College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities; Graduate School

Cynthia Haynes named director of Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design Ph.D. program


Cynthia Haynes, pictured against a backdrop fo rhetorical terms, is the new director of the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design Ph.D. program.
Cynthia Haynes is the new director of the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design Ph. D. program in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

CLEMSON – Cynthia Haynes is the new director of the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design (RCID) program at Clemson University.

Haynes, the outgoing director of first-year composition in the department of English, was chosen to lead the Ph.D. program in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities after a nationwide search.

“Given her extensive involvement in RCID since its earliest years and her experience as a writing program administrator at Clemson and elsewhere, I believe Dr. Haynes will provide excellent leadership in the program during this time of transition,” said Richard E. Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

Haynes succeeds longtime RCID Director Victor J. Vitanza, who is retiring.

The four-year doctoral program takes a uniquely broad look at the study of rhetoric, said Haynes, who officially began her new role as head of the program on Aug. 1.

Cynthia Haynes, the new RCID director, is pictured in the Watts Center at Clemson.
Cynthia Haynes is proud of the RCID program’s 100 percent employment rate for students.

“Many university programs focus on rhetoric and composition whereas we have a transdisciplinary emphasis, looking at rhetoric in art, pedagogy, advertising, multimedia and information design,” Haynes said.

In its 14 years of existence, the RCID program has graduated more than 50 students. The graduates have a 100 percent employment rate and that record of success is expected to continue with the class of 2019.

Most of the RCID graduates have careers in higher education as lecturers or professors of rhetoric and composition.

Because RCID offers a broad curriculum, other graduates have received university appointments in such diverse fields as film, game studies and hip-hop studies. Still other graduates have opted for careers in the private sector or secondary education.

Haynes hopes to maintain the fluidity of Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design, which is designed to respond to students’ research interests.

“The program is a reflection of each cohort of students that comes in,” Haynes said. “They help determine what special topics courses we’re teaching based on their interest. If we have a whole big group of gamers one year, we’re going to teach a course in gaming. The core courses can be shaped by the student research interests.”

Professors from a variety of fields – art, history, languages, philosophy, English and architecture – teach courses in the program.

“One of my goals as the new director is to continue involving as many departments in the college as possible,” Haynes said.

Tight-knit community

The RCID program boasts a diverse and tight-knit community, Haynes said.

RCID currently has 44 students, both on campus and online. The program has attracted Fulbright scholars from Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and other countries.

“Current students and graduates often provide mentoring to our new students,” Haynes said. “They’ll let them know of job openings and help them with job searches.”

As an example of the close community, 17 former RCID students wrote a collaborative letter of recommendation for Haynes as a part of her application to become the program’s leader.

Haynes also tells the story of an RCID graduate who lost two cars during a flood in Louisiana; other students set up a GoFundMe page and bought the grad a car.

“This is how close these people are to each other,” Haynes said.

Opportunities to teach

Most of the residential students receive assistantships and teach freshman composition and rhetoric in their first years on the Clemson campus. Later, they offer advanced instruction in such courses as business writing, technical writing, science writing and advanced composition.

This experience gives RCID students a strong background for work in higher education after graduation.

Online students comprise about half of those in RCID. Several are part-time mid-career students. One is a lawyer, while another works for a major film company in California. Online students are only required to visit the campus for an exam defense and dissertation defense.

In recent years, Clemson English redesigned one of its master’s programs – the Master of Arts in Writing, Rhetoric and Media – to more naturally act as a feeder program for RCID. The RCID program, however, has accepted master’s students from a wide variety of disciplines.

Active research schedule

In addition to her duties as director of RCID, Haynes plans to remain active as a researcher and writer, specifically exploring the rhetorics of violence.

Her award-winning 2016 book, “The Homesick Phone Book: Addressing Rhetorics in the Age of Perpetual Conflict,” (Southern Illinois University Press) looks at how the rhetoric of terrorism is connected to violence and conflict around the world. The Rhetoric Society of America awarded Haynes its 2017 prestigious annual book prize for the year’s best new work in rhetorical study.

The book also resulted in several Clemson awards for Haynes in 2018: the Thomas Green Clemson Award for Excellence; the Holman Research Award; and the University Research, Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award.

Her current book project, “Unalienable Rites: The Architecture of Mass Rhetoric,” will compare Nazi Party rallies to contemporary U.S. politics.

Haynes is editing a book series for Clemson University Press on “rhetoric and conflict,” which entails mediating social justice issues, violence, war, oppression and political demagoguery. Haynes also has co-authored books with her husband, Jan Rune Holmevik, a Clemson English professor and immediate past president of the Faculty Senate.

Haynes joined the Clemson faculty in 2006. She previously held teaching appointments at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the University of Texas at Dallas. She also taught at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in German and a master’s and Ph.D. in the humanities.

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