Heather Ashley Hayes

I am a scholar, writer, and educator of over seventeen years. I’m interested in social implications of rhetorical practice and how humans use symbols to make meaning and address problems of common concern. My research centers on violence and discourses of terror. I write about those discourses both domestically within the US and as part of the global terror wars. I am particularly interested in the intersection of domestic sociopolitical landscapes with dynamics of global violence and war, both of which are remade through discourses of terrorism. I additionally engage work about histories and circulations of violence as they relate to race, rhetorical practice, and national security in public discourse, film, and militarized & carceral spaces throughout the world.

I am currently appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and teach in both the Programs in Race and Ethnic Studies and Film and Media Studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, USA. My first book, Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars (Palgrave Macmillan) dropped in 2016, joining a number of other article, review, and chapter length academic pieces I’ve published. I present work across the US, Middle East, and Europe to audiences in both academic spaces and outside of the university. I also serve as an Associate Editor in Chief for the public analysis space Citizen Critics, where I publish work from time to time.

I have been privileged in my career to teach at institutions ranging from a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest of the US to a large public high school in Texas and many spaces in between. I have worked with lots of students at various stages of their educational journey and I’m honored to have received a number of distinctions for that work. Most recently in May of 2018, I accepted Whitman College’s George Ball Excellence in Advising Award, a student nominated honor recognizing an educator for outstanding distinction in advising and mentoring students from all areas of the college.

I’m moved by poetic aesthetics, especially in the form of the spoken word, sometimes set to beats. I’m a cinephile. I pen the occasional film or television review and read many. I am a pasta enthusiast. I hold an unyielding bias in favor of unfettered access to education for all in a society, simply on the basis that we’re human.

Photography Credit: Lisa Quinlan Photography

My teaching is an exercise in promoting reflective thought with regard to social problems in the public sphere. I pursue teaching and learning with the task of encouraging critical engagement in public and everyday life as my goal. At its center is the re-examining of evidence and assumptions, shaking up habitual ways of thinking, dissipating conventional familiarities, and re-evaluating rules and institutions to promote participation in a global and digital world. In this sense, my philosophy about teaching is to see it as an exercise in the promotion of voice, advocacy, civic engagement, and enhancing inclusive public life, all from a rhetorical perspective. 

I believe the task of any learning space is to challenge students, and all interlocutors, to become more participative citizens as well as empower us, working together, to not only know our voice but to use it. We must aim to not only know our history, but to actively engage it. I am the daughter of a construction worker and a barber; as such, I am deeply humbled to have now earned a PhD and taught for seventeen years in all manner of spaces from a small liberal arts college to a large public high school and from large universities to prisons and refugee camps across the world. In that time, I have met and worked with students on all kinds of educational journeys. My years and breadth of experience has helped me strengthen my abilities as an educator focused on student agency, active and critical approaches to learning, and civic engagement between students and their community. These remain core tenets of my teaching and advising work.

In addition to my PhD, I retain active Texas Education Agency State Board of Educator Certification certificates in speech communications (grades 6-12) and secondary social studies (grades 8-12), active through 2024 and transferable to many states through reciprocity guidelines. I also retain an active American Red Cross adult and pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED certification, active through 2021.

NOTE: Any syllabi not linked here that you wish to explore, please email me and I will happily make an effort to share them.

recently designed and taught Courses

Representations of Blackness in American Film

Senior Thesis Seminar in Rhetorical Studies

Introduction to Rhetorical Criticism

Seminar in Rhetoric and Violence

The Rhetoric of African American Civil Rights: From the Courts to the Streets

Rhetoric of Weapons of the State

Rhetoric of Hip Hop

Fundamentals of Public Address

Introduction to Public Speaking

Introduction to Rhetoric and Public Culture

Rhetoric and Presidential Campaigns

Independent Study in Rhetoric, Race, Middle East Studies, and Gender

Introduction to Rhetoric and Media

Previously Taught Courses

Intercultural Communication Processes

African American Civil Rights Rhetoric, Reading Schedule 


Introduction to Intercultural Communication

Interpersonal Communication

Fundamentals of Human Communication

Public Speaking

Introduction to Communication Studies

Public Speaking (Election Year Edition)


Lucy Stone (1818-1893), prominent women’s suffragist and abolitionist. She became the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree and was a public advocate on behalf of women’s rights and anti-slavery initiatives. Stone pursued her advocacy despite often hostile laws of the time preventing women from speaking in public.

United Nations General Assembly Hall, New York, New York USA.

Nelson Mandela voting in South Africa’s first democratic election after the fall of Apartheid, 1994. 19.5 million South Africans voted in that election for the first time, electing Mandela as the first Black South African president in history.

16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, a little over two years after signing the Emancipation Proclamation and just five days after navigating a way for General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate forces to surrender, bringing an effective end to the active conflict of the US Civil War.

President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, addressing a public audience, 2017.