Graduate Certificate in Rhetorical Leadership

Leadership is a highly valued, yet always scarce resource in all areas requiring coordinated action: civil society, professional work, profit and non-profit venues, religious and social action contexts. Communication’s Rhetorical Leadership certificate program prepares leaders with humanistic knowledge, skills and attitudes through five graduate courses. “Rhetorical Leadership and Ethics” covers rhetoric’s role in and potential for responsible leadership in multiple arenas; it is informed by the long history of debate over the legitimacy of studying rhetoric as a means of promoting joint action. “Theories of Rhetorical Communication” introduces certificate students to the vast, nearly three milennia-long theoretical range of the rhetorical tradition. “Communication and Social Order” examines how existing institutions and values get established and “naturalized” using symbolic action and conversely how they can be challenged strategically through rhetoric. The more advanced “Rhetoric of Constituting Community and Social Controversy” addresses explicitly the rhetorical range available to leaders, whether their main goal is constituting communities or promoting change in ways that the existing decision-making channels cannot accommodate. “Argumentation in Theory and Practice” integrates argumentative theory and practice in ways that are useful for potential leaders; it involves some performance-based learning that requires students to test their preferred theory alternatives in action.

Eligibility and Admission

Applicants must possess a baccalaureate degree and have a minimum 2.75 cumulative undergraduate grade point average to be admitted in to a certificate program.


  • Students wishing to obtain this certificate must declare their intention by applying to the program office or director.
  • All graduate certificate applicants—even those already enrolled in a UWM graduate program—must apply to the Graduate School through the Panthera Admission Application.
  • Graduate degree and previously admitted graduate non-degree students who decide to pursue a certificate program must submit the Panthera application before completing 6 credits in the certificate sequence.
  • Applicants must possess a baccalaureate degree and have a minimum 2.75 cumulative undergraduate grade point average to be admitted in to a certificate program.

Certificate Requirements

Credits and Courses

15 Credits

Required courses (6 cr)
772 Rhetorical Leadership and Ethics, 3 cr
762 Argumentation in Theory and Practice, 3 cr OR 872 Rhetorics of Constituting Community and Social Controversy, 3 cr

Electives (9 cr)
665 Introduction to Mediation, 3 cr
667 Great American Speakers and Issues, 3 cr
672 Communication and Social Order, 3 cr
701 Critical Analysis of Communication, 3 cr
735 Rhetorical Theory, 3 cr
762 Argumentation in Theory and Practice, 3 cr (if not selected above)
835 Seminar in Contemporary Public Address, 3 cr
860 Seminar: Issues in Communication: (Subtitle, with a rhetorical topic), 3 cr
862 Public Deliberation, 3 cr
865 Theory and Practice of Mediation, 3 cr
872 Rhetorics of Constituting Community and Social Controversy, 3 cr (if not selected above)
873 The Digital Mirror, 3 cr
882 The Rhetoric of Kenneth Burke, 3 cr
893 Rhetoric of/and the Internet, 3 cr
973 Topics in Rhetorical Research: (Subtitle), 3 cr
998 Communication Internship, 1-3 cr (with rhetorical leadership topic directed by a member of the Rhetorical Leadership Committee)

Students who have little experience in positions of responsibility will be encouraged to participate in a relevant internship during the course of their studies. The program will assist students in identifying appropriate opportunities.

Grade Point Average Requirement
A minimum cumulative 3.00 grade point average in certificate courses taken at UWM is required.

Transfer Credit
No more than 20% of the required credits may be taken at an institution other than UWM. Courses will be considered for transfer into the certificate program only if the applicant can provide ample, acceptable evidence that the course taken is substantially the same as one of the five courses that constitute the certificate program. The Rhetorical Leadership Committee will make such determinations, and its decision is final. These courses are subject to Graduate School transfer policy and must be approved by the director of the certificate program. No transfer credit is allowed for post-graduate students.

Articulation with Degree Programs

  1. Credits and courses required for a certificate may double count toward meeting UWM graduate degree requirements subject to the following restrictions:
    • Degree programs must approve the courses from certificates that can double count toward the degree.
    • All credits taken in completion of certificate requirements may count towards a UWM graduate degree as long as they do not contribute more than 90% of the total credits needed to obtain the degree. (Note: Students in Ph.D. programs must still complete the minimum residency requirements)
    • Certificate courses used toward meeting degree requirements must be completed within the time limit for transfer credit.
  2. Courses completed for a degree may be counted toward a subsequent certificate, subject to all certificate policy requirements.
  3. A course may count toward no more than one certificate and one degree.
  4. Students may not earn a certificate subsequent to a concentration in the same area.

Time Limit

Certificate program time limits shall be established as follows:

18 or fewer credits/Three years from initial enrollment in the certificate sequence.

19 or more credits/Four years from initial enrollment in the certificate sequence.

For certificates that are designed as add-ons to degree programs and are awarded concurrent with the degree, the time limit shall be the same as that of the degree program.