The University of Minnesota's Department of Communication Studies continues a rich heritage of teaching and research that began in 1914 under the leadership of Frank M. Rarig and H. B. Gislason. The then-Department of Speech Communication and Theater grew rapidly. Upon the establishment of University Theatre in 1931, the departments split to form the Department of Theater Arts and Dance and the Department of Communication Studies. As Speech Communication continued to grow, it moved from Folwell to Ford Hall and was renamed the Department of Communication Studies.
Under the guidance of faculty members like Ernest Borgman, David Rarick, William Howell, J. Vernon Jensen, and Robert Scott, scholarship in the department flourished. The addition of Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Alan Gross, Rosita Albert, and current Chair Ronald Walter Greene to the faculty broadened the field of inquiry and deepened the scholarship in the department, paving the way for renowned scholars like Susanne Jones, Mary Douglas Vavrus, Ascan Koerner, Laurie Ouellette, and Mark Pedelty to join the faculty.
Today, with 14 faculty members, about 30 graduate students, and over 700 undergraduate majors, the department pursues a wide range of interests including the criticism of public discourse, interpersonal communication, language and gender, small group communication, discourse analysis, intercultural communication, mass media studies, feminist and African-American rhetoric, communication theory, and rhetorical theory.