A laptop showing a word document, an essay manuscript with a highlighter on top, and a cup of coffee sitting on table.My research is broadly focused across three areas: the intersection of politics and economics, the convergence between social media and the presidency, and the relationship between debate and civic education.

I am primarily interested in how political leaders deliberate economic problems and policies. My dissertation project, When the Fed Speaks: A Rhetorical History of the Federal Reserve, develops the idea of the rhetorical Fed to examine the strategies used by a succession of prominent Fed chairs to position the central bank as an authoritative, nonpartisan voice at the center of major economic debates. In support of this research, I have won awards and grants from various universities and centers to engage in archival work and to conduct personal interviews, including one with former Fed chair Paul Volcker.

My secondary research interests concern how digital media has changed presidential communication in terms of delivery and engagement. I call this phenomenon the digital presidency and explore how it changes the dynamics of speech delivery, such as the enhanced State of the Union; public outreach, as with the White House’s Virtual Block of Cheese Day; and campaigning, given the reception of the 2012 presidential debates.

Lastly, I have studied how speech and debate training fosters civic education. This work is multi-faceted and has involved organizing a national conference on Speech and Debate as Civic Education, which produced an edited volume and two journal special issues on the subject, and organizing multiple public outreach events under the purview of the Penn State Speech & Debate Society.

Recent Publications

J. Michael Hogan, Jessica A. Kurr, Michael J. Bergmaier, and Jeremy D. Johnson, eds., Speech and Debate as Civic Education (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2017). [Book Here]

J. Michael Hogan and Jessica A. Kurr, eds., “Civic Education in Competitive Speech and Debate,” special issue, Argumentation and Advocacy 53, no. 2 (2017). [Intro Here] [Issue Here]

*J. Michael Hogan, Jessica A. Kurr, Jeremy D. Johnson, and Michael J. Bergmaier, eds., “Speech and Debate as Civic Education,” special issue, Communication Education 65, no. 4 (2016). [Intro Here] [Issue Here]

*Jessica A. Kurr, review of Justin S. Vaughn and Jennifer R. Mercieca (eds.), The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014), in Quarterly Journal of Speech 102, no. 3 (2016): 311-315. [PDF Here]

*Jessica A. Kurr, review of Jeffrey P. Mehltretter Drury, Speaking with the People’s Voice: How Presidents Invoke Public Opinion (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014), in Rhetoric & Public Affairs 19, no. 1 (2016): 135-138. [PDF Here]

*Jessica A. Kurr, “Going Digital: Rhetorical Strategies in the Enhanced State of the Union,” in Rhetoric Across Borders, ed. Anne T. Demo (Anderson, SC: Parlor Press, 2015): 146-158. [PDF Here]


*Please cite all my earlier work as “Jessica A. Kurr” in lieu of the original publication name.