Communication Studies (COM)Academic Catalog: 2019–2020

  • Pamela Conners, Chairperson
  • R. Brandon Anderson (Visiting, 2019–2020)
  • Mark Braun
  • Breena Brockmann (Visiting, 2019-2020)
  • Zhao Ding (Visiting, 2019-2020)
  • Patricia English
  • Martin Lang (On leave, 2019-2020)
  • Phillip Voight
  • Sarah Wolter

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: Communication Studies courses emphasize various skills— critical thinking, problem-solving, oral communication, research, and writing—that are fundamental to a liberal arts education and success in the world. Courses at all levels integrate various combinations of these skills to develop and hone 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-120 and COM-115 or COM-117.
  2. At least one course each from the following three areas:
    1. Theory COM-245, COM-257.
    2. Research COM-247, COM-258.
    3. Practice COM-237, COM-260, COM-265, COM-280.
  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 students 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 completed, 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. Applications will be evaluated as to merit and availability of departmental faculty to support the thesis project.

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 minor advisor. Students interested in the minor must submit and complete a proposed minor plan and work with the department chair to fulfill courses for the minor. Courses taken as a declared major in the department will not be counted to the minor. 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 Level II or III Communication Studies courses approved by the department chair. Courses taken as a declared major in the department will not be counted to the minor. 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-117, and four additional Communication Studies courses numbered above it and approved by the department chair.

Communication Studies Courses

115 Screen: Introduction to Critical Media Studies (1 course) Students will develop media literacy skills by examining and deconstructing media texts (film, television, print, and digital) in their cultural, political, and historical and contemporary contexts. The course explains the various ways that mediated communication shapes, and is shaped by, the people and systems who produce and consume it. Through readings, screenings, discussion, writing, and hands-on production, students will engage the cultural, political, and historical consequences of a mediated world from the individual scale (e.g. identity formation) to the societal (e.g. politics, economics). Students will learn to navigate our mediated landscape in active, rather than passive, ways. ARTSHIPHI, Fall and Spring semesters.

117 Interpersonal Communication (1 course) This course 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) Through a semester-long civic engagement project, students will learn practical public argument and advocacy. Students identify a problem in the community, research it fully, examine ways to address the problem, and ultimately take action in the community. The course develops critical thinking, writing, oral communication, and problem-solving skills. This course requires community-based research and action. LARSWRITI, Fall and Spring semesters.

220 Public Deliberation and Dialogue (.25 to 1 course) Students enrolled in this course serve as consultants for the Public Deliberation and Dialogue program. Participation requires a serious commitment to the research, design, facilitation, and assessment of dialogue and deliberation activities for the campus and the community. Fall and Spring semesters.

231 Social Media (1 course) This course focuses on the theory of narrowcasting as expressed in the trajectory of digital culture and social media production over the past 20 years. Students in the course develop a working knowledge of contemporary contexts for social media usage; an understanding of socially-mediated messaging strategies; and an appreciation of the new means by which information and culture are being shared and organized. In addition, students will acquire an understanding of their roles as digital “prosumers,” and will develop the ability to make meaningful assessments of the communicative dimensions of virtual communities. Fall semester.

237 Small-Group Communication (1 course) This course 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. Offered occasionally.

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 Media and Democracy (1 course) The current political climate has heightened journalists’ and consumers’ attention toward the role of information in society. From news sources to social media, media offer the most prevalent and immediate opportunities for gathering information to make political decisions on local and national issues. This class will explore ways media ownership concentration and contested truth influence content and access to information. The final project will develop media literacy curricula for children to help them navigate the changing nature of information in society. Prerequisites: COM-115, SOSCI, Offered annually.

246 Communication Theory and Non-Profit Leadership (1 course) This course 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 semester-long simulated exercise where they design communication materials for non-profit organizations. Spring semester, odd years.

247 The Ethnography of Communication (1 course) This course 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 mini-ethnographies and a larger ethnographic project. Offered occasionally.

257 Intercultural Communication (1 course) Through an examination of communication theory and practice in co-cultural and intercultural contexts, students explore the complexities and learn to navigate communication across cultural differences. 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. This course counts toward the Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies major/minor. GLOBL, Spring semester.

258 Rhetorical Criticism (1 course) Students explore methodology to critically analyze different forms of human communication in a meaningful manner. This course introduces a variety of 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. LARSWRITD, Fall and spring semesters.

265 Media Representation (1 course) This course uses practical training in media production techniques as the pathway to a theoretical understanding of media’s power to shape meaning and identity. Students work hands-on in the Digital Arts Laboratory and Studio as they collaborate with fellow students and the community. The course interweaves fundamental concepts of critical media literacy with a basic introduction to narrative media production. The course culminates in a collaboration with the local community to produce short documentaries. Course content is geared for students of any level of production experience. 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.

270 Public Deliberation (1 course) Public Deliberation immerses students in the study of the theory and practice of public deliberation and dialogue. Working with a community partner, students will be responsible for designing, coordinating, publicizing, facilitating, and reporting on community deliberations. At the heart of liberal arts education, the principles and practices of deliberation and dialogue constitute important skills for personal, professional, and civic effectiveness. The course requires participation in community deliberations outside of class time. Fall semester.

280 Community Advocacy and Social Change (1 course) Acting alone, individuals may not always have the resources or the power to enact social change. 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.

320 Public Engagement (1 course) Public Engagement explores the processes of public engagement in the development of community values, policies, and practices. Students will read and analyze theories of public deliberation and civic engagement. Through extensive research and examination of local case studies, students will evaluate the ways in which citizens exercise their citizenship and enact change in their communities. Prerequisites: COM-120 and one Level II COM course. Fall semester.

365 News: The Fourth Estate (1 course) We depend on news from various media sources to make decisions that matter in society. Those news outlets contend with cultural, political, and economic forces to remain credible and relevant—and they do not always succeed. Students in this course will investigate contemporary journalism through historical and theoretical lenses, evaluate connections between the “Fourth Estate” and other social institutions, and explore news media’s role in facilitating (or obstructing) a free society. Spring semester, odd years.

374 Campaigns and Social Movements (1 course) This course 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 the “common sense” cultural norms that shape our everyday lives. Prerequisite: COM-245 or COM-258. WRITD, Fall semester.

376 Political Campaign Communication (1 course) This course 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 political system as well as structural rhetorical and theoretical critiques of campaign discourse. WRITD, Fall semester, even years.

377 Organizational Communication (1 course) This course focuses on communication in organizational settings, which includes 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 analysis communication audit of an existing organization using an interpretive cultural approach. WRITD, Spring semester.

381 Contemporary Rhetoric: Practice and Criticism (1 course) Students examine a variety of contemporary theories of 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-258. WRITD, Offered occasionally.

383 Communication and Gender (1 course) Through an exploration of how gender and sex are constructed, challenged, and reconstructed through our everyday communicative interactions, students focus on ways the human subject is defined through discursive practices and identify the perceptual, interactional, and micro-political activities that contribute to both individual and institutionalized performances of gender and sex. Students analyze intersecting categories of identity (including race, class, and sexual orientation), the institutions in which they are manifest, and their many implications for social power. This course counts toward the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies major/minor. 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-245 or COM-258 or permission of instructor. WRITD, Spring semester.

387 Crisis Communication (1 course) Crisis Management is an integral part of the overall communication plan for any organization; however, it is often overlooked due to a lack of resources, especially in non-profit organizations. In this course, students will study rhetorical and organizational theory as it relates to crisis management, reflect on that theory through the analysis of case studies, and move theory to action by developing a crisis communication plan for a non-profit organization. Outside of class meetings with work teams and community partners are required. WRITD, Fall Semester.

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. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Offered occasionally.

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