David Coogan

David Coogan, PhD

Associate Professor

Founder and Co-Director of Open Minds

(804) 827-8417

Hibbs Hall, 900 Park Ave., room 417

Office hours: By appointment



  • PhD, State University of New York at Albany, 1995  
  • MA, State University of New York at Albany, 1992
  • BA, The College of Wooster, 1990

Research Interests

David Coogan is an associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University specializing in rhetoric, the teaching of writing, and prison literature. He is the author of Writing Our Way Out: Memoirs from Jail, and The Public Work of Rhetoric: Citizen-Scholars and Civic Engagement. His essays have appeared in the journals Rhetoric Review and Rhetoric Society Quarterly and in the anthologies Working for Justice: A Handbook for Prison Education and Activism and Active Voices: Composing a Rhetoric of Social Movements.

Coogan is also the founder of Open Minds, a program that brings service-learning classes into the Richmond City Justice Center, and Write Your Way Out: A Criminal Justice Diversion Program, which enables low-level offenders in Richmond to avoid incarceration. 

Select Publications

  • “The Rhetoric of Redemption in African-American Prison Memoirs.” Rhetoric Review 40.3 (2021)
  • “Situating Agency in the Memoirs of Mass Incarceration.” Rhetoric Review 39.1 (January 2020) 
  • “Prison Paideia.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 49.1 (2019). 
  • “Public Life Through a Prison-University Partnership.” Public: A Journal of Imagining America (May 2015). 
  • “Cultivating Agency: A Classroom Sanctuary for Prisoners and College Students.  Community Literacy Journal (Fall 9.1, 2014). 


  • Rhetoric Society of America
  • Imagining America
  • Conference on College Composition and Communication


  • ENGL 459: Political Rhetoric in the U.S.
  • ENGL 366: Writing and Social Change 
  • ENGL 304: Persuasive Writing about Politics         
  • ENGL 356: Prison Literature


  • College of Humanities and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award, Fall 2020
  • University Excellence in Service-Learning Faculty Award, Spring 2020


  • Podcast, Writing Our Way Out
  • Blog, Writing to Freedom