As a subject of academic study, communication bridges the humanities and the social sciences. It focuses on relationships--personal, group and societal--and the factors and process, which affect those important relationships. Friendships and families, business relationships and political systems, cultural interaction and technological advances all are important areas of study in communication.
Communication students may concern themselves with the dynamics of interpersonal persuasion, the effects of media technologies, the nature of gender stereotypes, the function of roles within the family, the structure of organizational authority, the influence of cultural myths, the impact of social movements, and the history of rhetoric. Because we pursue so many diverse interests, there is a place for anyone with a genuine curiosity about human communication and its effect upon our daily lives.
Over the past few decades, communication has emerged as one of the most pragmatic degrees available. While current state-of-the-art technical training may become obsolete within a few years, there will always be a need for effective communicators. Majoring in communication prepares you to enter professional programs with valuable and needed, but seldom taught, skills.
With this mission in mind, the Department of Communication offers a range of courses that fall within five focus areas:
Film Studies courses enable students to become more proficient in cinematic language and explore how the motion picture functions as a critical, cultural, historical, and artistic form of expression. Topics are discussed with a three-pronged learning objective:
- to familiarize students with film history and criticism
- to heighten awareness relating to film aesthetics
- to demonstrate how film challenges and reflects socio-cultural issues in fictional and nonfictional cinematic representations
Courses in Film Studies will prepare students with theory and application in the principles of film form, production, and terminology. Students will gain extensive skills and knowledge in:
- understanding the cultural, discursive, historical, and political climates that influence the production and interpretation of a film
- analyzing the representational issues at work in a film
- developing a critical argument regarding a film’s message and commentary
- appreciating the aesthetics and history of film as an art form
A degree in Communication with an emphasis in Interpersonal Communication is designed to teach students how individuals create, send, and receive messages in a variety of contexts. In addition, students will learn to analyze how messages effect and are affected by relationships. Relationship types studied within Interpersonal Communication include friendships, romantic relationships, family kinships, workplace associations, etc. The study of Interpersonal Communication includes topical areas such as small-group communication, nonverbal communication, persuasion, family communication, health communication, conflict communication, gendered communication, intercultural communication, and relational communication. Students graduating with a degree in Communication with an emphasis in Interpersonal Communication will demonstrate:
- effective verbal, non-verbal, and written communication
- attuned listening abilities
- competency in research through the identification, evaluation, application, and citation of appropriate scholarly sources
- proficiency in interpersonal communication theory and practice as they pertain to dyadic interactions with others from diverse background across diverse settings
An emphasis in Mediated Communication involves the study of media messages on legacy as well as digital and mobile platforms. Courses in this area begin with the premise that contemporary society is steeped in media messages and that technology has taken a central role in much of daily life in much of the world. To understand and influence the world, therefore, one must understand the role of media in it. Courses examine media’s impact on individuals, social relationships, organizations, social institutions, and cultures. This takes many specific forms, including courses on the critical analysis of media messages, the study media use, media processes and effects, and media’s place within political, social, and economic contexts.
Students graduating with a degree in Communication with an emphasis in Mediated Communication will gain skills and knowledge in:
- advanced writing, editing, and publishing skills
- analyzing information and communicating it to large target audiences
- applying theories of strategic communication and media effects
- understanding media industries’ structure and practices
- critically analyzing media texts
- understanding how people process media messages
- understanding the potential impact of media messages on audiences
Courses in communication which examine the ways communication shapes the life and effectiveness of people who work within organizations and live within resilient communities. We focus on organizations in business, government, education, non-profit communities, and a variety of other fields. From an organizational perspective, students learn about the exchange of messages and information regarding personnel management, job training, organizational policies, and interpersonal/group communication in an organization. From a community perspective, students learn how individuals and organizations communicatively build relationships in order to foster the civic life, public health, and overall resilience of communities. Topics of study include decision-making, conflict management, intercultural communication, disaster and risk communication, community organizing, leadership, environmental sustainability, and communication theory. Community organizers work to connect residents, local media, and organizations together to solve issues ranging from social inequality, public health, disasters, and community trauma. In order to foster the civic life, public health, and resilience of communities, community organizers identify community problems, analyze the communication infrastructures of neighborhoods, and develop campaigns and interventions to address local issues. Organizational communication specialists analyze an organization’s internal and external message systems and information flow. Their goal is to provide critical feedback about the organization’s use of communication and implement ways to improve organizational function by helping its employees, project teams, and departments communicate better. Students graduating with a degree in Communication with an emphasis in Organizational Communication will gain skills and knowledge in how to:
- execute organizational goals through job instructions, performance reviews, company policies, team projects, and knowledge management
- identify and remove barriers of communication through formal exchange of information
- improve interpersonal communication among peers and the culture of the workplace
- audit the flow of messages and information through an organization
- evaluate networks and cultures created and reflected through communication processes.
Rhetoric and Public Communication represent the oldest traditions in the study of Communication, dating back to ancient Greece. The study of rhetoric is the attempt to understand how people use symbols (visual, verbal, or physical) and construct arguments to form communities and persuade their fellow citizens. In this sense, rhetoric and public discourse gives students the opportunity to examine the strategic use of communication in written, spoken, electronic, and digital forms. Thus, students learn to improve their use of rhetoric for purposes of civic engagement, cultural understanding, and social action. Students taking classes in Rhetoric and Public Communication will learn how to conduct rigorous and responsible knowledge production—from becoming more acute and attentive interpreters of the world around us to writing more deeply critical, meaningful and persuasive presentations and papers. We want students to learn how to contribute usefully to discussions and to social debates, knowing what arguments are sound and what fallacies to avoid or discover in others’ discourse, while demonstrating knowledge of how messages work in the context of a diverse world. We want students to write the best essays they can write, use the principles of composition and creative writing, while employing or critiquing relevant communication theory in the formulation of their ideas. We also know that students will need to speak in front of others throughout their lives, and will do it more effectively if they have studied great examples of rhetorical advocacy, understand what makes them great, and have the opportunity to practice those principles themselves.
Undergraduate DirectorDr. Matthew Spialek
Department of Communication
COMM Fulbright Writing Requirement (FWR)
- Communication majors must complete the Fulbright Writing Requirement in an upper-level COMM class.
- The paper should be 10 pages in length (longer is fine).
- The paper must be sourced from materials outside the required course readings.
- The student must score a "C" or better on the paper (not the final course grade).
University of Arkansas
417 Kimpel Hall
Fayetteville AR 72701
Matthew Spialek, Interim Department Vice Chair
Ryan Neville-Shepard, Graduate Director
Matthew Spialek, Undergraduate Director
Robert Brady, Online Director
Lisa Corrigan, Internship Director
Fred Jennings, CCR Director
Meredith Neville-Shepard, Development Director