Brad Mehlenbacher


Photo of Brad Mehlenbacher.

PhD (Rhetoric), Carnegie Mellon University
MA (English, Co-op), University of Waterloo
BA (English, Honours, Co-op), University of Waterloo

Extension: 42287


I grew up in numerous Ontario towns—Selkirk, New Hamburg, St. Marys, Renfrew, Stratford—and completed my BA in Honours English Co-op and MA in English Co-op at the University of Waterloo. After brief stints at Bell-Northern Research in Ottawa and the IBM Toronto Software Lab, I moved to the U.S. and completed my PhD in Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. From there, I joined the faculty in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, and after receiving tenure in the English Department, moved across campus to the College of Education to focus my research and teaching on instruction, technology, and learning.

I distinctly remember realizing that I had lived in the U.S. longer than I had lived in Canada about the time that a position in Rhetoric and Communication was announced at the University of Waterloo. A confluence of factors, my family, and my wife and collaborator, Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, made the opportunity to return to Kitchener-Waterloo and to Canada seem both extraordinary and inevitable. Of course my connection to the U.S. continues, especially through my daughters Eleanor Dare Mehlenbacher and Frances Elizabeth Mehlenbacher, but it’s also very good to be home, both provincially and intellectually.

Joining the faculty in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo in 2018 has invigorated my work, allowing me to return to teaching and researching issues related to the rhetoric of scientific, technical, and engineering communication. In addition, my research interest in instruction and learning with technology continues to be informed by the multidisciplinary relationship between rhetorical theory, human-computer interaction, communication design, educational technologies, and the learning sciences.

Selected Publications


Mehlenbacher, B. (2010). Instruction and technology: Designs for everyday learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press (won NCTE/CCCC 2012 award for “Best Book in Technical and Scientific Communication”).

Duffy, T. M., Palmer, J. E., & Mehlenbacher, B. (1993). Online help: Design and evaluation. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Articles & Chapters

Mehlenbacher, B., & Mehlenbacher, A. R. (2021). The rhetoric of big data: Collecting, interpreting, and representing in the age of dataficationPoroi: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Rhetorical Analysis & Invention, 16 (1), Article 3.

Mehlenbacher, A. R., & Mehlenbacher, B. (2020). Rogue rhetorical actors: Scientists and the social action of Tweeting. In S. Auken & C. Sunesen (Eds.), Genre in the Climate Debate (pp. 179-193). Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter Open Poland.

Mehlenbacher, B., & Mehlenbacher, A. R. (2020). Distance Learning. In A. Tatnall’s (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Education and Information Technologies (pp. 1-10). NY, NY: Springer.

Mehlenbacher, A. R., & Mehlenbacher, B. (2019). The case of the scientific research article and lessons concerning genre change online. In M. J. Luzón & C. Pérez-Llantada (Eds.), Science Communication on the InternetOld Genres Meet New Genres (pp. 41-57). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Mehlenbacher, B., Kelly [now Mehlenbacher], A. R., Kampe, C., & Kittle Autry, M. (2018). Instructional design for online learning environments and the problem of collaboration in the cloud. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 48 (2), 199-221.

Mehlenbacher, B. (2013). What is the future of technical communication? In J. Johnson-Eilola & S. A. Selber (Eds.), Solving Problems in Technical Communication (pp. 187-208). Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P (book won CCCC award for “Best Original Collection of Essays in Technical or Scientific Communication”).

Zaharias, P., & Mehlenbacher, B. (Eds.). (2012). Introduction to Special Issue on Usability Design for Learning and Education in Virtual Worlds. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 70 (7), 475-476.

Selected Fellowships & Awards

  • Co-Principal Investigator (with M. A. Paesler, PI, and R. J. Beichner, Co-PI), National Science Foundation (NSF), Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES): Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) Grant, $199,998, 2013-2015.
  • Co-Principal Investigator (with C. Grant, PI, T. Bowles, Co-PI, and S. Peretti, Co-PI), National Science Foundation (NSF), Innovations in Engineering Education, Curriculum, and Infrastructure (IEECI), $173,592, 2009-2014.
  • National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) Award for Best Book in Technical and Scientific Communication for Instruction and Technology: Designs for Everyday Learning (MIT Press), 2012.

Current Research

I am currently working on a book-length manuscript entitled “Learner,” an exploration of the rhetoricity of learning across the life span.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

  • Rhetoric
  • Scientific, technical, and engineering communication
  • Instructional and communication design
  • Cognitive science and learning theory
  • User experience, human-computer interaction, usability.