Grad Students: #COMMStudyWithUs

I study the intersection of rhetoric, race, and religion. Grounded in a multidisciplinary/transdisciplinary understanding of scholarship, I study African American public address and rhetorical criticism, prophetic rhetoric, and rhetorical theology along with political rhetoric, critical race theory, and religious and hip-hop studies. 

Below is a list of my current and former graduate students who have joined me on this journey.


University of Memphis

Current Ph.D.Students (Advisor)

Steven T. Gaines

Current Dissertation Proposal: Rhetorical Leadership in Organizational Conflict and Change: Case Studies of Antiracist Preaching

Steven researches race, gender, and conflict in religious and organizational communication. His current projects investigate religious and political rhetoric in speeches and writings by Martin Luther King Jr., Victoria Woodhull, Marshall Keeble, and John Allen Chalk. Steven has taught several subjects, including public speaking, intercultural communication, organizational communication, and communication theory; and he has about 20 years of experience in organizational leadership and professional speaking. He is now serving as an Associate Professor of Communication at Midland College in Midland, Texas.  

For a list of Steven's publications, click here

Dianna Watkins-Dickerson

Current Dissertation Proposal: Daring to be Herself: Womanist Rhetorical Theory in Black Women's Presidential Announcement Speeches

Dianna's scholarship begins at the intersections of rhetoric, race, religion, and gender. While she is trained as a rhetorician, the heart of her work deals with Black Christian women reclaiming their bodies and voices, not as acceptable sacrifices, but as beautifully, wonderfully made carriers of hope, power, vision, and tenacity living in the abundant life promised to them. Dianna is also the co-author (with Andre E. Johnson) of the recently published book chapter "Fighting to be Heard: Shirley Chisholm and the Makings of a Womanist Rhetorical Framework" in Gender, Race, and Social Identity in American Politics edited by Lori L. Montalbano.

Tom is the pastor of Bluff City Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Tom was previously the lead pastor of an extension campus for Lynn Haven United Methodist Church in Panama City, FL. Tom is married to Cassie and they have three children. Tom's interests include religious rhetoric, specifically prophetic rhetoric. He is also the author of Underdogs and Outsiders: A Bible Study on the Untold Stories of Advent

Damariye Smith 

DamariyƩ was born and raised in the Bay Area (northern California). His research interests are primarily focused on the rhetorical tradition, specifically in the context of African American studies, Higher Education and Education policy in the United States. Other research areas of interest include film criticism, leadership, organizational communication, and communication theory. I am also an active member of the National Communication Association, Western States Communication Association as well as Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Natonya Listach

Natonya is an instructor of communication at Middle Tennessee State University. Her interests lie in rhetoric, gender, and instructional communication with a focus on the rhetoric and pedagogy of Hallie Quinn Brown. 

Ayo M. Morton

Ayo M. Morton is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Communications from Hampton University, a Master of Divinity from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University and a Master of Theology from Union Presbyterian Seminary where she was a Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership Fellow. She is a current Doctor of Philosophy student at the University of Memphis where her work is centered on rhetoric and Black sound. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. In addition to being a licensed and ordained minister, she has written three novels, a devotional and released a spoken word CD. 


C. L. Dangerfield 

C.L. Dangerfield is an award-winning educator with nearly 20 years of experience in the classroom. Her research aligns at the intersection of race, identity, and rhetoric–with an occasional homage to hip-hop culture. Expanding her scholarship to include more prominent considerations of gender, faith, and digital media, she seeks to interrogate spaces of oppression to offer “voice,” visibility, and a renewed sense of authority to those that might otherwise be dismissed.

Dangerfield has earned degrees in Speech Communication from Clark Atlanta University and Penn State, as well as a graduate certificate in Writing and Digital Communication from Agnes Scott College. She is now in the Ph.D. program in Communication Studies at the University of Memphis.

Clark A. Harris

Clark A. Harris Jr. is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis. He is interested in studying the rhetorical aspects of theological discourse at the intersection of race and oppression. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas and teaches at a number of institutions. His ambitions in education are teaching and researching in the disciplines of rhetoric and writing. He believes that writing can serve as a gateway to knowledge of self-revelations and understanding of one's past. Furthermore, he encourages his students to write daily in a journal with expectations of passing it down to their children’s children. An inheritance can be spent, and a picture is only worth a thousand words, but your story can guide future generations to a greater destination. In addition, there is no one more worthy of sharing your story than you.

Lionnell "Badu" Smith

Lionnell Smith, affectionately known as Badu, is a 2018 Fulbright-Hays Fellows, recipient of the 2018 Monica Pombo Early Career Teaching Award, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Memphis. His research centers on critical intercultural communication studies with particular emphasis on language and identity and critical communication pedagogy. He is a member of the Carolinas Communication Association, the Southern States Communication Association, and the National Communication Association.

I also serve as a member of the following committees:

Tyler Stafford 

Jonathan Smith 

Keven Rudrow

Degan Loren

Noor Aswad

Laura Sullivan

Christian Theological Seminary

Ph.D. in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric

R. Janae Pitts-Murdock

Gina Stewart

Justin West

Chicago Theological Seminary

Ph.D. in Religious Studies

Lawrence (Larry) Green

Past Students: 


The University of Memphis 

(2015) Marcus Hassell: “Under Siege: Conspiracy, I-Pistemology and Resistance through Hip-Hop in Killarmy’s Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars”  
*Recipient of the 2015 Top Dissertation Award from NCA's African American Communication and Culture Division-(committee member)

  • Current Position: Instructor, Tennessee State University

(2016) Scott Anderson. Rhetoric, Race, and Barack Obama's Discourse of Division.-(committee member)

  • Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Arkansas State University

(2018) Earle J. Fisher: A Close Reading of Albert Cleage Jr’s The Black Messiah: A Study in Rhetorical Hermeneutics, Black Prophetic Rhetoric, and Radical Black Politics -(committee member)
  • Current Position: Senior Pastor, Abyssinian Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee

Master of Arts (MA)

(2017) Anthony Jerome Stone (Sociology): "I am a Cartoon, Not Me!!: Racial Identity and Native American Caricature Iconography.-(committee member) 

  • Current Position: Ph.D. Student (Sociology) University of Cincinnati

(2018) Kimberley Nicole Travers (History)-(committee member)