Kathryn M. Olson
Director, Rhetorical Leadership Graduate Certificate/Concentration Program
Ph.D., Communication Studies, Northwestern University
M.A., Speech Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.A., Communication, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
My research uses rhetorical criticism and argumentation to examine American texts, issues, movements, images, and debates with public consequences. I am interested in empowering critical citizens.
Teaching Interests/Courses Recently Taught
Commun 103: Public Speaking
Commun 362: Theory and Practice of Argumentation and Debate
Commun 667: Great American Speakers and Issues (1945 - Present)
Commun 672: Communication and Social Order
Commun 772: Rhetorical Leadership and Ethics
Commun 872: Rhetorics of Constituting Communities and Social Controversy
Commun 882: The Rhetoric of Kenneth Burke
Commun 973: Topics in Rhetorical Research: Presidential Debates
Selected Teaching and Service Awards
Volunteer of the Year/Friend of Milwaukee Debate League, 2009
Regents Teaching Excellence Award, awarded by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, 2006
The Francine Merritt Award recognizes one individual annually who has made “outstanding contributions to the lives of women in communication,” awarded by the National Communication Association’s Women’s Caucus, 2006
Olson, Kathryn M. “Intransigence and Self-Justification as a Political Way of Life.” In Venomous Speech: Problems with American Political Discourse on the Left and Right, edited by J. Clarke Rountree. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2013.
Olson, Kathryn M., Michael William Pfau, Benjamin Ponder, and Kirt H. Wilson. (Eds.) Making the Case: Advocacy and Judgment in Public Argument. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2012.
Olson, Kathryn M. Book review of Jim Lehrer’s Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain (2011), Presidential Studies Quarterly 42 (2012): 668-669.
"A Conversation with Kathryn M. Olson," Vibrant Voices of Public Address 1, no. 3 (March 2012): 1-6. http://blog.umd.edu/ncapublicaddress/vibrant-voices-of-public-address/vibrant-voices-of-public-address-volume-1-no-3/
Olson, Kathryn M. “‘Get Motivated!’: How the New Prosperity Gospel Operates.” In Reasoned Argument and Social Change, edited by Robert C. Rowland, 617-623. Washington, D.C.: National Communication Association, 2011.
Olson, Kathryn M. “Rethinking Loci Communes and Burkean Transcendence: Rhetorical Leadership While Contesting Change in the Takeover Struggle Between AirTran and Midwest Airlines.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 23 (2009): 28-60.
Olson, Kathryn M. “The Practical Importance of Inherency Analysis for Public Advocates: Rhetorical Leadership in Framing a Supportive Social Climate for Education Reforms.” Journal of Applied Communication Research 36 (2008): 219-241. (2006 Stanley L. Saxton Applied Research Award Winner for an as-yet-unpublished essay)
Olson, Kathryn M. “Rhetorical Leadership and Transferable Lessons for Successful Social Advocacy in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.” Argumentation and Advocacy 44 (2007): 90-109.
Olson, Kathryn M. “The Comic Strategy of ‘Deferral to Study:’ Creating Space in Divisive Religious Disputes to Value Both Community and Convictions.” Journal of Communication and Religion 30 (2007): 266-307.
Goodnight, G. Thomas, and Kathryn M. Olson. "Shared Power, Foreign Policy, and Haiti, 1994: Public Memories of War and Race." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9 (2006): 601-634.
Guest Editor, Special 2005 Issue of Argumentation and Advocacy on the 2004 political debates
Olson, Kathryn M. "Democratic Enlargement's Value Hierarchy and Rhetorical Forms: An Analysis of Clinton's Exercise of a Post-Cold War Symbolic Frame to Justify Military Interventions." Presidential Studies Quarterly 34 (2004): 307-340.
Olson, Kathryn M., and Clark D. Olson. "Beyond Strategy: A Reader-Centered Analysis of Irony's Dual Persuasive Uses." Quarterly Journal of Speech 90 (2004): 24-52. (2005 NCA Golden Monograph Award)
Olson, Kathryn M., and G. Thomas Goodnight. "Speaking in Community and Ingenium: The Case of the Prince William County Zoning Hearings on Disney's America." In New Approaches to Rhetoric, edited by Patricia Sullivan and Stephen R. Goldzwig, 31-59. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004. (2005 AFA Daniel Rohrer Research Award)
Olson, Kathryn M. "Detecting a Common Interpretive Framework for Impersonal Violence: The Homology in Participants' Rhetoric on Sport Hunting, 'Hate Crimes,' and Stranger Rape." Southern Communication Journal 67 (2002): 215-244. (2002 Rose B. Johnson Article Award Winner)
Recent Media Interviews:
Numerous news outlets, including C-SPAN, Reuters, Gannett, Scripts Howard Foundation Wire, the Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, and Milwaukee Public Radio used Kathryn Olson’s comments from four different interviews regarding the 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates. You can watch her comments in a Communication expert/journalist panel discussion contextualizing this year’s debates on C-SPAN at http://www.c-span.org/Events/Political-Communications-Experts-on-2012-Debates/10737434554-2/ or access samples of her analysis pre- and post-debate comments for specific debates at:
- Pre-first presidential debate: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/Decoder-Wire/2012/1001/Presidential-debate-what-to-look-for-beyond-who-wins-or-loses-video
- Pre-VP debate: http://www.stargazette.com/article/20121010/APHEADS/310100048/6-things-watch-vice-presidential-debate
- Post-VP debate: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/12/us-usa-campaign-debate-analysis-idUSBRE89B09420121012
- Post-second presidential debate: http://www.wuwm.com/news/wuwm_news.php?articleid=11317