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Areas of Emphasis

We believe that communication, in all of its forms, plays an essential role in the creation, maintenance, and alteration of social relations in our rapidly changing world. The Department believes in in the importance of social and environmental justice, critical analysis of the norms and assumptions that undergird dominant communication processes, and rigorous scholarship that speaks to contemporary societal contexts  We strongly value diversity in multiple senses of the word, including the recognition of diverse epistemologies; an understanding and critique of social constructions of race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, nationality, and religion; and the fostering of inclusion of multiple identities and backgrounds in its faculty, staff, and students.

We contribute to better humanistic and scientific understandings of communication through our award-winning scholarship in five areas of scholarly emphasis: 1) critical/cultural studies; 2) communicating science, health, environment, and risk (commsher); 3) digital media; 4) interpersonal communication; and 5) rhetoric. We value a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, including quantitative, qualitative, rhetorical, critical, and interpretive. These five areas of emphasis represent the Department's core areas of strength. The tabs below offer more information about each of our areas of emphasis. 

We currently offer graduate coursework in four of these areas. Our faculty’s research expertise across these areas of emphasis also informs our four undergraduate emphases: 1) Communication Studies, 2) Journalism, 3) Strategic Communication, and 4) Science, Health, and Environment Communication.


Critical Cultural Studies

Critical Cultural research emphasizes critical inquiry into the broadly defined ways that cultural discourses, practices, and performances contribute to, resist, and transform relations of power in society, particularly as related to communication-based problems of class, race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, national identity, (dis)ability, environment, and globalization. 

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Communicating Science, Health, Environment, and Risk (CommSHER)

Environmental, science, and health communication is the study of how individuals, organizations, institutions and cultures communicate about the environment, science and health through language, images, and practice.

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Digital Media

Digital Media scholarship emphasizes the production and reception of mediated messages designed to inform, persuade, educate, and entertain both historically and in contemporary society; the social cultural political, legal, economic, professional, and ethical implications of mediated messages; and the convergence that is both altering and reproducing historical assumptions about mass communication.

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Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication entails the study of communicative processes in personal relationships, families, work settings, and institutional environments.

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Rhetoric involves the study of discursive and non-discursive symbolic influence.

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Last Updated: 8/5/21