Speech Program Wins National Award

We are delighted to announce that Dartmouth College's Speech program received the NCA's Rex Mix award this year. Each year the National Communication Association awards the Rex Mix Program of Excellence Award to the nation's "top undergraduate communication program." Nominated programs are evaluated for excellence in curriculum, program quality, course design, and special programs. We are delighted to announce that Dartmouth College's Speech program received the NCA's Rex Mix award this year.

The award is a welcome recognition for the program's recent advancements. Helmed by professors Josh Compton, Darlene K. Drummond, and Svetlana Grushina, the Speech program at Dartmouth has undergone something of a renaissance over the past ten years. In 2008, the program offered only three courses; since that time the curriculum has increased more than fourfold and now includes cutting-edge classes in health communication, sustainablity rhetoric, credibility, new media, political humor, and social justice. Despite its modest size and origins, the program now enjoys a remarkable popularity and exercises potent influence on Dartmouth's campus and the surrounding community.

Speech students develop significant knowledge and in-depth understanding of theoretical concepts in verbal and visual rhetoric through extensive practice of the art, within and beyond the campus. The Speech faculty and students have partnered with local community organizations to create a variety of innovative experiential learning initiatives and social impact practicums that engage critical issues such as addiction recovery, physical and mental public health, restorative justice, education equity, environmental awareness, and nature conservation in the Upper Valley and beyond. Grushina adds, “With the support of the Dartmouth Center for Social Impact, my students are able to learn more about the power of speech by using their course expertise to address real-life needs of nonprofit organizations. Within a single term, each student grows as an individual while tangibly contributing to community well-being. It’s a transformative learning experience that helps us all appreciate the importance of communication in every area of life.”

The Speech program also resurrected the historic Benjamin F. Barge and Class of 1866 Prizes for Oratory and created a new annual event, “The Art of Presidential Speechwriting,” which features former speechwriters for US presidents. These augmentations to the program have reminded the campus again of the importance of speechwriting and public speaking and have further burnished the reputation of the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric where the Speech program finds its home.

Compton's description of the program goes far to explain its successful evolutions: "Our enthusiasm, our curiosity, our love of the discipline, our commitment to our students motivate us to keep working hard, to aim for speech at its best, to help students discover the power and responsibility of communication. I think we’re doing this with creativity, with courage, and with an unwavering commitment to giving our students the best experiences in studying and celebrating speech that we can. On our best days, we achieve excellence. On the others, we keep striving for it.” He adds that "To be selected as the winner of this award by our colleagues in the discipline means a lot—that they not only recognize the work we’re doing and our contribution to the larger discipline, but also, that they consider our work to be distinctively excellent."

The award is named in honor of Dr. Rex Mix, a professor of speech communication at the University of Lynchburg in Virginia. Mix was the leader of the Undergraduate College and University Section (UCUS) of the National Communication Association for many years; his colleagues remember him as a tireless advocate for "curricular innovation and pedagogical invention," particularly within small speech and communication programs at small undergraduate institutions. According to Daniel Brown, a professor at Pennsylvania's Grove City College and chair of this year's Rex Mix selection committee, "the purpose of the award is to encourage and recognize excellence in small undergraduate departments of communication." Brown explains that one of the "unique features of the Dartmouth Speech program" is that "it maintains a high profile on campus, engaging students from across the curriculum, yet does not offer a major program of studies." Since the award focuses on small programs with an outsized influence and tradition of excellence, Dartmouth's Speech program was the clear standout from an unusually large group of nominations this year.

The award was accepted by Drs. Compton and Drummond during the National Communication Association's 104th annual convention in Salt Lake City's Salt Palace Convention Center on Saturday, November 10th, 2018.