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Areas of Study

The Department of Communication Studies offers a B.A. in Communication Studies, Minor in Communication Studies, and an interdisciplinary Minor in Public Relations in coordination with the Department of English. 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 health communication, interpersonal communication, media and new technologies, organizational communication, performance studies, public relations, rhetoric and public speaking. Theatre examines the ways in which life may be portrayed through the theatrical stage, and encompasses the study of acting, directing, costuming, scenic design, and lighting.

Health Communication

Health Communication is a relatively new and exciting area in Communication Studies. Health Communication research focuses on patient/physician communication, organizational communication within healthcare, popular media and how representations of illness in films and on television impacts how we think about health, health promotion campaigns, cultural differences in how health and illness are experienced, and illness narratives. Careers in the allied health fields (interpreters, educators, trainers, and public relations spokespeople) are expected to be among the largest growing segment for employment opportunities in the next 20 years.

Courses in Health Communication include:
COM 261: Introduction to Health Communication
Independent Study in Health Communication

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 130: Introduction to Interpersonal Communication
COM 285: Gender Communication
COM 287: Family 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 videogames).  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 shape and frame events, encourage agendas and perpetuate stereotypes.  Students will also study New Media and learn about social media marketing and analytics, videogame 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.

Organizational Communication

Organizational Communication highlights communicative behavior in all types of organizational settings, such as workplaces, social clubs, educational and religious institutions, businesses and non-profit organizations. Organizational communication research explores the creation of meaning, the production of messages, and the processing of information that makes organizing possible. There is a diverse array of issues facing organizations and members of all types. Students who study organizational communication are prepared for a variety of challenges in many different types of organizations and understand how effective communication can help achieve organizational goals. Students are prepared to participate in their communities and workplaces in more informed ways and are able to provide expert advice to organizations interested in improving communication and the workplace in general.

Courses in Organizational Communication include:
COM 274: Organizational Communication,
COM 280: Communication Training and Development
COM 325: The Communication Dynamics of Group Interaction

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, chamber theatre, 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/WST 237: Women Writers in Performance
COM 250: Latino/a Literature and Performance

Public Relations

Public Relations encompasses the professional management of communication between any organization or individual and its audiences. This communication can come in the form of events, media relations, or complex strategic campaigns. The purpose of public relations is to counsel management and mediate messages between an organization and the people it affects. Public relations also serves to manage communication with individuals and groups that can affect the success of an organization, thereby creating mutual partnerships that benefit both. The study of public relations enables students to enter their field of interest and provide meaningful contributions to any organization or entity, including for-profit and non-profits, sports teams, Fortune 500 companies, individual celebrities, government offices, and international conglomerates, to name a few. In today’s communication technology-centered world, coupled with increasing media presence, the need for qualified and well-trained public relations practitioners is greater than ever.

Courses in Public Relations include:
COM 170: Introduction to Public Relations
COM 235: PR Cases and Campaigns
COM 241 PR Processes and Techniques
COM 219: Integrated Marketing Communication Concepts and Practices
COM 311: Crisis Communication

Rhetoric and Public Speaking

Rhetoric 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, rhetoric 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 327: Rhetorical Theory and Criticism
COM/ENG 335: The Rhetoric of Literature
COM 307: The Rhetoric of Visual Media

Public Speaking 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 201: Argumentation and Debate
COM 210: Persuasion: Theory and Practice 
COM 214: Advanced Public Speaking