Pamela Conners


Associate Professor in Communication Studies

As a teacher and a scholar, I value rhetoric’s potential to inspire civic engagement and advance a more just community. Through the development of writing, speaking, and listening, I believe we help students to be ethical and influential citizens, who think critically and argue passionately. My primary goals as a teacher are to foster a love of learning in my students, to introduce them to new ideas and perspectives, and to encourage them to see the resonance between their coursework and their everyday lives. 

Here at Gustavus, I teach a variety of courses that ask students to critically evaluate arguments, to understand the power of communication, and to recognize the role that our voices play in the ongoing work of a democracy.  Courses include Public Discourse, Rhetorical Criticism, Community Advocacy and Social Change, Argumentation and Debate, Deliberation, and Contemporary Rhetoric.

My research broadly investigates how public discourse shapes the development and implementation of public policy and what processes of public deliberation facilitate democratic decision-making, specifically in an education context. I am currently examining the communication strategies that school districts have deployed to inform and expand our capacity to design context-specific deliberative practices that can advance the quality—not just the quantity—of civic participation. This study follows a two-year collaboration with Robert Asen (University of Wisconsin, Madison) and Deborah Gurke (Wisconsin School Board Association) that examined how school board members used education research to inform their decision-making and was funded by the William T. Grant Foundation from 2009-2011.

Select Publications & Presentations

“Designing Productive Community Conversations.” (co-presenter Paul Peterson). Minnesota School Board Association Leadership Conference, January 2018.

Conners, Pamela. “Constructing Economic and Civic Values through Public Policy Debate: The Case of the National Housing Act of 1934.” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 20 (2017): 421-452.

Conners, Pamela and Ryan Solomon. “The Business of School Board Deliberation.” In Communication and The Economy: History, Value and Agency.  Eds. Joshua S. Hanan and Mark Hayward. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2014. 209-232.

Asen, Robert, Deborah Gurke, Pamela Conners, Ryan Solomon, and Elsa Gumm. “Research Evidence and School-Board Deliberations: Lessons from Three Wisconsin School Districts.” Educational Policy 27 (2013): 33-63.

Asen, Robert, Deborah Gurke, Ryan Solomon, Pamela Conners, and Elsa Gumm. “‘The Research Says’: Definitions and Uses of a Key Policy Term in Federal Law and Local School-Board Deliberations.”  Argumentation and Advocacy 47 (2011): 195-213.

Gurke, Deb, Robert Asen, Pam Conners, Ryan Solomon, and Elsa Gumm. “School Boards and Decision-Making: Considering Evidence-Based Research.” American School Board Journal 198 (2011): 29-31.

“Research on Education, Deliberation, and Decision-Making.” (co-presenters Deb Gurke, Robert Asen, Elsa Gumm, Ryan Solomon) Wisconsin State Education Convention, January 2011.


Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Madison; M.A. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; B.A. Bates College

Courses Taught

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
COM-120Public Discourse132016/FA, 2016/SP, 2015/FA, 2015/SP, 2014/SP, 2013/FA, 2013/SP, 2012/FA, 2012/SP, and 2011/FA
COM-258Rhetorical Criticism72016/FA, 2015/FA, 2015/SP, 2014/SP, 2013/FA, 2013/SP, and 2012/FA
COM-260Argumentation and Debate42017/SP, 2016/SP, 2012/FA, and 2011/FA
COM-213Rhetoric of Food32017/JN, 2016/JN, and 2015/JN
COM-344ST:Public Deliberation22017/SP and 2013/FA
COM-397Honors Thesis22016/FA and 2014/SP
COM-381Contemporary Rhetoric22015/FA and 2014/SP
COM-268Career Exploration12014/JN
COM-280Advocacy & Change12013/SP
NDL-249Cambodia & Vietnam12013/JN
COM-244ST:Community Advocacy12012/SP