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 COMSGradQuestions@ku.edu Your email will not be reviewed by faculty and will be answered by a current grad student.

Advising Information

Faculty Advising for Summer and Fall 2015
(March 23 – April 9)
More info (PDF)

Colloquium Series
Departmental Awards

Communication Studies Department Awarded Inaugural Chancellor's Doctoral Fellowship!
More Info

If you see Dr. Hall around campus be sure to congratulate him! Jeff's research entitled "Mediated Social Interaction and Well Being" was recently funded by the University's General Research Fund (GRF). We can't to see what he discovers with his results! Congrats!
Let's talk weight, seriously. Christie Befort changes obesity conversation. http://t.co/rrFjFtHbYT #KUcommunities http://t.co/tPifpXsPvy
Lauded race and class historian becomes KU Foundation Professor David Roediger’s award-winning research and writing has already transformed how historians view the growth of social freedoms in America though the intersection of race, class, ethnicity, and labor. Now Roediger, as KU’s first Foundation Distinguished Professor of History (http://bit.ly/1AbAqYw), will continue to break new ground in those fields as he leads KU’s departments of American Studies and History. Roediger likes to study historical flash points — where one particular change brings a cascade of wider cultural changes. His latest book, “Seizing Freedom, Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All,” makes the point that as slaves began freeing themselves across the South during the Civil War, their emancipation inspired and ignited other cultural movements for freedom — such as the women’s movement for suffrage and the labor movement for better working conditions and an eight-hour day. Understanding the individual stories of average people who wanted to make their lives better, including slaves or factory workers, is important to understanding the wider political movements and elections, Roediger said. “It's tempting to think that all the important political questions have been decided,” he said, “but actually people are constantly thinking about what freedom would mean for them.”

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