Communication Studies (COM)

Academic Catalog: 2012–2013

  • Phillip Voight, Co-Chairperson
  • Leila Brammer
  • Patricia English, Co-Chairperson
  • Pamela Conners
  • Martin Lang (On leave, 2012–2013)
  • Terence Morrow
  • Maria Beatriz Torres
  • Sarah Wolter (Visiting, 2012–2013)

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 both our on-campus and off-campus 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 opportunities that include fieldwork, independent study, internships, international study, and community-based learning, 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. Our graduates excel in a variety of career fields, including marketing, advertising, public relations, politics, non-profit community organizations, law, government, and ministry. Many pursue graduate study in communication studies, 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 advisor. This selection process is initiated by the student. The name of the chosen advisor should then be communicated on the appropriate form to the Office of the Registrar, and that advisor 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 one level-two elective in the major. Students must petition the department to secure credit approval before finalizing plans to study abroad or transferring credits from other U.S. institutions.

Writing and Research: Communications Studies courses emphasize various skills-- critical thinking, problem-solving, oral communication, research, and writing—that are fundamental to a liberal arts education and to success in the world. Courses at all levels integrate various combinations of these to help students develop and hone their abilities. We place particular attention on research and writing in order to best prepare students for advanced coursework and their lives beyond college.

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 advisor, 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. Two minors are available to students not majoring in the department. Both minors require prior approval of the student’s departmental advisor and the department chair. A grade of C- or higher is required in each of the courses in the minor.

Civic Leadership: The civic leadership minor cultivates knowledge and experience in community engagement, public advocacy, justice and social change. The requirements are: COM-120, COM-280, and three additional Communication Studies courses approved by the department chair. Students will create an individual project in consultation with department faculty.

Strategic Communication: The strategic communication minor emphasizes ethical decision-making and communication directed to employees, consumers, government, and media. The requirements are: COM-120, COM-117, and three additional Communication Studies courses approved by the department chair.

117 Interpersonal Communication (1 course) This courses examines the theory and practice of communication in dyads and small groups. Topics include self-presentation, perception, attribution, conflict, verbal and non-verbal communication. Emphasis is placed on the research and application of interpersonal communication. Fall and Spring semesters.

120 Public Discourse (1 course) Public Discourse studies practical public argument and applies the concepts through a semester-long civic engagement project. Students will identify a problem in the community, research it fully, examine ways to address the problem, and Communication Studies ultimately take action in the community. The course develops critical thinking, writing, oral communication, and problem solving skills. LARS, Fall and Spring semesters.

235 Media and Society (1 course) Media and Society offers a “top-to-bottom” assessment of contemporary mass media by examining law, economics, audiences, and other aspects of the media milieu. In analyzing the influence of media texts and institutions upon our social systems (and vice versa), students will address vital socio-political issues including identity, democracy, and equality. Fall and Spring semesters.

237 Small-Group Communication (1 course) Small Group explores cooperative, participatory, 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 the theories of problem-solving/decision-making, the emergence of leadership, and conflict. Fall semester.

240 U.S. Political Rhetoric (1 course) This course studies the development and features of U.S. political rhetoric by examining public discourse during critical periods in the nation’s history, including the American Revolution, the Civil War, the 20th century, and others. LARS, Fall semester.

244, 344 Special Topics Seminar (1 course, 1 course) Special Topics Seminars provide students an opportunity to explore topics in communication through research, individual and/ or group projects, seminar reports, and discussion. Topics announced periodically. May be repeated for credit. Offered occasionally.

245 Classical Public Discourse and Rhetoric (1 course) Classical Rhetoric explores Greek and Roman theories on political, legal, and ceremonial public discourse. It examines philosophical and political influences upon discourse and rhetoric and the ways in which this tradition is relevant today. LARS, Offered occasionally.

246 Communication Theory and Non-Profit Leadership (1 course) Non-Profit Leadership is a messaging strategy course designed to familiarize students with rhetorical, political, organizational, ethical and structural theories of non-profit leadership and governance. The course explores the intersection between communication theory and non-profit leadership. Key theories discussed include persuasion theory, messaging strategies, sequential request strategies, compliance gaining and compliance resisting strategies, agenda setting, crisis communication planning, and media relations. To put theory into practice, students participate in a semesterlong simulated exercise where they design communication materials for non-profit organizations. Spring semester, odd years

247 The Ethnography of Communication (1 course) Ethnography of Communication is a research methodology that describes and analyzes how social life is achieved In and through communication. Ethnographers observe a specific setting for considerable time, interacting with, interviewing, and analyzing documents used by members of the chosen group, culture, or organization. Students conduct research on varied communication phenomena through miniethnographies and a larger ethnographic project. Spring semester.

257 Intercultural Communication (1 course) Intercultural Communication examines communication theory and practice in co-cultural and intercultural contexts. Emphasis is placed on the historical development of intercultural theory and interpretive research. Cultural values, attitudes, and behaviors are explored through readings and the analysis of a co-cultural group. Spring semester.

258 Rhetorical Criticism (1 course) Rhetorical Criticism develops the methodology to critically analyze different forms of human communication in a meaningful manner. This course introduces approaches to criticism and through original, student-determined projects, invites students to examine rhetorical discourse with fresh perspectives, and innovative analytical approaches grounded in rhetorical theory. Prerequisite: COM-120. LARS, WRITD, Fall and spring semesters.

260 Argumentation and Debate (1 course) Argumentation and Debate recognizes argument as a form of civic participation and debate as fundamental to a democratic society. The course prepares students to develop, evaluate, and refute arguments. Students apply their knowledge of argument in both oral and written form and will participate in at least two debates. Prerequisite: COM-120. Fall semester.

265 Video Representation (1 course) Video Representation uses practical training in video production techniques as the pathway to a theoretical understanding of the media’s power to shape meaning and identity. Class content is highly interactive; students work intensely with digital video technology as they collaborate with fellow students and the community at large. Utilizing the resources provided by the Digital Arts Laboratory and Studio, the course interweaves fundamental concepts of critical media literacy with a basic introduction to narrative video production. The course culminates in a collaboration with the local community to produce short documentary videos. Course content is geared for students of all levels of production experience, including those with no experience at all. Offered occasionally.

268, 368 Career Exploration, Internship (Course value to be determined) Students participate in 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.

280 Community Advocacy and Social Change (1 course) Acting alone, individuals may not always have the resources or the power to fight injustice. This course examines how citizens assemble and organize in order to challenge oppression, discrimination, and inequality. Through examination of historical and contemporary examples, students will learn to analyze communication strategies that communities use to create change in public opinion and/or public policy. students will also explore the obstacles that groups may face in their advocacy. Spring semester.

345 Legal Argumentation (1 course) Students participate in preparing for and presenting two mock trial cases, one criminal and one civil, to develop their skills in practical argumentation and decision making. Students need not be intending to apply to law school. Offered occasionally.

371 Researching Lived Experience (1 course) Researching Lived Experience introduces students to qualitative communication research methods grounded in the human science 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.

374 Campaigns and Social Movements (1 course) Campaigns and Social Movements provides a case study approach to historical and contemporary social movements and cultivates an understanding of public grievance formation and articulation. The course focuses on the rhetorical criticism of social movements. Topics addressed include: consciousness-raising, social movement mobilization and leadership formation, definitional concerns, social movement tactics, the ethics of protest activities, and the role of the mass media in framing public controversies. WRITD, Fall semester, odd years.

375 Media, Culture, Power (1 course) Popular culture serves as a primary site for the exercise and contestation of social power. Students deploy cultural theory and methods of media criticism to better understand familiar media examples of their own choosing, including television, film, music, internet texts, and others. Analyses will emphasize both the oppressive and liberating exercise of power and the complex interaction between media messages and cultural norms. Prerequisite: COM-235 or COM-258. WRITD, Fall semester.

376 Political Campaign Communication (1 course) Political Campaign Communication examines the history and evolution of political messaging strategies. The course imparts a broad understanding of campaign rhetoric and tactics, examining the impact of the mass media on the Communication Studies political system as well as structural rhetorical and theoretical critiques of campaign discourse. WRITD, Fall semester, even years.

377 Organizational Communication (1 course) Organizational Communication focuses on communication in organizational settings, which can include task-oriented business, non-profit, and volunteer contexts. The development and use of organizational communication principles and theories are traced from classical to present perspectives. A major component of the course is the analysis of an existing organization using an interpretive cultural approach. WRITD, Spring semester.

380 Feminist Criticism (1 course) Feminist Criticism explores feminist rhetorical criticism, feminist media criticism, and feminist issues and theories in other areas of the field. Intersections with race, class, and sexuality are central to the articles and work of the course. Theories and issues will be examined through scholarly readings and a student-determined final project that utilizes theories to build a comprehensive and developed work of criticism or action. WRITI, Offered occasionally.

381 Contemporary Rhetoric: Practice and Criticism (1 course) Contemporary Rhetoric surveys contemporary theories on rhetorical practice, focusing specifically on the ways in which discourse constructs reality and shapes human action. Students will produce critical applications of these theories to a variety of forms and examples of human discourse. Prerequisite: COM-240 or COM-245 or COM-258. WRITD, Offered occasionally.

383 Communication and Gender (1 course) Communication and Gender explores how gender and sex are constructed, challenged, and reconstructed through our everyday communicative interactions. We focus on ways the human subject is defined through discursive practices and identify the 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 in which they are manifest, and their many implications for social power. Prerequisite: COM-117 or COM-237. WRITI, Spring semester.

385 Reality Media and the Ethics of Spectatorship (1 course) The popularity of mass-mediated reality-based programs has blurred the 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 such texts employ to influence audiences. It also explores the history of the genre and seeks to understand the nature of its commercial and aesthetic appeal. Students are exposed to a wide variety of visual communication theories, critical techniques, and methodologies. Prerequisite: COM-235 or COM-258 or permission of instructor. WRITD, Spring semester.

389 Communication Ethics: Contemporary Issues in Freedom of Expression (1 course) This course examines contemporary ethical issues surrounding public discourse, often from a First Amendment perspective. Students choose a current freedom-of-expression controversy to examine, utilizing communication theories grounded in critical and ethical perspectives. WRITD, Offered occasionally.

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

397 Honors Thesis (1 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.

399 Senior Seminar in Communication (1 course) In an integrative academic experience, the advanced Communication Studies major demonstrates knowledge and expertise in a substantial academic project. Offered occasionally.