When two political candidates debate, often more attention is payed to the content of their speech than the manner in which they deliver their information, but one University of Wisconsin professor received an award for studying the impact of rhetoric in debate, UW officials announced Thursday.

Professor Robert Asen, who teaches rhetoric at UW, won the 2010 Winans-Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address from the National Communication Association for his work.

The award was for the research he did in preparation for his book “Invoking the Invisible Hand: Social Security and the Privatization Debates,” which discusses how rhetoric shapes peoples’ thoughts and actions concerning social issues, particularly social security.

The NCA, which is composed of mostly professors and scholars, presents awards for outstanding scholarship, teaching and professional service.

Asen said he felt his research received the attention from the NCA because of the importance of communication in public policy. He also said he did not believe people focus on these fields as much as they deserve.

“It’s important that we look at how communication shapes these issues and our solutions to them – how we talk about them and the communication surrounding these matters when it comes to issues, whether it’s the war on terror or social security,” Asen said.

Heather Franklin, the executive coordinator of NCA, said the selection committee is responsible for soliciting and evaluating nominations. She said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald that Asen’s book illustrates a complete and important discussion on a current public policy debate.

“Asen scrutinizes contemporary debates over proposals to privatize Social Security and reveals the ways in which language is deployed to identify problems for public policy, craft policy solutions and promote policies to the populace,” Franklin said.

She also said what sets Asen’s book apart is his ability to use what would appear to be a complex debate about Social Security and make it a commentary on the state of public deliberation and the nature of U.S. democratic policy.

Asen said it was an honor to be recognized by such an esteemed group of scholars that he greatly respects.

He added that he hoped people on campus would start paying more attention to how communication and rhetoric influence policy as a result of his recognition.

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