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Rhetoric and Public Advocacy


If you've ever felt passionate about a cause, movement or ideal, Hofstra University's BA in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy can teach you how to inspire your audience, persuade your skeptics, and counter your critics.  This liberal arts communication program will give you the skills you need to frame an argument, analyze messages, apply language strategically, and use your body and voice in compelling ways – timeless abilities that are important in any career path.

In small, engaging classes, students are taught by an award-winning faculty of nationally and internationally recognized scholars who are also practitioners – you'll learn from professors who run non-profit advocacy groups, lead political or healthcare campaigns, and work as trained drama therapists or professional speechwriters. They are mentors who encourage students to collaborate on research projects, volunteer as peer teachers, and join co-curricular activities such as the award-winning Speech and Debate team.


Your Hofstra degree will help you channel your interests and skills into many career options such as lawyer, teacher, public relations specialist, political strategist, campaign manager, lobbyist, corporate recruiter, corporate communications officer, speechwriter, patient advocate, event planner, museum director/educator, nonprofit administrator, fundraiser, or marketing/advertising professional.   

You'll also enhance your education with numerous on-campus opportunities to express yourself and gain hands-on experience, including Hofstra's award-winning, co-curricular Speech and Debate Team (also known as Hofstra Forensics).

In fact, Rhetoric and Public Advocacy is a popular second major or minor for many students pursuing degrees in subjects such as political science, pre-law, pre-med, business, psychology, sustainability, and education because of the value it brings to their personal growth and professional goals.

Attending school just 25 miles from New York City, home to rich cultural resources and the world's best media and business companies, also gives you access to countless internships where you can gain real-world experience. Students also enjoy many opportunities on campus to attend lectures with renowned visiting scholars and to network with leading influencers.


Rhetoric and Public Advocacy students take courses in debate, performance history, speechwriting, and intercultural communication that blend theory, critical practice, and analysis to explore how meaning is created and shared. In this major, you will:

  • Develop effective communication skills through a variety of experiences including intrapersonal, interpersonal, interviewing, nonverbal, and small group communication.
  • Become a strong public speaker as you practice speech composition and delivery, with emphasis on critical thinking, listening, and the art of criticism. You will focus on informative and persuasive speeches, with attention to principles of clarity, interest, and audience analysis.
  • Examine nonverbal behavior and messaging through the study of body movement (kinesics), spatial relationships (proxemics) and vocal cues (paralinguistics).
  • Explore topics such as the dynamics of online rhetoric, technology and literacy; current trends in speechwriting and the strategic use of language; and effective persuasive campaigns in politics, business, and social movements.
  • Choose from coursework that examines the connection between communication and areas such as gender, culture, popular culture, and health.

Up-to-date information about required classes and more is available in the Hofstra Bulletin.

BA in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy

There is also a concentration in political communication for students who are interested in positions of leadership in civic life, in areas such as government, public service, educational or cultural institutions, non-governmental organizations, or social advocacy. It is also an excellent program of study for students preparing for law or medical school or for advanced study in communication or public affairs.

In addition to a major in Rhetoric and Public Advocacy, Hofstra offer minors in rhetorical studies and other related subjects such as writing studies, civic engagement, and mass media studies.

Recent Alumni Outcomes

Many of Hofstra's rhetoric and public advocacy majors land positions with prestigious employers, while others further their education at top graduate schools. Employers include companies such as the Adecco Group, CBS/ CBS News, Charity Brands Consulting, Columbia University Medical Center, East Meadow School District, Empower 1 Self, Inc., Levittown School District, Northwell Health, Ovation TV, and Upserve.

Those pursuing graduate degrees study at Fordham University, Hofstra University, Sarah Lawrence College, Stony Brook University, Touro College, University of Southern California, and West Chester University.

92% are employed, grad school or both
87% accept a position within six months
$40K median salary*
Get More Info on Program Outcomes
*Represents median salary for the first year following graduation

Internships & Experiential Learning

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Hofstra's proximity to New York City allows limitless opportunities for internships where students can use their communication expertise and liberal arts training. Rhetoric students have interned with many prestigious media and entertainment companies, non-profit organizations, government institutions, and in arts and education settings. You'll gain valuable real-world experience and build strong professional networks – all before you even get your degree.

Rhetoric students have recently interned with FOX Network, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Donna Drake Media, East Meadow School District, Estée Lauder Companies Inc., Hamptons Magazine, Institute for International Education, Long Island Center for Independent Living, and Scribe America.

Hofstra's Speech and Debate Team (also known as Hofstra Forensics) welcomes students of all majors and trains them to compete in debate and public speaking events against peers from dozens of other colleges and universities across the nation. Throughout the semester, they participate in several debate formats, as well as 11 individual speech events such as impromptu or persuasive speaking and drama or prose interpretation.

Every semester, the Rhetoric program hosts an oratory competition among students taking public speaking courses, as well as a Spotlight Hour program that highlights the work of select students in courses such as Readers Theatre, Performing History, Performance Art, and Introduction to Performance Studies.

In addition, juniors and seniors who meet certain GPA requirements are eligible to be peer teachers who can assist a professor in the planning and execution of courses, such as Performance Studies, Performance History, Nonverbal Communication, and Performance Art. Peer teachers take a hands-on leadership role in group exercises and class readings, and work one-on-one with students to hone their skills and provide constructive feedback.

This spring, the program also has plans to launch the Public Advocacy and Performance Art (PAPA) Club, a student-created initiative for those interested in using performance as a means for societal change.

Top Internships

  • The Berman Group
  • Hamptons Magazine
  • HerStory Writers Workshop
  • Hofstra University
  • Long Island Center for Independent Living
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness

Meet Mark Atkinson


Mark Atkinson, a rhetoric graduate, discusses the moment that he got goosebumps from a crowd's reaction to his portrayal of American author and activist James Weldon Johnson. At Hofstra, he was student government president and a peer teacher for Dr. Lisa Merrill before pursuing a successful career in teaching.

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