This graduate certificate recognizes sustained, advanced study in composition, literacy, pedagogy and rhetoric at the University of Pittsburgh. It can be awarded to students who have earned the MA, MFA, or PhD degree in the Department of English, and to those earning graduate degrees in other departments, programs, and institutions.

To qualify for the certificate, students must successfully complete ENGLIT 2500, Seminar in Pedagogy (or an equivalent course in writing pedagogy), and a set of additional courses described below: the MA and MFA certificate will require three (3), and the PhD certificate five (5) additional courses. These courses are selected from among an array of seminars that represent intersecting strands of work in the Composition Program:

  • Composition, including study of the theories and practices of writing, within and beyond the field of Rhetoric and Composition;
  • Literacy, including research into public rhetorics and the literacies of diverse groups in the larger culture beyond the academy;
  • Pedagogy, including historical and critical inquiry into issues of schooling, teaching, and the institutions of academic writing;
  • Rhetoric, including the history and theory of rhetoric and its functioning in institutional, political and literary spheres of communication.

Students interested in the certificate should see the Director of Composition for initial advising. The Director will identify qualifying courses for the certificate in English and may approve courses in other departments at the University of Pittsburgh. One course of Directed Study may also be accepted for the certificate, with the approval of the Director of Composition. In order to graduate with this certificate, students must apply to the certificate program at least one semester in advance of their graduation.  The application form can be obtained from the Graduate Administrator in the Department of English (engrad@pitt.edu).

To qualify for the Graduate Certificate in Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy, and Rhetoric, students are further required to produce a teaching portfolio. The portfolio must be submitted to the Director of Composition at least 3 weeks before the end of the semester in which the student plans to graduate. The portfolio assembles materials that document at least one of the following:

  • An ability to design and teach an effective undergraduate course or community-based writing workshop;
  • Significant work in support of teaching: for instance, as a mentor to beginning teachers, or as an assistant in the administration of the Composition Program, the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, or the Writing Center;
  • Demonstrated ability as a writing tutor in the Writing Center, in other university support services, or in after-school programs for children.

Portfolios characteristically include teaching materials such as syllabi, assignments, exercises, and observations by peers and faculty members. Administrative documents may include reports, proposals, newsletters, Web pages, and other materials that demonstrate the work of the position, as well as statements of evaluation. Portfolios are reviewed by a committee of the composition faculty.

Students who have been awarded the Graduate Certificate in Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy, and Rhetoric will have the designation appear on their final transcript for the MA, MFA, or PhD degree.


MA or MFA candidates without a teaching assistantship may replace English 2500 (Seminar in Pedagogy) with another course in composition, literacy and pedagogy and/or rhetoric. Courses that satisfy this requirement are designated each year by the Director of Composition.

Candidates are urged to consult with a member of the composition faculty while preparing a teaching portfolio.

Please contact the Director of Composition if you would like to discuss the Composition Certificate: Prof. Annette Vee annettevee@pitt.edu