2015-2016 Report on Changes and Decisions within the Communication Studies Program over the past five years.
Perhaps the most explicit change is that the program changed its name from Speech Communication to Communication Studies. This change was generated from two sources. One it was based on changes nationally. The national organization in this field changed its name from Speech Communication Association to the National Communication Association. The feeling was that the term “speech” did not capture the full range of communication issues studied in the discipline. This national change triggered many departmental name changes throughout the nation. Our change to communication studies was in keeping with this trend and helped to position our program in an appropriate way in the field. The second source was students who often complained that those outside of the field did not understand the diversity of communication topics associated with their degree, often assuming it was strictly focused on public speaking. The change to communication studies gives a truer representation of what our students have been doing and often better positions them in terms of jobs and/or graduate school.
Curriculum changes: New courses were developed to help meet student demand for greater variety and depth in course offerings. These courses included: Communication in a Global Era, Communication in Family Contexts, Advanced Persuasion and Health Communication. We are also in the process of creating four new courses, a one-credit version of the capstone class, two new methods classes (one on qualitative research methods and the other on quantitative research methods), and a strategic communication course that will deal with social media and mass media contexts. These courses are in varying stages of development and all arise from student feedback and program concerns that have come to our attention over the last five years.
The Communication Studies faculty members have also changed the requirements for the major. We have increased the number of credits required by four credits. One of these credits is from the new one-credit capstone course and the other three are based on requiring the students to highlight one of our three thematic areas (social influence, organizational communication, and societal or cultural communication). By splitting out the capstone course from the theory class, we believe we will be able to accomplish the goals associated with both courses more effectively. These changes followed a reworking of the overall major requirements based on some confusion among many of the students. The old requirements were based on the somewhat difficult distinction between theoretical and practical courses. Students rightly noted, and faculty agreed, that theory and practice were involved in all of the courses. After a review of student needs and faculty expertise, the major now requires at least two courses from three major thematic areas that reflect key areas within the field itself (social influence, culture and society, organizational communication).
New Global Communication Program: We have created a new major entitled Global Communication. This major is designed to prepare students with the knowledge, motivation, and skills necessary to thrive while engaging in work in intercultural contexts. This new major was designed to incorporate aspects of all of the other programs in our department. Students in this program study communication, a second language, ethics, culture, and world affairs. The major requires coursework in five main areas: introductory courses on intercultural and global communication; communication specific courses on interpersonal communication, communicating in organizations, persuasion and conflict management; philosophy courses on ethics; language courses that focus on language skills in applied areas, such as business (majors will need to select a specific second language in which to gain expertise); and courses on world affairs that apply to students’ specific goals. The major also involves a practicum that requires the student to engage with a community distinct from his or her own cultural community. The program was created through faculty collaboration and an expressed interest among the students.
The success of the debate team has also been noted and the faculty have responded to this by providing increased support financially (where possible) of this worthwhile program.