Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David Kaufer

Second Advisor

Christine Neuwirth

Third Advisor

Andreea Deciu Ritivoi

Fourth Advisor

George Taylor


Following 9/11, U.S. immigration law and policy toward international students in the U.S. dramatically changed. Post-9/11, the government instilled restrictive policies, including a tracking program (SEVIS), to closely monitor international students because these students were viewed as possible terrorists. Additionally, the government replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) with a new enforcement agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The elimination of INS was part of a major reorganization of the executive branch, which consolidated Federal departments and agencies into a single Department of Homeland Security, whose mission is to prevent terrorist attacks within the U.S. and reduce U.S. vulnerability to terrorism. This dissertation examines the interactive nature of a transformative event, such as 9/11, discursive strategies, and organizational design in promoting these changes. This project further explores the effect of such changes in law, policy, and government structures on language and meaning.

To probe the interrelationship between material events, discourse, and organizational structure, I used three theories of rhetorical analysis: kairos, frame theory, and genre analysis. Each theory provided a different level of analysis to examine the narrative of international students in the post-9/11 United States. Collectively, these three methods offered a systematic and sustained way to examine the story of international students in a time of transition.

These three methods expose a process in which material events and discursive practices led to organizational change that then acted as a rhetorical device to replace discursive practices. The new organization created new understandings of social and cultural situations and influenced language and the ability of individuals to promote and curtail argument. This study reveals that rhetoric is not confined to discourse and language. Discourse and organizational change can become so intertwined that organizational change seamlessly replaces discourse and therefore must be considered in rhetorical analysis.

While my work has focused particularly on legal institutions and on how institutional change within the executive branch of the United States affected the meaning associated with “international student,” this work has implications for the study of institutions and organizations generally. Furthermore, this work demonstrates the need to consider organizational change in rhetorical analysis.

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