Statement in Support of a Safer and More Welcoming KU
November 16, 2015

Dear members of the KU community:

The Department of Communication Studies stands in solidarity with KU students, staff, and faculty who have called for immediate action on and around our campus to address the racism and discrimination inflicted on members of our community because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and/or other identities.  We are committed to working with these community members to create a safe and equitable educational environment for everyone.

While some might like to pretend that our nation is free of racism and discrimination, the evidence is clear that far too many people in our society continue to suffer both indignity and physical threat from their fellow citizens.  At times, these acts of racism and discrimination can be egregious.  From the shooting death of the unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to the mass shooting of nine African Americans meeting at church in Charleston, South Carolina, we have all seen that not everyone believes black lives matter.  From the images of a professional football player punching his fiancée to the all too frequent sexual assaults on our nation’s college campuses, we have all seen that not everyone believes women deserve unquestioned respect.  And from gay couples denied their constitutional right to marry in Rowan County, Kentucky, to a transgender woman, Keisha Jenkins, beaten and shot to death in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we have all seen that not everyone believes all sexual orientations and gender identities are equal.  In such a cultural climate, denials that racism and discrimination continue to permeate our society are deplorable.

Of course, not all forms of racism and discrimination are so outrageous.  As scholars committed to the study of human communication, we are well aware that everyday words, gestures, and social interactions can also do serious damage.  Commonly referred to as microaggressions, these seemingly innocuous moments of communication routinely insult and marginalize individuals and groups.  Whether it is a group of young men referring to behavior deemed uncool as “gay” or a teacher turning to the lone minority student in a class expecting her to respond to a question about racism, these words and behaviors have negative consequences for the way people perceive themselves and their place in our community.  While often unintentional, these microaggressions have no place at KU.

Unfortunately, as Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk and others have made abundantly clear, such behavior does happen here at KU and far too many of our students feel unwelcome.  Through their protests, use of social media, and engagement in forums, these brave students have reported microaggressions inside and outside the classroom, explicitly racist and sexist language on campus, and even sexual assault and physical intimidation.  Given such a reality, demands to better train everyone on campus to be more inclusive and to do more to hire diverse faculty and staff should be welcomed at KU, with one of its core values being to foster “a multicultural environment in which the dignity and rights of the individual are respected.”  Indeed, such demands are most certainly welcome in the Department of Communication Studies, where we continue to work on hiring for diversity, recruiting and retaining minority students, and training our faculty, staff and students to be more inclusive and respectful.

Therefore, we join our fellow students, staff, and faculty in calling on the University of Kansas’ administration and governance to act swiftly and deliberately in addressing the racism and discrimination on and around our campus.  As a department, we are listening intently to the concerns of those who have been marginalized and are working on doing everything we can to ensure that all the undergraduate and graduate students who attend any of our classes or departmental events find a safe and welcoming environment.  And we stand ready to assist others in helping to fight and eradicate racism and discrimination.  Through the power of intentional dialogue and open communication, we believe that we can all, even those just now coming to realize the severity of this problem and their own role in it, work together toward making the University of Kansas a model for the inclusivity and acceptance of all people.  

Why Communication Studies?

Communication Studies has been at the heart of the Liberal Arts since the beginning of higher education in the West some 2,500 years ago. When the Greeks began studying the Liberal Arts, the very first subject that they focused on was rhetoric, what we now would call communication. They began with the study of communication because they knew that when people exist in a community of any kind, the three most basic skills that they need are the ability to listen to what someone else says and judge whether their comments are sensible and to devise a response. What was true 2,500 years ago is still true today.

Our Distinctiveness

The Communication Studies Department at KU has a long history of excellence in teaching and research. Communication Studies faculty members have been recognized many times as among the best teachers in the university. And faculty have national and international reputations as scholars in diverse areas of communication studies.

The department is the host of the KU Debate program, a program that's consistently ranked among the five best programs in the nation, along with schools like Dartmouth and Harvard. The program also hosts the inter-disciplinary leadership studies minor because of the centrality of communication to leadership activities.



Areas of Emphasis

Faculty members in Communication Studies teach and research in two main areas: Rhetorical and Political Communication and Communication and Relationships. The department offers a wide variety of courses in these areas. Faculty have been very productive scholars in each area. Many faculty members have a national or international reputation for research in these areas.

Rhetorical and Political
Rhetorical and Political Communication-Communication Studies faculty study the way that people use communication in public life, in politics, social movements, and all aspects of modern culture. Within the area of public communication, faculty members focus on a number of sub-areas:
  • Rhetorical and Political Theory and Criticism. In this area, faculty study study theories describing, explaining and evaluating how humans communicate in public settings and methods for analyzing and evaluating rhetoric and political communication.
  • Historical and Contemporary Rhetoric-the study of important works of public communication, including speeches that influenced the development of the United States and social and cultural movements in the United Sates and the world.
  • Political communication-the study of political communication processes, including campaign communication, political rhetoric and new technology. In this area, faculty use both social scientific and humanistic methods to analyze political communication.
  • Argumentation-the study of how rational forms of communication work (and fail to work). Leadership-the study of how to effectively engage in the process of leadership through skillful communication practices.
Communication and Relationships

Faculty members in this area study study the way communication functions in relationships of all types from those present in a romantic or family setting, to those found in a large organization. Within this area, faculty members focus on a number of sub-areas:

  • Interpersonal communication-the way that communication functions in relationships and the family. Faculty focus on both unmediated and mediated interpersonal communication, such as on the internet.
  • Small group and organizational communication-the study of how communication functions in teams and groups and larger organizations, including a focus on both the macro and micr-organizational contexts.​
  • Social scientific theories and methods-the study of theories drawn from the social sciences and social science research methods.
  • Intergroup communication-the the study of how communication practices vary among different groups, including a focus on intercultural communication and communication and aging. One common place that such communication occurs is in new communication technology.

Why Our Programs?

Undergraduate Major/Minor

When you graduate with a B.A. or B.G.S. in COMS, you should emerge with many of the skills described below, and they should help you find a position in one of the career areas listed. The major provides a general liberal arts education of the type that is valued by many employers: the list below is not exhaustive of the areas that are available to you.

Skills and Abilities:

Communication Studies majors develop skills in the following areas:

  • Research/Analysis
  • Communication Organization
  • Writing clearly
  • Speaking effectively
  • Influencing/persuading
  • Synthesizing and interpreting information
  • Reporting and editing
  • Building relationships
  • Defining hypotheses
  • Evaluating evidence and sources
  • Data gathering and analysis
  • Understanding theory
  • Understanding messages
  • Interviewing
  • Working in teams or groups
  • Understanding values (institutional/cultural)
  • Explaining processes, plans, and concepts

The major provides preparation for careers in areas such as the following (a number of these require additional training or education):

  • Public address
    (e.g., announcer, spokesperson, minister)
  • Business
    (e.g., account manager, advertising coordinator, corporate trainer, customer representative, manager)
  • Consulting
    (e.g., management, legal,
    public relations consultant )
  • Education
    (teacher, administrator)
  • Government
    (e.g., foreign service officer, legislative assistant, speech writer, campaign director, fund raiser, elected official, lobbyist)
  • Industrial and labor relations
  • Interviewing / negotiating / counseling / sales
  • Research
    (e.g., market researcher, academic researcher)Writing / editing
Graduate Degrees

Graduate Program: While there are many fine graduate programs in the nation, there are four ways in which the KU program excels.

  • The first is a commitment to teaching that has resulted in numerous honors for both the department and individual faculty. The list of significant teaching awards won by the department and by KU faculty members is a very long one. Virtually every faculty member who has been in the department for more than a year or two has won one or more significant awards. Several faculty members have won multiple awards at KU, as well as national and regional awards.
  • Second, the department is student-friendly and works extraordinarily hard to nurture graduate student teaching and research. Surveys of graduate student satisfaction place the department at the very top of the discipline.
  • Third, KU faculty members are not only fine teachers, but committed and very productive scholars. Review of faculty CVs and recent publications makes it obvious that several faculty members are among the leading figures in their sub-disciplines. Young faculty members are building records as rising stars.
  • Finally, KU provides the intellectual room and support for graduate students to build innovative programs that may bridge different areas of the discipline. For example, it is that openness to ideas that led faculty in the department to be among the first in the discipline develop courses and research focused on organizational rhetoric.

Want the straight scoop? Ask a current graduate student! Prospective graduate students often find it valuable to talk to current graduate students to find out about their perception of the program. Students who have a question about the program can email Your email will not be reviewed by faculty and will be answered by a current grad student.

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Faculty Advising for Spring 2016
(October 14 - 30)
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Communication Studies Department Awarded Inaugural Chancellor's Doctoral Fellowship!
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