Pamela Conners


Assistant 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, Rhetoric of the American Dream, and Contemporary Rhetoric.


My research in communication engages three disciplinary themes: public advocacy and deliberation, rhetoric of public policy, and civic leadership. My scholarship considers how public discourse and deliberation function in a democracy. 

One strand of my research focuses on deliberation in democratic spaces.  In examining public argument, I consider how political and social culture shape deliberative practices.  I investigate how different actors and different values inform the construction of arguments as well as how this plurality may function to engender inclusion and exclusion. 

A second trajectory in my research considers the role of rhetoric in shaping public policy development and implementation.  In analyzing policy debates, I consider how interlocutors define social and economic justice as well as construct standards of citizenship.  These discursive dimensions of policymaking invite certain exclusions, particularly in relationship to class, race, and gender.  Fundamentally, I believe that a critical understanding of how discourse shapes public opinion as well as individual and collective action will lead to more just policies and practices.

While civic practices are a subtext of the areas I have previously mentioned, it is the focus of a third research trajectory that examines the relationship between rhetoric, citizenship, and leadership. In particular, I am interested in how different cultures and communities view and practice leadership, deliberation, and civic engagement. 


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

Courses Taught


COM-213 (Rhetoric of Food)

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 Debate32016/SP, 2012/FA, and 2011/FA
COM-397Honors Thesis22016/FA and 2014/SP
COM-213Food as Communication22016/JN and 2015/JN
COM-381Contemporary Rhetoric22015/FA and 2014/SP
COM-268Career Exploration12014/JN
COM-344ST:Rhetoric Am Dream12013/FA
COM-280Advocacy & Change12013/SP
NDL-249Cambodia & Vietnam12013/JN
COM-244ST:Community Advocacy12012/SP