The Pannill Center for Rhetoric and Communication places the College's central academic program in the physical center of campus. It presents a unique opportunity to leverage the success, reputation, and resources of the Rhetoric Program in the service of a truly distinctive academic experience, one that will enable every Hampden-Sydney student to graduate with skills that employers consistently seek:

the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively in writing, speech, and multimodal forms; the ability to work and solve problems collaboratively with peers; and the ability and confidence to convey specialized knowledge to diverse audiences.

The Center comprises 11,500 square feet facing Chalgrove Lake, including three classrooms, the Rhetoric Studio, presentation practice rooms, a shared central space, and spaces where students will put their rhetorical skills into practice through Public History, Student Publications, and Undergraduate Research.

Writing, communication skills, and organizational skills are in demand across nearly every occupation—and in nearly every occupation they’re being requested far more than you’d expect based on standard job profiles. Even fields like IT and engineering want people who can write.

Burning Glass Technologies, 2015

Dynamic, Collaborative, and Comprehensive Space

Dynamic and Visible:
The proximity to Pannill Commons and the entrances leading toward the residence halls on the north and the Brown Student Center on the south ensure that students will be constantly moving through this space. Most walls are glass, coupling acoustical privacy with visual exposure that invites participation to the full sweep of activities, from tutoring in Rhetoric to editing The Tiger. Marrying the vibrant intellectual life inside the space with a newly landscaped Chalgrove and a new Dining Terrace above, the Center will be a vibrant hub of the campus.  

As students move through the Center, they will encounter different sorts of spaces, from private offices to the semi-public Rhetoric studio to the public Ellipse, each which encourages a different form of collaboration. Movable displays enable the programs on the north side—Public History, Student Publications, and Undergraduate Research—to publicize their collaborative projects, from newspapers and literary magazines to poster presentations to digital museum exhibits. Two of the classrooms will be equipped so that students can use the rooms collaboratively to film and produce presentations and videos.  

Open twenty four hours a day, the Center will engage every student at the College, from freshmen to seniors, and the space will experience exceptionally high capacity utilization. Every week, 500-600 students will take classes in three of the most attractive classrooms on campus. Courses such as Writing in the Sciences, Business Writing, and Journalism will expand Rhetorical training for students in every discipline. An online app will enable students to reserve rooms to meet, study, interview, practice presentations, edit, collaborate. The College can use the space to host undergraduate conferences that bring students from across the region to our campus.

The Rhetoric Studio

The Hampden-Sydney Rhetoric Program, a crown jewel of the curriculum, celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018; the Center ensures that its next forty years will be even more impressive. To support instruction in written, spoken, digital, visual, and multimodal communication, the Rhetoric Studio, located on the south side of the Center, comprises faculty offices; an open space for tutoring in written, spoken, digital, and multimodal communication; presentation practice rooms; and an office for administrative support. Two of the classrooms are also specifically designed with cameras and lighting to accommodate instruction in delivering presentations. Together, the space enables new forms of pedagogy. Students will be able to work with faculty and peer tutors on any stage of a project, from brainstorming to composition to presentation; they can then employ necessary technology as they present their work in a variety of real-world settings.  

In the Rhetoric Studio, students will work alongside one another brainstorming, writing, collaborating with peers and faculty, interviewing, creating posters and digital displays, visualizing data, designing online exhibits, publishing, presenting research, and communicating knowledge in multi-modal forms.

The Rhetoric Studio

Student Publications

An office, lounge, and shared computer lab will support four student publications: The Tiger, The Journal of the Sciences, The Garnet, and The Kaleidoscope. Additionally, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review and the Writer's Roundtable will both meet here. The increased visibility, spaces for collaboration, faculty support, and cutting edge technology will all strengthen our student publications and entice more students to join them.

Undergraduate Research

The Center will make student work even more visible to fellow students, visitors, and prospective applicants. Showcasing student work through discussion groups, lectures, and presentations of work-in-progress, it will create a virtuous circle in which students who see their classmates' work will be allured to pursue such work themselves. By being closely situated with Rhetoric, undergraduate research will become fundamentally strengthened by the opportunities in written, spoken, and multimodal communication.

The Center for Public History

Here students ask How do I communicate the voice of the past? How do I bring historical knowledge to the public? Initially, The Center for Public History will focus on projects in three areas:

  1. Digital History: Students will collaborate to create publicly accessible digital archives on a range of topics;
  2. The Hampden-Sydney Oral History Project: students will conduct oral histories and create a valuable record of the collective memory and experience of HSC community members and alumni;
  3. Archaeology and Historic Preservation: Drawing on Hampden-Sydney's own historic sites and then expanding to others in Virginia and neighboring states, students will bring materials from digs back into the center classroom, where they will learn to analyze artifacts, understand the story, and communicate that story through both physical and virtual exhibits.
Public History


Rhetoric Program

The cornerstone of the H-SC academic experience is the belief that there is nothing more valuable than teaching young men how to express themselves clearly and confidently.

Rhetoric Program

RPE Toast

Every year, alumni gather at locations across the globe to celebrate the Rhetoric Program and toast the students taking their Rhetoric Proficiency Exam on campus that night. It's a 'write' of passage.

  • Rhetoric Center Announcement Story

    March 20, 2018

    Hampden-Sydney College alumnus William L. Pannill '77 gifted $2 million gift to support the 40-year-old Rhetoric Program's next chapter: an innovative and collaborative space known as the Center for Rhetoric and Communication.

    Rhetoric Center

Rhetoric Program Director

Dr. Nicholas Nace, Director 
Elliott Assistand Professor of Rhetoric
Pannill Commons, 100A
Hampden-Sydney College | Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943
(434) 223-6255

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