Communication Studies (COM)

Academic Catalog 2010–2011

  • Leila Brammer, Chairperson
  • Samuel Boerboom (Visiting, 2010–2011)
  • Patricia English
  • Cadi Kadlecek
  • Kristofer Kracht
  • Martin Lang
  • Terence Morrow (On leave, Spring 2011)
  • Maria Beatriz Torres
  • Phillip Voight (On leave, Fall 2010 and January)

Faculty and students in the Department of Communication Studies study the social, political, and cultural functions of communication in diverse environments ranging from interpersonal and public settings to mediated and global contexts. The emphasis on message and meaning has established a distinctive place for communication studies in the modern liberal arts curriculum. By sharing our expertise in communication with our college and our communities, students, and faculty in Communication Studies enact our commitment to civic engagement, social justice, and leadership.

Communication Studies course offerings reflect an emphasis on theory, research, and practice. Students learn the theories and principles of communication as they sharpen their communication and critical thinking skills in the collection, evaluation, synthesis, and presentation of information. Through research and presentations, field work, independent study, internships, international study, intercollegiate forensic competition, and community service, students are encouraged to expand the boundaries of the classroom and enhance their understanding of communication through practical experience.

Communication Studies is among the fastest-growing liberal arts majors and develops the essential skills that employers seek. Communications Studies graduates successfully attain careers In a variety of fields, including communications, law, politics, non-profit and community service, government, and ministry. Many pursue graduate student in communication, law, public policy and other fields

Advising: Students choosing to major in Communication Studies should ask a regular, full-time member of the department faculty to serve as their academic adviser. This selection process should be initiated by the student. The name of the chosen adviser should then be communicated on the appropriate form to the Office of the Registrar, and that adviser will be listed on future registration materials sent to the student.

International Education: Majors in Communication Studies are encouraged to study abroad, and the department allows appropriate coursework from approved international programs to apply toward an elective in the major. Students must petition the department to secure credit approval before finalizing plans to study abroad or to transfer credits from other U.S. institutions.

A grade of C– or higher is required in all Communication Studies courses used to satisfy the requirements for the major.

Communication Studies Major:

Ten courses chosen in consultation with a departmental adviser, including

  1. COM-117 and COM-120.
  2. At least one course each from the following three areas:
    1. Theory COM-235, COM-240, COM-257.
    2. Research COM-247, COM-258.
    3. Practice COM-237, COM-260, COM-265.
  3. Three Level III courses.
  4. At least two additional electives from Level II or Level III.

Communication Studies Major with Honors:

The major with Honors option is for those who wish to undertake a significant independent research project as a culmination of their coursework in communication studies. This opportunity may be particularly attractive for students who intend to enter graduate school in communication studies or related fields.

Each major who wishes to graduate with Honors in Communication Studies must submit a letter of application to the department chair in the fall semester of the student’s third year. The letter of application must include the following: (a) a cover letter setting forth the applicant’s reasons for wishing to pursue the major with Honors; (b) a degree audit reflecting a minimum of four communication studies classes completed, a minimum 3.5 GPA in all communication studies courses taken, and a minimum 3.3 overall GPA (these GPA levels must be maintained throughout the program); (c) a research proposal describing the intent, the topic area, and the method of study; and (d) a writing sample derived from a Communication Studies course.

Each participant must complete the thesis under the direction of one or more departmental faculty members. The thesis must be orally presented. The Honors thesis course COM-397 is in addition to the ten courses needed to complete the regular major.

Communication Arts/Literature Teaching Major:

This major is for students seeking licensure to teach literature and communication arts in grades 5–12. In addition to courses in Communication Studies and English, students must complete EDU-363 and all other courses required for secondary licensure, including student teaching in the major field. Please see the Education and the English sections of this bulletin for details.

117Interpersonal Communication(1 course) A study of the theory and practice of human interaction. The role of interpersonal relationships is stressed. Topics to be discussed include self-concept, perception, attribution, listening, conflict, language behavior, nonverbal communication, self disclosure, and the development of communication systems. Fall and Spring semesters.

120Public Discourse(1 course) An introduction to the ways in which individuals discuss and make communal decisions. This course will emphasize the creation and analysis of deliberative discourse as a significant mode of civic engagement. Students will apply their knowledge through speeches, debates, and written analyses. LARS, Fall and Spring semesters.

235Media and Society(1 course) Students in this course will critically examine contemporary mass media at a variety of levels. The “top-to-bottom” assessment will address media law, economic influence, content, audiences, and other aspects of the media milieu in order to understand how the ideas and values embodied in modern media institutions and texts influence our social systems (and vice versa). Readings and assignments will consider the role of the media in current socio-political issues, including identity, democracy, and equality. Fall and Spring semesters.

237Small-Group Communication(1 course) A study of cooperative, shared inquiry in a small-group setting. The course strives to develop an understanding of the developmental stages in the life of a small group. Particular attention is paid to problem-solving/decision-making, the emergence of leadership, and conflict. Fall and Spring semesters.

240History and Criticism of American Public Address(1 course) This course examines various forms of American public address as a means of comprehending the history and influence of this practical art form. LARS, Fall semester.

243Forensics(0 to 1 course) A course focused on participation in extracurricular forensic activities (speech and debate). Forensics involves preparation for and participation in speaking activities in environments other than the classroom. Students are expected to engage in either intercollegiate forensics tournaments or instructional activities related to forensics. Students may participate in public speaking, interpretation of literature, and/or debate. Fall and Spring semesters.

244, 344Special Topics Seminar(1 course, 1 course) Study of special topics in communication. Research, individual and/or group projects, seminar reports, and discussion. Topics announced periodically. May be repeated for credit. Offered occasionally.

245Classical Rhetoric: Theory and Practice(1 course) This course explores Greek and Roman theories on political, legal, and ceremonial speechmaking. Included in this analysis is a focus upon the philosophical and political influences upon the development of the classical tradition and the continuing educational, political, and social impact of this tradition. LARS, Offered occasionally.

247The Ethnography of Communication(1 course) This course introduces the ethnography of communication, a programmatic field of study that examines speaking (and all modes of communication) as a deeply social and cultural phenomenon. Students examine ways of speaking across social situations and cultures for the purpose of exploring how social life is achieved in and through communication. Students use the descriptive framework of the ethnography of communication as a means for noticing, describing, and interpreting distinct ways of speaking, and for understanding distinct and diverse ways of social life. Spring semester.

257Intercultural Communication(1 course) This course takes a close look at contrasting cultural values and the message systems through which they are articulated, including ritual behavior, body language, uses of time and space, and communication styles. The focus is on person-to-person communication. Spring semester.

258Rhetorical Criticism(1 course) Rhetorical criticism allows one to analyze critically a variety of discursive acts, both traditional and novel, in a meaningful manner. This course introduces many of the major approaches to rhetorical criticism and invites participants to examine rhetorical discourse. Fresh perspectives, innovative analytical approaches grounded in rhetorical theory, and examination of virtually all forms of human communication is encouraged in this course. Course work consists of a series of written rhetorical criticisms that invite students to explore and adapt the available critical methods. Prerequisite: COM-120. LARS, WRITD, Fall semester.

260Argumentation and Debate(1 course) An introduction to the forms, roles, and practice of argumentation and debate. Emphasis will be on the methods of critical thinking related to factual, value, and policy questions. Students will apply their knowledge of argument in both oral and written form and will participate in at least one policy debate. Prerequisite: COM-120. Fall semester.

265Video Representation(1 course) Adopting a media literacy approach, this course introduces students to video production and its relation to social justice. Through readings, discussion, and extensive hands-on experience, students will critically examine the “politics of representation”--issues relating to how we represent, who gets represented, and who has access to modes of representation. Students will collaborate with one another on a social justice documentary video as a means of learning media aesthetics, videography, and digital editing techniques. Fall semester.

268, 368Career Exploration, Internship(Course value to be determined) Off-campus employment experience related to the major and arranged through the Internship Program. Neither a career exploration nor an internship counts toward completion of the major. Prerequisite: junior or senior status. Offered any term by arrangement.

345Legal Argumentation(1 course) This uses dual mock trial cases, one criminal and one civil, to engage students in combining communication theory and practical decision making, in turn honing their understanding of concepts and theories examined in other communication studies courses. Course materials are drawn from communication studies, psychology, and legal journals and texts. Legal practitioners, including judges and practicing attorneys, provide in-class guidance on employing theoretical principles in the courtroom. Course work includes preparation and presentation of written and oral arguments for use in the mock trials and a research paper. Prerequisite: junior standing. Offered occasionally.

371Researching Lived Experience(1 course) This course introduces students to qualitative communication research methods and emphasizes those methods grounded in the human sciences tradition. We examine the kinds of questions researchers ask, the assumptions about human experience that are beneath those questions, and the relevance of the research findings to our everyday lives. Students conduct research projects using unstructured interviews, lived-experience descriptions, and/or participant-observation. There is a strong emphasis on the process of writing qualitative research. Prerequisite: COM-117. WRITD, Fall semester.

374Campaigns and Social Movements(1 course) This course examines the role of social movement activity in the political life of the United States. It is designed to foster a broad and basic understanding of social movement theory and the rhetorical implications of a wide range of social movement tactics. The course will use a case study method wherein students will analyze theoretical material in the context of the activities of a particular movement. The course is organized around a variety of theoretical questions, including: 1) How can social movements be defined and studied? 2) What factors constitute membership in a social movement? 3) How do social movements interact with their publics (i.e., movement members, members of the media, potential recruits, allied organizations, mass audiences, adversaries, etc.)? 4) How does leadership emerge in a social movement setting? and 5) How do social movements influence the public policy process? As an upper-level writing course, students will also be expected to submit and revise several papers culminating in the completion of a sophisticated final paper. WRITD, Fall semester, odd years.

375Media Criticism(1 course) There are important content and structural issues related to the mass media today, especially as changing technologies cause society to rethink past policy directions. Students will consider mass communication processes, especially as they relate to media organizations, audiences, and mediated messages. In other words, we will investigate the encoding and decoding of mass messages as well as the attribution of political, cultural, social, and economic effects to the media. Students will read, discuss, and conduct critical or empirical research on current media topics. Prerequisite: COM-235 or COM-258. WRITD, Fall semester.

376Political Campaign Communication(1 course) Political communication has been defined as “the process of negotiating a community orientation through the interpretation and characterization of interests, of power relationships, and of the community’s role in the world.” This course seeks to impart a broad and basic understanding of political communication with an emphasis on either presidential or congressional campaign messages. The course examines the use of symbols in political communication, the impact of the media in defining and enunciating salient campaign issues, and the structural and theoretical characteristics of political campaign communication. In addition to acquiring a more sophisticated understanding of the history and evolution of political communication, students will develop an enhanced ability to appreciate and critique political messages. As it is an upper-level writing course, students will also be expected to demonstrate sophisticated critical writing and research skills in a discipline-specific context. Prerequisite: COM-240, COM-245, or COM-258 or permission of instructor. WRITD, Fall semester, even years.

377Organizational Communication(1 course) The course focuses on communication in organizational settings, which can include business organizations and non-profit, social, task-oriented, or other types of organized groups. The development and use of organizational communication principles are traced from the classical perspective to the present. A major component of this course is the analysis of organizational communication case studies through the use of a variety of metaphors. Prerequisite: COM-237. WRITD, Spring semester.

380Feminist Criticism(1 course) This course provides an exploration of feminist criticism in communication studies. The main focus will be on feminist rhetorical criticism, but feminist media criticism and feminist issues and theories in other areas of the field will also be covered. Theories and issues will be examined through scholarly readings of various feminist theories and analyses. A final project will utilize theories to build a comprehensive and developed work of criticism. WRITI, Fall semester.

381Contemporary Rhetoric: Practice and Criticism(1 course) This course surveys contemporary theories on rhetorical practice, with critical application of these theories to examples of contemporary discourse. Prerequisite: COM-240 or COM-245 or COM-258. WRITD, Spring semester.

383Communication and Gender(1 course) This course explores how gender and sex are constructed, challenged and reconstructed through our everyday communicative interactions. We focus on how the human subject is defined through discursive practices, and identify the specific perceptual, interactional and micropolitical activities that contribute to our individual performances of gender and sex. Through our examination of intersecting subject positions (including race, class and sexual orientation), we analyze these categories of identity, the institutions on which they are manifest, and their various implications for social power. Prerequisite: COM-117 or COM-237. WRITI, Spring semester.

385Reality Media and the Ethics of Spectatorship(1 course) The popularity of mass-mediated reality-based texts has blurred the already problematic distinctions between factual and fictional televisual artifacts. This course examines the ethical and critical issues presented by popular factual television, as well as the styles, strategies, and structures that such texts employ to persuade audiences. The course explores the history of the genre—including the evolution of the documentary form—and seeks to understand the nature of its commercial and aesthetic appeal. In the process, students are exposed to a variety of visual communication theories, critical techniques, and methodologies. Students will learn how to apply critical tools to mass mediated texts in order to become better consumers and more literate and engaged citizens. Prerequisite: COM-235 or COM-258 or permission of instructor. WRITD, Spring semester.

389Communication Ethics: Contemporary Issues in Freedom of Expression(1 course) This course explores a variety of ethical issues surrounding communication, emphasizing the communicator, the receiver, the message, the medium, the situation, and the effects of communication. Prerequisite: junior standing. WRITD, Fall semester.

291, 391Independent Study(Course value to be determined)

397Honors Thesis(1 course) In this course, students who meet the requirements for the major with Honors complete the research and writing of a thesis in close cooperation with a departmental faculty member. Each student also prepares and delivers an oral presentation of the research project. Offered annually.

399Senior Seminar in Communication(1 course) An integrative academic experience for the advanced Communication Studies major in order to demonstrate the student’s knowledge and expertise in a substantial project of the student’s choice. Offered occasionally.