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Aaron P. Donaldson, Ph.D. Candidate


Aaron Donaldson

I am currently a Graduate Teaching Instructor and Ph.D. candidate in Communication Studies emphasizing rhetoric and ethics.


My research dwells on the ethical implications that sit at the intersection of language-use and perception. I earned an interdisciplinary MS at the University of Oregon in rhetoric and education where I studied ethics-based approaches to rhetoric (Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca, Booth) as well as psychology (empathic accuracy and metaperceptions), and foundational neural-sensory development. My doctoral study consists of surveying the fields of embodied cognition and affect as they interact with contemporary and traditional understandings of human "symbolicity." I believe that the attitudes, postures, and symbols that we activate to engage the world exert very literal (and often very problematic) influence on the "material" nature of our experience, and I aspire to interrogate those influences within the discourses of race, health care, consumption, history, and argumentation. I am currently working to develop an ontology and pedagogy for human communication that draws on ethics-bound theories of the Other (hooks, Levinas , Buber, Conquergood) to help us remain sensitive to these fluid realities in the practice of our everyday lives.

Teaching Profile

Teaching is at the heart of the human experience. I feel strongly that the primary obligation for any so-called expert is to make themselves and their material as available and applicable to the public as possible. Aside from the basic communication courses I have taught at DU (Speaking on Ideas That Matter, Small Group Communication, Communication in Popular Culture), I have more than ten years of teaching experience in academic debate and speech including a 2009 National Parliamentary Debate Association National Sweepstakes Championship. I encourage every member of the community to take an early, active, and (most importantly) diverse interest in oral advocacy and deliberation, and I have explored multiple co-curricular formats to that end including: parliamentary debate; policy debate; Lincoln-Douglas debate; British parliamentary ("Oxford") debate; impromptu, extemporaneous and platform speaking; as well as solo and duet dramatic interpretation. I attempt to structure class time more as a discussion among experts-in-training rather than as a transmission-driven attempt to learn "facts." I encourage everyone to genuinely and exhaustively take up any and all efforts to "make sense" of the world, and I believe that our willingness to engage those efforts has a profound effect on "the world" as we see it.