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Vanessa Beasley

Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Dean of Residential Faculty and Associate Professor of Communication Studies

Expert in presidential rhetoric, U.S. political communication and rhetorical criticism and theory.


Vanessa Beasley, a Vanderbilt University alumna and expert on the history of U.S. political rhetoric, is vice provost for academic affairs, dean of residential faculty and an associate professor of communication studies. As Vice Provost and Dean of Residential Faculty, she oversees Vanderbilt’s growing Residential College System as well as the campus units that offer experiential learning inside and outside of the classroom. Beasley attended Vanderbilt as an undergraduate and earned a bachelor of arts in speech communication and theatre arts. She also holds a Ph.D. in speech communication from the University of Texas at Austin. Following stints on the faculty of Texas A&M University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Georgia, she returned to Vanderbilt in 2007 as a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies. Active in the Vanderbilt community, she has served as chair of the Provost’s Task Force on Sexual Assault, director of the Program for Career Development for faculty in the College of Arts and Science, and as a Jacque Voegeli Fellow of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. Beasley’s areas of academic expertise include the rhetoric of American presidents, political rhetoric on immigration, and media and politics. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles, book chapters and other publications, and is the author of two books, Who Belongs in America? Presidents, Rhetoric, and Immigration and You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric, 1885-2000.

Media Appearances

  • Listen up: Biden speaks volumes in a whisper to make a point

    Biden’s critics on the right as well as some late-night TV talk show hosts say the whispers are “creepy” and “weird.” Conservatives use the dramatic soft talk to fuel the narrative that the Democratic president is unfit for the job, and comedians deploy it to generate laughs. “It’s an intimate form of communication,” said Vanessa Beasley, associate professor of communication studies at Vanderbilt University.

    July 12th, 2021

  • Limited Power for the World’s Most Powerful Man

    "For years people have talked about the 'imperial presidency.' People would worry about that every time we'd see an increase in executive orders," a tactic presidents use to make policy changes without congressional approval, says Vanessa Beasley, a professor at Vanderbilt University and expert on presidential rhetoric.

    July 16th, 2021

  • Amid Division, US Heads Toward Turbulent Transition of Power

    In a new CBS/YouGov poll, 21% of Republicans said they approved of the bloody siege on the U.S. Congress by supporters of President Donald Trump. Many more believe the November election was rigged. As the U.S. heads into a turbulent transition of power, Patsy Widakuswara has the story on this divided and angry nation.

    January 15th, 2021

  • Why Trump's response to Capitol siege evokes memories of Charlottesville

    Vanessa Beasley, a professor of communication studies at Vanderbilt University who studies presidential rhetoric, told ABC News that Trump's response to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is "a continuation and extension" of Charlottesville. The instances showcase a defining rhetorical strategy of his presidency: An "us versus them" messaging, she explained.

    January 8th, 2021

  • Trump paints apocalyptic portrait of life in US under Biden

    Vanessa Beasley, a professor of communication studies at Vanderbilt University, said all presidents fall back on “us versus them” rhetoric during campaigns, but that once in office the rhetoric is tempered by the reality of having to govern for all.

    October 29th, 2020

  • Republicans, Democrats Adapt Conventions to COVID Pandemic

    “The absence of the old guard of the Republican Party is definitely meaningful,” said Vanessa Beasley, communications professor at Vanderbilt University. “You want to show the continuity of the party itself, you want to show the party’s behind you, and the absence of key figures signals ... that's not necessarily the case,” she noted.

    August 28th, 2020

  • Without Cheering Crowds, Democrats Try to Drum Up Enthusiasm at Virtual Convention

    Vanessa Beasley, communications professor at Vanderbilt University, said eliminating the crowded arena created an aura of intimacy for viewers. “I think [Democrats] made some really strategic decisions about what it meant to go virtual and television as a particular medium, but also thinking about the way the rest of the media would pick up particular clips and sound bites to circulate on social media,” Beasley said.

    August 19th, 2020

  • Trailing in Polls, Trump Resurrects 'The Lone Warrior'

    “The most basic rule in political communication is that you keep doing the same thing until it doesn't work anymore,” said Vanessa Beasley, a professor of political communication at Vanderbilt University to VOA. “As I see President Trump doubling down on his race-inflected rhetoric, I think that he is assuming that what has worked in the past will work again."

    July 2nd, 2020

  • Trump’s tendency to deny his past statements has become more glaring during coronavirus

    Trump’s rhetoric has always stood apart from his contemporaries and continues to do so amid the pandemic. But in moments of crisis, it’s “exceptionally atypical to have any president continue to draw this much attention to themselves,” said Vanessa Beasley, a presidential rhetoric expert and associate professor of communications studies at Vanderbilt University.

    May 1st, 2020

  • Donald Trump's Own Words Undermine His Case After El Paso Shooting

    Vanessa Beasley, a professor of communication studies at Vanderbilt University who is an expert on presidential rhetoric, said those moments make it harder for Trump to talk about unifying the country now. “The reason there’s going to be a credibility issue there is because he’s spent so much time to date as president remaining engaged in campaign rhetoric,” she said. “And his campaign rhetoric is characteristically us versus them.”

    August 5th, 2019


Ph.D., University of Texas

M.A., University of Texas

B.A., Vanderbilt University


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