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The major in communication focuses on "how people use messages to generate meaning within and across all kinds of contexts, cultures, channels, and media." Meaning generation is central to the work we do in the Department of Communications; that focus is the tie that binds together the concentration areas within the major and the core courses required of all majors. Whether a student is studying journalism, graphic design, public relations and marketing communications, or media arts, she is learning how to create meaning. This emphasis on media convergence — that is the intersection and interaction of the multiple media disciplines — is at the center of what is going on in the real world.

This program of study culminates in advanced coursework and capstone experiences like internships, independent study, and Studio Five — the department's student-run, professional communications workplace. Each student majoring in communications is required to take 40 semester hours of study in the department of communications.

  • Step One: Three courses (12 semester hours)
  • Step Two: Three or four developmental courses, depending on concentration (12—16 semester hours)
  • Step Three: Two or three required electives, depending on concentration (8—12 semester hours)
  • Step Four: Independent learning options (options offered by the department to fulfill the all-college independent learning requirement of 8 semester hours)
  • Step Five: Senior Seminar/Storytelling (4 semester hours)

Step One: The Communications Core Requirements
The major requires three core courses that explore the areas of media and society, writing and editing, visual culture and the technology currently driving emerging media. A blend of theory and hands-on, practical projects prepares students for further developmental work in one of the department's concentrations of study.

  • COMM 121 Visual Communication
  • COMM 122 Writing and Editing Across the Media
  • COMM 124 Media, Messages, & Society

Students should complete the three core courses by the end of the second year of study in a four-year program. A student should declare her major at the end of the sophomore year. In this recommended sequence, the student would complete the core and then choose a track to declare at this time.

Step Two: Developmental Coursework
The department's academic program offers six concentrations of study:

  • Graphic Design
  • Journalism
  • Media Arts
  • Public Relations/Marketing Communications
  • Web Design and Development (Joint major with Computer Science)
  • Interdisciplinary Major in Arts Administration

The step two developmental coursework has been organized into three or four required courses, depending on concentration, normally taken in sequence. Step two work can begin during the first two years of a student's program and can be taken concurrently with step one, provided the student takes the necessary prerequisite core courses.

Step Three: Required Electives
Students will have a list of courses from which to choose between either two or three electives, depending on concentration. This arrangement allows students optimum flexibility and an opportunity to build competencies across areas of the discipline.

Step Four: Senior Seminar/Storytelling (Capstone experience)
This capstone course extends the theoretical underpinnings offered in the department while engaging students in the telling of a single story across media, from oral history, to podcast, from written essay, to photo essay, ultimately to the intersection of word and image, availing ourselves of the new technologies that combine them in the service of creating story.

Step Five: Independent Learning Options
Students majoring in communications have four options to complete the all-college independent learning requirement. Ideally, the student should choose two of the four to complete the independent learning requirement of eight credits. Students may take up to 16 credits of field-based independent learning credits.

  • COMM 350 Independent Study
  • COMM 370 Internship
  • COMM 380 Field Experience
  • COMM 390 Studio Five: A Communications Workplace

Departmental Honors
The Department of Communications offers the opportunity for students with a superior record in the major to receive departmental honors. To qualify for departmental honors, students must:

Have a minimum 3.5 grade point average in the major during the second semester of the junior year (or upon completion of 80 credits); complete an eight credit (two semester) thesis or project that has been approved by the department under the supervision of a faculty member in the department and receive a grade of A or A- on that thesis or project; and present their work to the department in a public forum.

The department will invite those eligible students judged able to do an independent project or thesis to develop a proposal and identify a faculty member to supervise their project or thesis. Students may choose to decline the invitation.

If a proposal is accepted, the student will register for COMM 350 (Independent Study) in both the fall and spring semesters.

The supervising faculty member and at least one other department faculty member will grade the thesis or project. Students whose project or thesis receives an A or A- will receive departmental honors; that designation will appear on their transcripts.

Departmental Recognition
The Department of Communication does not offer the designation "departmental recognition." Instead, outstanding students may be named to Lambda Pi Eta, the national honor society for students in communications.