Gordon R. Mitchell, PhD

1423 Cathedral of Learning
Office hours: By appt.
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PhD, Northwestern University


Associate Professor; Assistant Dean, University Honors College; Associate Professor of Clinical and Translational Science

Appointed to the Pitt faculty in 1995, Mitchell joined the University Honors College as its first Assistant Dean in 2014, after having previously served as Chair of the Department of Communication, Associate Director of the Humanities Center, Director of the William Pitt Debating Union, and Deputy Director of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies.

Mitchell’s research program focuses on rhetoric and argumentation, especially in medical, military and educational contexts. He is author of the award winning book, Strategic Deception: Rhetoric, Science and Politics in Missile Defense Advocacy, co-editor of Hitting First: Preventive Force in U.S. Security Strategy and has published over 40 articles and book chapters in leading scholarly outlets. Mitchell’s work on missile defense has been presented at invited talks in venues such as the World Policy Institute; the Belgian Royal Defence College and the US Congress, while his scholarship on intelligence analysis has been featured in nationally syndicated Op-Eds and official government reports.

Mitchell is recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the David and Tina Bellet Teaching Excellence Award and has directed 12 PhD dissertations and served on over 30 doctoral committees. In his 21 years as a debate educator, Mitchell’s teams won three national championships and he convened hundreds of public debates on topics such as global warming, network neutrality, Marcellus Shale drilling, abstinence-only sex education, county government structure, human rights amnesty and transportation funding. As an undergraduate student debater at Northwestern University, Mitchell was half of the top-ranked two-person team in the nation in 1988 and the top individual speaker at the 1989 National Debate Tournament.

While Assistant Dean Mitchell’s initial focus in the Honors College is on strengthening and expanding the college’s portfolio of honors courses, the UHC scholarship program and the Brackenridge fellowship program, his dual appointment as part-time associate professor positions him to continue pursuing scholarly research, graduate advising and teaching in his home department.



  • Author: Gordon R. Mitchell, PhD
  • Author: Gordon R. Mitchell, PhD
Selected Articles

Public Opinion, Thinly Sliced and Served Hot. International Journal of Communication, 9, online. 2015.

Big Data and New Metrics of Scholarly Expertise (co-authored with E. Johanna Hartelius). Review of Communication, 14, 288-313. 2014.

NCA-Forum Double Session on Scholarly Metrics in a Digital Age (co-authored with E. Johanna Hartelius). Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, 3, 1-29, online. 2014.

Promoting Patient Phronesis: Communication Patterns in an Online Lifestyle Program Coordinated with Primary Care. (co-authored with John R. Rief, Susan L. Zickmund, Tina D. Bhargava, Cindy L. Bryce, Gary S. Fischer, Rachel Hess, N. Randall Kolb, Laurey R. Simkin-Silverman & Kathleen M. McTigue). Health Education & Behavior, 40, 311-322. 2013.

Translation Through Argumentation in Medical Research and Physician Citizenship. (co-authored with Kathleen M. McTigue). Journal of Medical Humanities 33,  83-107. 2012.

iSocrates: Student-led Public Debate as Cultural Technology.  Controversia, 7, 54-75. 2011.

The Debate Authors Working Group Model for Collaborative Knowledge Production in Forensics Scholarship" (co-authored with Carly S. Woods, Matthew Brigham, Eric English, Catherine E. Morrison and John Rief). Argumentation & Advocacy, 47, 1-24. 2010.

"Higher-Order Strategic Maneuvering in Argumentation." Argumentation, 24, 319-335. 2010.

"Switch-Side Debating Meets Demand-Driven Rhetoric of Science." Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 13, 95-120. 2010.

"Forensics as Scholarship: Testing Zarefsky's Bold Hypothesis in a Digital Age" (co-authored with G. Thomas Goodnight). Argumentation & Advocacy, 45, 80-97. 2008.

"The US Obesity 'Epidemic': Metaphor, Method, or Madness?" (co-authored with Kathleen M. McTigue). Social Epistemology, 21, 391-423. 2007.

"Team B Intelligence Coups." Quarterly Journal of Speech, 92, 144-173. 2006 (winner 2007 Daniel Rohrer Research Award and 2007 NCA Political Communication Division Outstanding Article Award).

"Public Argument Action Research and the Learning Curve of New Social Movements." Argumentation & Advocacy, 40, 209-225. 2004.

"Did Habermas Cede Nature to the Positivists?" Philosophy and Rhetoric, 36, 1-21. 2003.

"Informed Consent After the Human Genome Project" (co-authored with Kelly Happe). Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 4, 375-406. 2001.

"Japan-U.S. Missile Defense Collaboration: Rhetorically Delicious, Deceptively Dangerous." Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, 25, 85-108. 2001.

"Placebo Defense: The Rhetoric of Patriot Missile Accuracy in the 1991 Persian Gulf War." Quarterly Journal of Speech, 86, 121-145. 2000.

Courses Taught


  • Honors Seminar in Conducting Research (co-taught with Peter Koehler, 2014-2016)
  • Honors Discourses in the Humanities (co-taught with Gretchen Bender, 2015)
  • Undergraduate Honors Research Proseminar (2014-2015)
  • Honors Energy: Science, Society, and Communication (co-taught with Goetz Veser and William Alba, 2016)
  • New Media Technologies (2010; 2013)
  • Rheorical Process (2013)
  • 21st Century Public Argument (2012)
  • Argument (2009, 2014-2015)
  • Rhetoric of Social Movements (1997, 2001, 2003-2005, 2007-2008).
  • Cold War Rhetoric (2002, 2003, 2004; 2006)
  • Rhetoric of Science (2001)
  • Evidence (1995-2000, 2003)
  • Debate (1995-1998)
  • Freshman Studies, University of Pittsburgh (1998-2001).


  • Argumentation (2006; 2012, 2015)
  • Seminar in Rhetorical Production (2005)
  • Proseminar (2001-2004; 2006-2008)
  • Rhetoric of Science Policy (2000, 2007)
  • Rhetoric of Social Movements (1998, 1999, 2003, 2008)
  • Seminar in Philosophy and Rhetoric: Isocrates (2009)
  • Seminar in Philosophy and Rhetoric: Isocrates MOOC-mortar hybrid (2013)


  • Provost’s Innovation in Education Award
  • Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award
  • David and Tina Bellet Teaching Excellence Award
  • James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address
  • Daniel Rohrer Memorial Outstanding Research Award
  • NCA Political Communication Division Outstanding Article Award