Communication Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Undergraduate Core Courses
The four courses below are required for all students with a major in Communication:
Principles of Communication
Introduces the skills and concepts students need for literacy in communication and provides a broad introduction to the perspectives on communication that will be encountered in upper-division Communication courses. Prerequisite for Comm 311, Comm 316 and Comm 326.
Research Methods in Communication
Introduction to the assumptions and methods of research in the study of human communication. Students will learn to design and conduct practical research projects and improve their ability to understand, evaluate, and use reports of research and scholarship encountered in future coursework and in everyday life. Prerequisites: Wr 222 or 333, and Comm 200.
Communication, Individuals and Discourse
Extends the discussion of empirical approaches to communication introduced in Comm 200. Introduces relevant social science theories of communication including theories based on cognitive, evolutionary, social psychological, constitutive and social cultural approaches. Students will study communication as a process through which individuals mutually shape and are shaped by culture through discourse. Comm 316 is a requirement for the communication major and is recommended as a prerequisite for all 400-level communication courses. Prerequisite: Comm 200
Communication, Society and Culture
Develops the idea that communicative action is theoretically driven; continues the discussion of constitutive and social-cultural theories; distinguishes between normative and social science theories of communication and introduces cultural and critical theories of communication. Comm 326 develops ideas of interpretation and critique that are introduced in Comm 200. The course extends ideas of normative theorizing including interpretive, critical and cultural theories of communication. Comm 326 is a requirement for the communication major and is recommended as a prerequisite for all 400-level communication courses. Prerequisite: Comm 200
Introduction to Communication
Overview of major topic areas in communication, including models of communication, social uses of language, communication codes verbal/nonverbal, listening and communication in interpersonal, group, intercultural, public, and mass media contexts. Application of theory through skills development and community focused assessments.
Introduction to Intercultural Communication
Designed to give a theoretical understanding of the process and role of communication (both mass and interpersonal) when faced with cultural differences and plurality. Provides a background of classical theories in intercultural communication, and in interdisciplinary areas (cultural studies, gender studies, cultural anthropology, political science, and international development) where culture and communication have been theorized. Discussions will focus on the changing cultural terrain in the United States and upon internationalization and globalization of mass or popular culture as it impacts other parts of the world.
Study of communication concepts, processes, and practices in interpersonal contexts with application of principles and concepts to actual interpersonal communication situations. Includes situational management and behavioral repertoire development, verbal/nonverbal code features structuring conversation and relationships, characteristics of functional relational systems, intercultural/inter-ethnic factors.
Research, writing, delivery, and listening skills for oral presentation in a variety of settings, including multicultural. Equal consideration given to speech preparation and delivery with critical thinking, argument forms, and audience analysis emphasized. Issues of speech anxiety addressed.
Nonverbal communication has vital impact on the interpretation of messages and creation of meaning. This course is designed to explore the function that nonverbal cues have in society as well as analyze each of the three nonverbal communication systems: visual, auditory and invisible. More specifically, this class will describe the cues derived from the nonverbal codes: facial expression, eye behavior, kinesics, proxemics, haptics, physical appearance, paralanguage and chronemics. This class will take an interactive approach to gaining an in-depth awareness of how context not only affects perception but also how the presentation of nonverbal cues in context can function as communication outcome.
Comm 312 U
Focuses on building critical skills for evaluating mass media, going beyond the ways that messages represent the world to the ways that messages and the institutions that produce them actually constitute the social world. Primary issues include cultural domination and empowerment; public opinion and the legitimizing role of the media; mass culture and ideology; cultural opposition; the political-economy of news media; and the general role of media in political socialization. Extensive in-class and small-group media analysis.
Comm 313 U
Communication in Groups
Focuses on communication processes in small, decision-making groups. Students examine the relation between actual communicative behaviors of group members and group structure, functions, and outcomes. Topics include leadership emergence and enactment, quality of problem solving strategies utilized, the impact of socio-cultural and institutional features on small group communicative practices. Theoretical application in the critical analysis of various group settings and effective communication in ongoing group projects.
Comm 314 U
A consideration of concepts, principles, and theories related to persuasion, and a consideration of the role of persuasive communication in public discourse. Opportunity for practical application of principles in student projects. Comm 100 or Comm 220 recommended.
Comm 317 U
Communicating About Violence and Children
Students will examine theory and practice for the improvement of communication with children (primarily K-6) regarding issues of child abuse (emotional, physical, sexual and domestic violence). Professional and interpersonal contexts are addressed. Multiple communication issues regarding children and violence will include: cultural values and beliefs, stereotypes, mass media representations, language use, nonverbal communication, power, control and conflict.
Comm 318 U
Focuses on the study of families from a communication perspective; that is, how families create, maintain and reinforce patterns of interaction through daily living, story-telling and other habitual forms of communication. Course applies theoretical frameworks such as family systems theory, social construction theory and dialectical theory to issues of courtship and relational development, the changes in the life of families, and family roles.
Introduction to Political Communication
Communication activities relating directly to the election of candidates and the passage of initiatives. Presented through the context of deliberative democracy and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides a set "political rules of the road" for democratic process.
Mass Communication and Society
Mass Communication and Society explores the social, cultural, and political functions of mass media, primarily in the American context. Many mass media topics are covered, including: television, newspapers, film, video games, the internet, advertising, etc. The course takes a broad, often historical, approach to understanding the roles and effects of mass media. Major strands of mass communication research are introduced throughout the course.
Comm 323 U
Introduction to Organizational Communication
The goal of this course is to introduce lower-division students to theories that examine how communication works in business contexts. Students will study organizational management and culture and examine applications to businesses.
Comm 329 U
Introduction to Health Communication
Introduces students to the breadth of health communication theory and research. Course topics include provider-patient communication, social support, uncertainty management, health advocacy, and health campaigns.
Comm 337 U
Communication and Gender
Study and practice of the skills involved in competent communication (primarily comprehensive listening and reading, and speaking and writing) in order to separate myths, assumptions and notions from the facts, realities and truths about communication and about women and men. Examination of communication and gender topics will include: the role of anger in communicating about gender issues; the impact of the type of information on discussions about gender; gender difference as a “catch all” explanation for gender problems; the facts of differences being confused with attitudes about differences; perception of women and men as speaking different languages and communicator behaviors as choices.
Introduction to Public Relations
An introduction to the principles and practice of professional public relations, focusing on the functions of PR in organizations, the concept of strategic communication in persuasion, relevant professional skills, the role of research, and an understanding of common ethical issues encountered.
Ethics of Human Communication
Applies important ethical theories to communication settings and problems, including aspects of interpersonal, group, organization, public, Internet and mass communication, showing how ethics relate to all communication events. Reveals how communication can either validate or undermine the basic humanity, dignity and value of others in the communication setting. Prerequisite: junior standing, open to those outside of communication.
Advanced Public Speaking
Advanced theory and practice in public speaking. Simulated public speaking situations, audience analysis, and rhetorical strategies will be emphasized. Students will prepare and present a variety of public speeches. Prerequisites: Comm 220.
This course focuses on audience-centered “everyday” reasoned discourse. It addresses the nature and role of argument in learning, dialogue, deliberation, and decision-making. The course includes material on ways in which arguers try to gain adherence, such as providing reasons to justify actions, attitudes, beliefs, values, and needs. Students will (hopefully) improve their argument competence – as arguers, discussants, critics, and analysts – by participating in this class.
Argument and Critical Discourse
Examination of argumentation as a part of human interaction and investigation. The course emphasizes the processes by which people give reasons to gain adherence and to justify beliefs and actions. The course includes readings, writing, and presentations concerned with the nature of arguments, processes of arguing, and argument criticism.
Career Focused Communication
This course examines life after college, where students will learn how to search for jobs as well best practices for resumes, cover letters and interviews. Students will also learn how to use social media to aid in their job search. Please note this is a weekend course with an online component.
Communicating Contemporary South Asia
Communication and Popular Culture
In this course we'll explore the creation and negotiation of American popular culture and consider the ways in which popular culture shapes everyday life. We'll examine a variety of contemporary cultural artifacts and events as well as discuss studies and theories from Communication and related fields of scholarship. Topics and themes will include music, art, fashion, television and film, celebrity, social identity, consumerism, the internet, globalization, and a wide range of political and social issues.
Conflict and Negotiation
This is a fast-paced accelerated summer course where students learn about the nature of conflict- how conflict is defined, major conflict concepts and findings, and how to think about conflict theoretically. We will discuss conflict from an educated point of view and identify functional ways of responding. We will explore methods for productive interpersonal conflict response and negotiation.
Introduction to Political Communication
Political communication is defined for the purposes of this course as communication-- interpersonal, group, public, mass and computer mediated-- that relates directly to the election of candidates and the passage of referenda and initiatives. Political communication is discussed as it relates to deliberative democracy, through which citizens share in a thoughtful group process to set common goals and choose representatives and leaders. The class will also present a summary of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides a set of "rules of the road" for this deliberative process.
Leadership and Communication
Through examination of various leadership styles, we will explore the ways leadership is communicated. We will explore the definitions, traits and models of leadership through class discussion, exercises, self-reflection and application of key concepts. By synthesizing information, students will build on their existing knowledge base through the collective knowledge created in class.
Social Media and Strategy
This course examines how social media have changed the strategic sender-receiver dynamic. Students will learn new media theory and concepts; learn to create instrumentation and project plans to better understand and reach their audience; apply theories of motivation, persuasion, interactivity, and media uses and gratifications to write texts designed to gain influence within social and information networks; and explore how to measure key concepts associated with socially mediated communication.
Communication and Feminism (Nica)
This course explores the relationship among communication theories, feminism and activism. Students will employ conflict and social theories, as well as rhetorical criticism to analyze feminist and anti-feminist messages across contemporary media formats and texts. The course also considers themes and discourses such as the current rise of celebrity feminism in relation to dimensions of sexuality, class, race, age and (dis)ability. Students will learn to think critically and identify theoretical and methodological approaches to develop communicator competencies in feminist discussions.
Communication and Feminism (Tierney)
This course examines feminism and feminist messages. Students will employ conflict and rhetorical critique theories to study feminist messages in current social and political contexts. Anti-feminist messages will be examined. Communicator competencies are identified and practiced in discussions about feminism.
Communication & Technology
This course examines several approaches to understanding communication technology and how it affects human behavior and society. Topics include psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication; how design plays a role in the way we interact with the technology itself as well as how we interact via technology; and the ways in which communication technology affects social and cultural institutions.
Computer Games Studies
As an introduction to the field of game studies, this course has two purposes: 1) to introduce students to the theories and methods of studying digital games that have gradually formed between the 20th and early 21st centuries, and 2) to show how and why digital games matter to people and the world not simply as entertainment, but as a communication technology. In this intensive, four-week course students will read theoretical texts, choose and play several games, take field notes of gameplay, and write three blog entries and one short essay. While experienced gamers are welcome, experience as a game player is unnecessary for participating in the class.
An entire subfield of Communication deals with how doctors and patients interact through an examination of audio- and videotapes of actual visits. This subfield is concerned with: (1) doctors' and patients' attitudes, beliefs, values, goals, assumptions, and preconceptions that shape how they talk and behave during visits; (2) the nature of doctors' and patients' talk and behavior during visits; (3) how doctors' talk influences what patients say and do during visits, and vice versa; and (4) how patterns of communication during visits affect patients' health and well-being after visits. This course introduces students to this subfield of Communication, including its history and findings. This course is interdisciplinary, incorporating materials from Anthropology, Communication, Medicine, Sociology, Psychology, and Community Health.
This course explores the relationships between communication and the environment. We will apply cultural and critical approaches to environmental communication in order to understand and analyze how we discursively construct the current paradigms regarding the environment, nature, and sustainability. In particular, we focus on identifying key issues and ideologies about the environmental that have material consequences for the earth and its inhabitants.
Think of this class as exploring the “in-between” in the sense that we look at the not only the social constructions of the environment, but what constructions are silenced. We look at controversies as both issues of concern and opportunities for change. We explore collaboration as a space of both dissensus and consensus. The goal of sitting betwixt and between is to create our own paradigms and narratives that will shape how we engage in creating change.
This course applies important ethical theories to decision making within the mass media, including personal, organizational, professional, and cultural understandings of ethics to analyze how decisions regarding media content are made. Provides guidelines for identifying and understanding ethical dilemmas commonly encountered by media professionals to help make theory-grounded decisions in news media and related fields.
Prerequisite: junior or senior standing.
This course will examine food as a form of communication in western society. We will focus on the cultural, interpersonal, political and mediated constructions of food. Specifically, we will explore the role of food as expression, connection, identity, and ritual as well as its potential for creating, managing and sharing meaning in society.
Gossip and Shop Talk: Interpersonal Communication Challenges in the Workplace
Designed for students in professions where communication competencies are central to their positions, for those interested in learning about specific and intangible factors which contribute to the casually referred to "people problem" in the workplace. Job descriptions, positions and titles, even salaries probably take less of our attention on a day to day basis than do the relationships and interactions we have with our partners, colleagues, coworkers, employees or employers. Assessment of positive and negative experiences of gossip, shop talk, everyday tasks, etc. Techniques to improve workplace climates will be presented.
Health literacy involves the ability to look for, find and use health information to manage one’s health. This course examines health literacy and its role in health management and healthcare. Students will be exposed to diverse models of health literacy, including health literacy in the digital age. Throughout, we will examine factors that influence health literacy for diverse audience segments as well as examine measurement for health literacy.
Talk in Media and Organizations
One rough distinction can be made between communication in "informal" or "ordinary" contexts, such as casual conversation among friends and family members (in the home, on the telephone, around the dinner table, in the mall, etc.), and communication in "formal" or "organizational" contexts. This course will look at talk-in-interaction in a range of contemporary organizational contexts, including: broadcast journalism and political communication (e.g., news interviews), aspects of the justice system (e.g., courtroom trials), emergency services (e.g., 911 calls), and health care and medical contexts (e.g., physician-patient visits). It will consider the norms and rules of these organizations and their effects on the structure, function, and outcome of communication.
Advanced Organizational Communication
This course explores the relationship among organizational communication theories and the practice of organizing. Students will employ theories, primarily from a social constructionist perspective, to analyze how communication creates organizations. Students will learn to think critically and draw on theory to develop deeper understandings of, and competencies in, organizational communication.
Communication and Gender
This course will improve your theoretical, practical, and methodological understanding of gender communication. We will examine the social construction of gender(ed) communication across social contexts, including the workplace; family environment; societal ills such as sexual harassment and domestic violence; education; intimate relationships; and the media and society. A critical lens applied to gender roles and identification will help in negotiating the relationship between our identities and social norms in a communication context.
Issues in Science and Environmental Communication
The heart of the course focuses on how we create meaning in communication, and asks, "How do we know what we know?" We examine how policy-makers, scientists, lay publics and mass media understand science and environmental issues and controversies. Students will focus a critical lens on how scientific meanings are produced in public arenas, ranging from such issues as childhood vaccines to mining on indigenous lands. The course is open to highly engaged senior students and graduate students who are eager to learn.
Organizational Communication Processes
This course provides an overview of basic theories, concepts, and research in organizational communication and behavior. Through this exposure students will learn to think critically about common organizational processes, negotiate organizational theory and research, and apply what they learn to everyday situations that occur within organizations. Sample topics include but are not limited to organizational metaphors, networks, climate, communication, team-level processes, motivation, socialization, and leadership.
Problems of Intercultural Communication
Builds upon the theories and issues discussed in the introductory course by including contemporary and classical literature on multicultural and intercultural communication. Identifies and analyzes politically constructed categories of race, age, class, gender in society against the backdrop of debates on multiculturalism in the United States. Examines these categorizations of race, class, etc. in their historical, social, and cultural context, and how those have influenced mass-mediated and interpersonal communication. Uses mass media (television, radio, daily print media, music) texts to provide examples of how we understand “difference” and “otherness” in our daily lives. Prerequisites: junior/senior standing or instructor permission. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Communication and Conflict
This course will focus on the theoretical and practical issues regarding conflict communication. Theoretically, this course explores how humans create organizational reality through conflict. Conflict communication can be destructive or constructive, but in either case conflict communication creates change. The course will explore how cultural assumptions and power emerge in and shape conflict. Practically, this course examines face-saving strategies and conflict negotiation strategies that shape how conflict unfolds. Students will be required to apply theoretical concepts to develop and present a mediation training and facilitation plan that analyzes a case study conflict and develops exercises to aid groups working through conflict. Comm 218, 313, 314, or 324 recommended.
Advanced Interpersonal Communication
Theory course in which students analyze current concepts and theories related to inter-personal communication, comparing and contrasting various models and their relative adequacy in representing the complexity of communication processes. The impact on actual communicative practices is examined. The influence of particular historical perspectives and contemporary issues and trends on interpersonal communication is analyzed through evaluation of empirical data and general cultural texts. Research project required. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
An analysis of the relationship of communication to the exercise of politics and political power. Topics may include the ethics and practices of electoral politics, political ideologies, political advertising, propaganda, public opinion formation, the role of mass media as a source and form of political communication, speech writing, public policy writing and analysis, political news writing, and political campaigning. The focus is on how communication strategies and media can be used to organize consent or dissent to ruling parties, representatives, and ideas. Comm 212 recommended. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Critical Theories in Mass Communication
Surveys critical and institutional theories of mass communication. Primary focus is analysis of the relationship between media and communication institutions and the state and other social institutions. Prerequisite: upper-division standing. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Advanced Organizational and Strategic Communication
Application of communication theory to the study of human interaction in the organizational context. Examination of the relationships between structural variables in the organization and informal communication channels, organizational culture, and strategic communication. Course requirements include completion and report of a research project. Prerequisite: upper-division standing. Expected preparation: Comm 313 or Comm 323
Issues in International Communication
A study of historical and contemporary theories and practices in the conduct of trans-border communication. Topics may include international communication issues of law, diplomacy, conflict, the Cold War, international organizations, mass media, information, advertising and news flows, and social-economic development, as well as discussions of specific cases of cultural and institutional communication, spoken, written and produced, in various industrial and developing societies. Prerequisite: upper-division standing or graduate standing. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Health Communication Campaigns
In-depth examination of health communication campaigns that promote behavior change using theories at the individual, interpersonal, small group, and community levels. We will explore the current media environment, in which health communication campaigns can utilize a variety of communication channels including mobile phones, social networks, video games, and entertainment television.
Course utilizes a cultural, contextual approach to the study of urban communication structures, processes and practices. Macro and micro features are examined with the goal of understanding the role of communication in structuring social life in urban environments. Relevant theories on urban life and multiple dimensions of verbal and nonverbal communication codes are examined as they apply in urban contexts. Theoretical and empirical approaches recognize urban centers as dynamic multicultural environments. Research project required. Prerequisites: senior-level or graduate standing. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Everyday Talk: Structure and Process
How humans organize talk, with a primary emphasis on face-to-face talk in an informal setting. Attention will be given to the structure of roles and turns, sequencing of stages and topics, issues of common ground and relevance, and cognitive processes of message origination and interpretation in particular contexts. Recommended prerequisites: Comm 311 or equivalent; upper division or graduate standing. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Metaphor, Play, and Humor
How metaphor, play, humor, and other forms of “non-serious” language and gesture contribute to the creation of meaning and sustaining of relationships in everyday social interactions. Topics vary from quarter to quarter, and may include: metaphor; playful communication; humor and irony; and narratives. May be repeated for undergraduate or graduate credit. Recommended prerequisites: Comm 311 or equivalent; upper-division or graduate standing. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Communication and Aging
Focuses on the intersecting areas of communication and gerontology. Ages of communicators as variables affecting the process and outcome of interaction. Students examine communication and aging through interaction (intrapersonal, interpersonal, intercultural) and through context (organizational, family, medical.) Student projects include interviews with elderly subjects and case studies. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Gender and Race in the Media
Primarily examines the representations of gender and race, including age, class and sexual orientation in various media (mainstream and alternative), and will examine theoretical and methodological approaches which may be used to interpret these representations. In addition, considers the potential impact that media institutions have on people’s lives, political decisions and social relations. The overall aim is for students to understand how their own cultural identities affect their media consumption and social positioning. This course is the same as WS 452; course may only be taken once for credit. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Framing and Mass Media
Examines how messages are constructed and the effects frames have on audiences. Framing theory is linked to propaganda, public relations, marketing, political communication and cognition, and has a rich theoretical and methodological tradition. Examines the conceptual definitions, and the underpinning theory and methodology used in framing scholarship. Agenda setting, bias and framing, public opinion formation, cultivation analysis, behavioral effects, and macro-level and micro-level methods are also examined. May be taken for honors with instructor permission.
Communication and Public Opinion Seminar
This course explores research questions that relate to mass communication and American public opinion. Important normative and philosophical issues are identified and reviewed via early writings (ca. 1900) in social philosophy and social science. These issues are further investigated by examining relevant work form sociology, social psychology, and mass communication. Prerequisites: Comm 311 or graduate standing.
Propaganda, Public Relations, and Media
The course is designed to encourage students to think critically about the ways in which mass media, particularly film, are used to promote ideologies, causes and agendas while influencing opinion, policies and product sales. A range of theories is pivotal to the course, including theories of propaganda and persuasion; public relations and marketing; mass media effects and influence; and film theory. Course includes overview of theories and viewing of films, TV programs and more. No prerequisites: designed for advanced students with some background in theories of mass media, communication, persuasion, etc.
U = Cluster courses are identified with a "U" for Undergraduates' University Studies requirement. A complete listing of Cluster sections, with their corresponding Sophomore Inquiry (SINQ) and Cluster course options, are listed here.
Please note that some courses are not offered every year.