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Areas of Study

The Department of Communication Studies offers a B.A. in Communication Studies, a Minor in Communication Studies, and participates in multiple interdisciplinary minors:

Coursework, including internships and service learning opportunities, integrates theoretical understanding of communication with practical application of communication skills.  In consultation with their advisor, students select courses that complement their unique interests and career goals, building a program that challenges and prepares them for the future.

Communication Studies

Communication Studies examines the methods and manners through which people communicate in verbal, nonverbal, and written formats. The field includes the study of interpersonal communication, media and new technologies, organizational communication, performance studies, public relations, rhetoric, and public speaking.

Advocacy & Discourse

Advocacy & Discourse , historically known as Rhetoric, is the basis for the field of Communication Studies.  It refers to the study of how communication works, with special attention to the art and science of persuasion.  Why do certain messages catch fire and change the world?  Why do certain messages "stick" in our memories?  Why do people react strongly to some messages, but then completely ignore others?  Rhetorical theory and criticism explore these questions through the analysis of texts ranging from political speeches to music lyrics to online communication.  In addition, Advocacy & Discourse includes teaching students how to use the tools of language, structure, and delivery to improve their written and oral communication. 

Courses in Rhetoric include:

  • COM 110:  Small Group Communication
  • COm 205:  Argumentation & Debate
  • COM 210:  Persuasion
  • COM/WRI 212:  Introduction to Mass Communication
  • COM 214:  Advanced Public Speaking
  • COM 245:  New Media and Communication
  • COM 327:  Rhetorical Theory and Criticism

Public Speaking, a component of Advocacy & Discourse, is a vital skill necessary for success in professional jobs, personal relationships, and civic and community participation.  Effective public speaking means being able to express yourself clearly and adapt to your audience in a variety of contexts.  The COM 010, Fundamentals of Oral Communication, course introduces students to the basic skills needed for informative and persuasive presentations.  The following courses offer additional opportunities to polish your delivery, captivate an audience, and communicate ideas through advanced presentational techniques.

Courses in Public Speaking include:

  • COM 105:  Presentational Speaking
  • COM 201:  Argumentational and Debate
  • COM 214:  Advanced Public Speaking

Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal Communication involves the study of the dynamics of family, friends, romances, lifestyles, and cultures, and shows how communication defines and shapes these interactions. It also studies how we can explore who we are and strive to understand how we as individuals fit in the larger society. Interpersonal Communication looks at how cultures and communities create and share meaning through words, customs, and dress as well as how communication is the common denominator that brings people together through various means to bring about social change and help people understand each other.*

Courses in Interpersonal Communication include:

  • COM 110:  Small Group Communication
  • COM/WGS 130: Introduction to Interpersonal Communication
  • COM/WGS 145:  Nonverbal Communication
  • COM/WGS 285: Gender Communication
  • COM/WGS 287: Family Communication
  • COM 345:  Relational Communication

*adapted from the National Communication Association website:

Media Studies

Media Studies focuses on both traditional media (newspapers, film, and television) and new media (social media, the internet, and video games).  Such technologies have reshaped romantic and interpersonal relationships, forms of labor in the workforce, accessibility to information and knowledge, types of entertainment available, and individual identity formation.  In Media Studies, students learn how traditional media shapes and frames events, encourage agendas, and perpetuate stereotypes.  Students will also study New Media and learn about social media marketing and analytics, video game studies, and cellphone applications as well as other contemporary technologies.  By gaining a variety of skills and knowledge in Media Studies, students will be prepared for newly developing media careers.

Courses in Media and New Technologies include:

  • COM/WRI 212: Introduction to Mass Communication
  • COM 245: New Media and Communication
  • COM 307: The Rhetoric of Visual Media

The newly developed minor in Digital Communication and New Media (DCNM) can easily be added to this focus area.

Performance Studies

Performance Studies explores the use of performance as a means of studying literary and oral texts, understanding culture, and communicating ideas. Students learn how to translate literature and other texts from the page to the stage through their use of literary analysis, characterization, staging, and vocal and physical expression. Performance Studies students are interested in performing in a variety of contexts including: solo and group performance; performance of poetry, prose, and drama; adapting and directing; storytelling and narrative performance; performance of everyday life including roles and rituals; and performance and social activism.

Faculty in Performance Studies have interests in personal narrative and ethnography, performing literature, readers theatre, performance and social activism, performance and sexualities, illness narratives, and feminist performance.

Courses in Performance Studies include:

  • COM 120: Oral Interpretation of Literature
  • COM 201: Storytelling
  • COM/MUS 217: Music of Poetry
  • COM 220: Group Performance
  • COM 226:  Advanced Solo Performance
  • COM/WGS 237: Women Writers in Performance
  • COM 271:  Sexualities & Communication
  • COM/WGS 285:  Gender Communication

Strategic Communication

Strategic communication incorporates all of an organization's communication efforts into the single, focused purpose of furthering its reputation and brand.  In doing so, organizations using strategic communication improve their image among their key publics much more effectively and efficiently than through the previous, fragmented communication efforts of the past.  The primary benefit of strategic communication is that the practice improves sponsorships, profits, political support, employee satisfaction, as well as overall patronage of the organization by its many, and often fragmented, publics.  Modern, successful organizations must adopt the strategic communication model because of today's ever-expanding methods of communication, increased legal and political pressures, and the growing struggle to gain public support by competing organizations.  Contemporary organizations, from Fortune 500, to non-profit, to the smallest company sue and benefit from strategic communication practices.  Accordingly, tomorrow's communication professionals must be proficient in its practice and application.  Students who study strategic communication are prepared to assist all types of organizations meet their goals in areas like Public Relations, Training and Development, Integrated Marketing, Human Resources, and Communication Management.

Courses in Strategic Communication include:

  • COM 110:  Small Group Communication
  • COM 170:  Introduction to Public Relations
  • COM 219:  Integrated Marketing Communication Concepts and Practices
  • COM 235:  Public Relations Cases and Campaigns
  • COM 241:  Public Relations Processes and Techniques
  • COM 274:  Organization Communication
  • COM 280:  Communication Training and Development
  • COM 311:  Crisis Communication
  • COM/WGS 350:  Leadership Communication