Dr. Elizabeth Nelson

Image of Elizabeth Nelson
Professional Title
Associate Professor


Ph.D., University of Iowa, Communication Studies, 1988
M.A., University of Wisconsin, Madison, Communication Arts, 1981
B.A., University of California, Berkeley, Rhetoric, 1978

Personal Statement

After fourteen years as Department Chair in Communication, I am very happy to be back in the classroom full time. I study rhetorical theory and practice. Under that broad theoretical umbrella, I explore a wide array of discourse types including political communication, popular culture, self-help literature and religious discourse. Past work has focused on the "bad guys" in history, publishing work on the rhetorical practices of Benito Mussolini, and Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple. My most current projects focus on the discourses that define, theorize and make recommendations to secure, happiness. I look at "scientific" discourses, meta-scientific discourse, and popular discourse. A subset of my happiness study examines the intersection of Buddhist principles and practices and the bourgeoning western scientific approaches to happiness. Happiness theories intertwine with approaches to mindfulness and creativity. A long-time quilter, I have begun to study quilt-making in particular (and artistic enterprises in general) as forms of visual rhetoric that connect the Buddhist principle of "right speech" to the rhetorical approach to happiness. In addition to quilt-design and production, I enjoy on-stage creativity, and have enjoyed performing in several Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas. I also enjoy exploring creativity through cooking, reading, playing my guitar, singing, and going to the movies.

Courses Taught

Senior Seminar: Happiness and Rhetorical Practice
Communication and Creativity
Ethics in Human Communication 
Persuasion and Argumentation in Public Speaking 
History of Rhetoric
Analysis of Public Discourse 
Media and Society
Rhetorical Criticism 
Rhetoric and Fascism
Case Studies in the Rhetoric of Cults and the Occult
Communication and Body Image 
Gender and Popular Culture
Gender and Leadership