Public Discourse

COM 120

Public Discourse is a nationally recognized and awarded course created by the Communication Studies faculty at Gustavus. The course provides rigorous training in research, critical thinking, problem solving, writing, and oral communication—the core skills of a liberal arts education.Public Discourse celebrate 10 years.
In September 2017, Public Discourse celebrated its 10th anniversary. These ten years of teaching civic engagement and public advocacy continue to serve as the foundation for a Communication Studies curriculum that equips students to act on the great challenges of our time.

Course Description

Public Discourse introduces students to the principles of public advocacy, community-based research, and civic engagement. Students gain knowledge, enhance and hone skills, and thoughtfully consider their place in their communities. Readings, class time, and assignments focus on the skills and concepts necessary for successful application of rhetorical and argument theory to a community-based public advocacy project.
View the course syllabus here
View the course calendar here.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students completing Public Discourse:
  1. Effectively create and present oral, written, and mediated communication.
    [Effective communication is contextual and contributes to deliberative discourse by identifying issues, adapting to audiences, marshaling arguments and evidence, and employing appropriate presentational standards.]
  2. Find and utilize relevant and reliable library and community-based research.
  3. Ethically engage in research, interactions with community members, and in presentations (oral, written, and websites). See Project Guidelines
  4. Understand how to effectively engage opportunities for positive social change.
  5. Reflect on strengths and weaknesses and articulate a plan for continued skill and knowledge development.
Over the past decade, we have continually assessed and tracked student learning outcomes. See some of our research and assessment.

The Public Advocacy ProjectWord cloud.

Students actively and meaningfully engage with a community on a community problem. In completing the project, each student identifies a problem in the community, thoroughly researches that problem, determines the best plan for addressing the problem, and presents the plan to agents of change in their community. In order to ethically advocate in their communities, students complete a series of sequenced assignments focused on developing the research, audience analysis, and skills necessary for success.
View past Public Advocacy Projects here.
Read students' stories here.

Public Discourse Text

Students use a dedicated Public Discourse text to learn rhetorical, argument, and public advocacy theory and to guide them in developing a successful project. Chapter readings and targeted sequenced exercises provide the foundational building blocks for major assignments and for the overall project.

What do students say about the Public Discourse experience?

"Chances are, no matter what, you're going to change something for the better" - Brian Simmons '14

"From the beginning of the semester, it seems like such a big task that you cannot complete, but as the semester goes on, you find people who are willing to reach out to you and are willing to help you, and it all just comes together with your work and the work of others" - Michaela Holm '14

"Public Discourse gives you experience and skills that will propel you through your college and professional careers. The growth that happens during the course of the semester is incredible" - Connor Myhre '18

"Public Discourse was a foundational class in knowing that I have the skills and power to make positive change in any community I am apart of. I fell in love with civic engagement and connecting with members of my community" - Emma Myhre '19