of the study to plan further DEI work.

Digital Writing & Research Lab. The DWRL has reviewed the department’s climate statement and has sought to make concrete changes in the 2021-2022 academic year. Our concrete task for the 2021-2022 academic year expanded our speaker series, and we will use significant portions of our summer development to build an even more inclusive and diverse workshop series for 2022-2023. Staffing for diversity and inclusion is and has been a problem that is tied to our graduate admissions and our current graduate student pools. We hope as our admit cohorts become more diverse and our speaker workshop series evolve that we will have fostered a more diverse and inclusive DWRL.