Department of Communication

Cara A. Finnegan Ph.D.

Associate Professor/Director of Grad Studies of Communication
Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies

Office Hours

  • T 10 am - noon; W 3 - 4 pm


Professor Finnegan is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Communication. She joined the university in 1999 after completing her Ph.D. at Northwestern University. She holds affiliated appointments in the Center for Writing Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and Art History. She was recently named a Conrad Humanities Professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Finnegan's research examines the role of photography as a tool for public life. Photographs are powerful forms of communication: they visualize social issues, make visible those who are often invisible, and foster or limit bonds of identification. Her book-length projects are best described as rhetorical histories of photography, in that she variously examines the production, composition, circulation, and reception of photographs at specific moments in U.S. history. She is completing a book called Reading Photography's Viewers, which focuses on the period from the Civil War through the Great Depression. Recent essays take up contemporary topics such as the role of fine art in the visual rhetoric of the Obama White House.

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • visual rhetoric; rhetorical criticism; visual politics of public address; photography; contemporary rhetorical theory; public sphere theory; U.S. rhetorical history


  • Ph.D. Northwestern University, 1999
  • M.A. University of Maine, 1995
  • B.A. University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, 1992

Distinctions / Awards

  • Conrad Humanities Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2012-2017
  • NCA Diamond Anniversary Book Award for Picturing Poverty, 2004
  • NCA Golden Monograph Award for "Recognizing Lincoln," 2006
  • William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow, Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, Vanderbilt University, 2006-07
  • Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2005-06
  • NCA Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division New Investigator Award, 2005

External URLs


  • CMN 538: The Problem of the Public (Fall 2011)
  • CMN 450: Gender and Rhetoric (Spring 2012)
  • CMN 538: Rhetoric and Visual Culture (Spring 2013)
  • CMN 423: Rhetorical Criticism
  • CMN 340: Visual Politics (Fall 2012)
  • CMN 538: Writing Rhetorical Histories (Spring 2014)