Rita Kirk

Corporate Communication and Public Affairs

William F. May Endowed Director, Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility
Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs
Faculty-in-Residence, Armstrong Commons







Rita Kirk is a senior research professor, award winning teacher and experienced administrator with a passion for aligning resources with innovation, empowering ideas and building coalitions in order to successfully implement strategic initiatives. A frequent commentator and speaker, she excels as a communication strategist who specializes in the analysis of public arguments and the successful (and ethical) implementation of communication campaigns.

Kirk is the author of several award-winning books and articles, including Political Empiricism: Communications Strategies in State and Regional Elections; Hate Speech, a book analyzing implications for hate discourse in public communication, with coeditor David Slayden; and Solo Acts: The Death of Discourse in a Wired World, and Political Communication in Real Time.

As a professor, she has numerous teaching awards including the “M” Award from the SMU student body, the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Award and the Meadows Outstanding Teaching Professor. In 2014, the SMU Woman’s Club recognized her as SMU’s Outstanding Faculty Member.

Kirk frequently serves as a media commentator and has served as an analyst for CNN during presidential election debates over the past 10 years. She consults with national and multinational corporations on public policy and leadership.

Kirk serves as the Director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility and is a Faculty-in-Residence at Armstrong Commons.


Ph.D. in Communication, University of Missouri, 1986
M.A. in Communication, University of Arkansas, 1978
B.S.E. in Speech/Minor in Political Science, University of Arkansas, 1975

Recent Work

Recent Professional Experience

  • CNN consultant during the 2008, 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, conducting Real Time Response measures and focus group sessions on undecided voters. Used student assistants as interns for convention coverage.
  • Serve as board member of the President Bush’s Military Service Initiative. Faculty advisor to the SMU MilVets. Active advocate of military service members’ transition into academia.
  • Director of the SMU London International Program and the Washington, D.C. Hilltop on the Hill Political Experience programs.

Publications and Media

Numerous books, chapters, articles, research, media coverage and more; see Dr. Kirk’s Vitae.


Part of the CNN team that won the 2008 Peabody Award for their “unparalleled coverage of an historic election process.” The award committee specifically hailed CNN’s use of “state-of-the-art technology.”

Academic awards include receiving the Greg Phifer Freedom of Speech Award (Southern Communication Association), James A. Madison Award for Excellence in First Amendment Scholarship for Hate Speech (Southern States Communication Association), Hate Speech awarded Outstanding Book on the subject of human rights in North America. (Gustavus Meyers Center, co-sponsored by the NAACP, National Organization of Women, National Urban League, B’nai B’rith, Universalist Unitarian Church, Project Censured and Free Inquiry), Best Book in Applied Communication Award for Political Empiricism: Communication Strategies in State and Regional Elections, Speech Communication Association.

Course list

 Free Speech & First Amendment  
 Ethics; Political Communication  
 History & Philosophy of Free Speech  
 Presidential Rhetoric  
Rita Kirk