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Gordon R. Mitchell

  • Associate Professor
  • Associate Professor of Clinical and Translational Science


  • PhD, Northwestern University


Gordon Mitchell’s scholarship on rhetoric and argumentation, focusing on military and healthcare contexts, has been recognized with awards from the National Communication Association and American Forensics Association. Author of Strategic Deception: Rhetoric, Science and Politics in Missile Defense Advocacy (Michigan State University Press), he has published over 40 articles and book chapters in leading scholarly outlets. Mitchell’s research on missile defense has been presented at invited talks in venues such as the World Policy Institute, the Belgian Royal Defence College, and the U.S. Congress, while his scholarship on intelligence analysis has been featured in nationally syndicated Op-Eds, policy briefs, and official government reports.

Previously chair (2011-2013), director of graduate studies (2009-2011), and director of the debating union (1995-2006) in the Department of Communication, Mitchell’s other leadership roles at the University of Pittsburgh have included assistant dean of the University Honors College (2014-2017), associate director of the Humanities Center (2011-2012), and deputy director of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies (2007-2008).

Mitchell is recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the David and Tina Bellet Teaching Excellence Award, the Provost’s Innovation in Education Award, and has directed some 14 Ph.D. dissertations and served on over 30 doctoral committees at the University of Pittsburgh. 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, football concussions, soda taxes, human rights anmnesty and transportation funding. He also taught the first generation of high school teachers in the Urban Debate League, a nation-wide initiative to expand policy debating in U.S. urban centers in the 1990s. 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.



Selected Articles

  • "When argumentation backfires: The motivated reasoning predicament in speech and debate pedagogy." In J.M. Hogan, J.A. Kurr, M.J. Bergmaeir and J.D. Johnson (Eds.), Speech and Debate as Civic Education. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017 (pp. 94-107).
  • "Using a deliberative forum for engaging health system and health plan leaders to prioritize research topics” (senior co-author with K.M. McTigue, E.J. Hartelius, T.S. Anderson, A.P. Allsup, T. Alston, C.H. Chuang, S. Dillon, D.E. Ford, N. Gunturi, R. Hess, H.L. Kirchner, S.L, Larson, A.B. Leon-Jhong, D.R. McCoy, A. Paranjape, J.R. Uhrig, and A.A. Waheed). European Journal for Person Centered Healthcare. In press.
  • 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).
  • "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