Why Communication Studies?

For over 140 years, the Department of Communication Studies has been committed to helping its students become better citizens, articulate communicators, critical thinkers, and able advocates.

Our graduates go on to be successful in the fields of law, television, marketing, management, and human resources, to name only a few. Our graduates are in high demand for their versatility, their critical thinking, and, of course, their outstanding communication skills. We address real-world problems.

Any student who wants to change things should take a class in Communication Studies so they can think about how communication can make the environment better. They can make our lives with each other better. They can make our political life and democracy better.

Dr. Ronald Greene

Undergraduate Study Concentrations

At the undergraduate level, our students choose one of four concentrations of study:

  • Interpersonal and organizational communication
  • Creative industries/media production
  • Public advocacy
  • Media & social justice

Each track draws on and develops key communication skills, including public speaking, small group communication, critical thinking, argumentation, media literacy, and rhetorical criticism. Our capstone courses challenge students to engage the role of communication in resolving relational and public problems. Capstone course options include but are not limited to environmental communication, political persuasion, rhetoric of civil rights, and family and marital communication. After graduation, the skills our students have developed in our department distinguish them in both the job market and graduate school applicant pools.

Areas of Inquiry for Graduate Students

Our graduate program provides a closer investigation of communication studies as a mode of inquiry. Rhetoric, interpersonal and organizational communication, and critical media studies are the areas of inquiry offered to graduate students. Graduate students in our department often supplement their degrees with graduate minors in related fields, including IREL (Interpersonal Relationship Research), MIMS (Moving Image Studies), literacy and rhetorical theory, feminist studies, and bioethics.

Faculty members have crossed over our historical division of three tracks (i.e., rhetoric, relational/organizational communication, and critical media studies) based on methodological approaches and worked to identify and collaborate in shared interests and substantive areas. We aim to build on our collective theme of social justice and broaden our understanding and investigation of disparities and public urgencies in our lived environment — with a focus on communicative practices in contexts.

Addressing Real-World Problems 

Social justice reflects and encapsulates the core themes of our faculty members' work. Together, faculty members have investigated social justice on an interpersonal level (e.g., Dr. Elaine Hsieh's work on minority patients in healthcare settings; Dr. Susanne Jones' NSF-funded work on empathy; Dr. Deborah Yoon's work on identities of international adoptees), organizational/institutional level (e.g., Dr. Kate Lockwood Harris' work on organizational responses to sexual violence), national level (e.g., Dr. Mary Vavrus' work on media, war, and the US military; Dr. Atilla Hallsby's work on the national security state), and sociocultural and sociopolitical level (e.g., Dr. Gil Rodman's work on race and racism in media; Dr. Laurie Ouellette's work on reality TV's influences on public policy; Dr. Emily Winderman's work on reproductive justice).

The Department has collaboratively and organically converged in addressing issues faced by a world in crisis (e.g., Dr. Ronald Green and Dr. Zornitsa Keremidchieva's work on public discourse and democracy, Dr. Kate Lockwood Harris' work on ending sexual violence, and Dr. Emily Winderman, Dr. Ascan Koerner, Dr. Elaine Hsieh, and Dr. Deborah Yoon's work broadly fit into health and reproductive justice).

We also lead the field in feminist communication theory, with faculty members (e.g., Dr. Vavrus, Dr. Winderman, Dr. Harris, and Dr. Ouellette) tackling diverse social issues to address inequality and injustice in our communities.

In addition, the teaching faculty members have also contributed to the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion by focusing on instructional pedagogy and community-based projects (e.g., Dr. Wendy Anderson's 10K GooseChase project funded through multiple UMN academic units). Both faculty members and graduate students are committed to building and incorporating DEI principles in a predominately White institution through our teaching, research, and service.

The Department emerged from the pandemic with an unwavering commitment to pursuing public good by nurturing citizen-teacher-scholars to engage with our communities by critically reflecting and challenging existing structures and infrastructures that silence the Other. Through our research, teaching, and services, we are committed to collaboratively and creatively generating resources and opportunities to support an environment that embraces diversity, accountability, community, and excellence.