Peggy Herring
Administrative Assistant
English, Rhetoric, & Humanistic Studies

P: (540) 464-7240
F: (540) 464-7779

227 Scott Shipp Hall
Lexington, VA  24450 

email to:

Christina R. McDonald, Ph.D.

Institute Director of Writing
English, Rhetoric, & Humanistic Studies

Ph.D. - Texas Christian Univeristy
B.A. - Rollins College

232 Scott Shipp Hall
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, VA  24450
P:  (540) 464-7240
F:  (540) 464-7770

COL Christina McDonald joined the VMI faculty as the first Institute Director of Writing in 2002. In addition to teaching courses in first-year and advanced composition, the history of rhetoric, and the rhetorics of particular discourse communities, she is responsible for ensuring the integrity of writing instruction in the disciplines across Post to ensure that VMI graduates are able to communicate effectively for a variety of occasions and purposes.

For nine years before coming to VMI, COL McDonald taught undergraduate and graduate courses in both literature and writing at James Madison University, where she served as director of composition and founding head of the Writing Program, an independent academic unit in the College of Arts and Letters. An honors graduate of Rollins College, she earned her Ph.D. in English, with a specialization in rhetoric and composition studies, at Texas Christian University under the mentorship of Gary Tate, Winifred Bryan Horner, and Jim Corder. 

COL McDonald organizes VMI’s nationally recognized Spilman Symposium on Issues in Teaching Writing, and she has become a popular invited speaker on using writing to promote reflective learning, particularly in electronic environments. Her publications include two books, Teaching Writing: Landmarks and Horizons (Southern Illinois University Press, 2002) and Teaching Composition in the 1990s: Sites of Contention (HarperCollins, 1994).

COL McDonald enjoys mentoring cadet-initiated research on rhetorical analysis and application. Selected examples include

  • Cadet Michelle McCusker ’14 (English major), Institute Honors Thesis, “Why Aren’t We All Healthy? A Rhetorical Analysis of the Dominant Narrative of Health,” (in-progress). 
  • Cadet Kylen Schmidt ’15 (English major), Summer Undergraduate Research Project, “An Ethnographic Study of Cowboy Culture in the American West,” a rhetorical study of how the language, literature, art, and music of cowboys intersected and influenced one another and contributed to the identity of the American West and the iconic figure of the cowboy, Summer 2013. 
  • Cadet Michelle McCusker ’14 (English major), Summer Undergraduate Research Project: “Rhetoric, Community, Advocacy: Making the Case for a System of Sustainable Health Care in Rockbridge County,” the first research with a service-learning orientation to be funded by V-CUR, culminating in a published strategic plan for the Rockbridge Area Health Needs Assessment, Summer 2012. 
  • Cadet Cabell Willis ’14 (History major with writing minor), Summer Undergraduate Research Project. Archival research and an ethnographic study, “Writing Under Cover: The Literacy Practices of VMI Cadets,” Summer 2012. 
  • Cadet Matthew Waalkes ’13 (Biology major with writing minor), Independent Study project, a written and visual documentary of VMI’s of Engineers Without Borders chapter’s inaugural trip to Bolivia, Fall 2011.
  • Cadet Alex Houser ’10 (Biology major with writing minor), Independent Study project, The Rhetoric of Medicine, culminating in a research paper, “Alternative Medicine in America,” Spring 2010. 
  • Cadet Josh Kenny ’09 (Biology major with writing minor) and Cadet Alex Snyder (Chemistry major with writing minor), joint Independent Study project, Rhetoric and Scientific Discourse, Spring 2009.
  • Cadet Dominik Wermus ’10 (Physics major with writing minor), Independent Study project. Contemporary Rhetoric and Physics, which led to a 10-page research paper, “Scientific Rhetoric in the Modern World,” Fall 2009.
  • Cadet Will Flathers ’08 (Electrical Engineering major with writing minor), Independent Study in Reading Classical Rhetoricians: Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, Spring 2008. 
  • Cadet Will Flathers ’08 (Electrical Engineering major with writing minor), Independent Study project, “Bombs Away! Portrait of a World War II Pilot.” A research-based nonfiction narrative account of George William Flathers’s wartime service as a B-17 pilot, from 1942 to 1944, Fall 2007. Cadet Flathers created a website for the project:  
  • Cadet John Terminato ’07 (History major with writing minor), Institute Honors Thesis, “‘Testing’ the Goals of Education: One Student at a Time—A Case Study of the No Child Left Behind Act’s Effects on the Future of Education in Pennsylvania.”
  • Cadet Matthew Sharpe ‘04 (Computer Science major with writing minor, Class of 2004), Institute Honors Thesis, “The Role of Rhetorical Studies in Software Engineering and Human Computer Interaction.”

COL McDonald received the VMI Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006 and was elected as a faculty initiate to the VMI Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa in 2010. In 2011, the Superintendent presented her with the VMI Meritorious Service Medal.