Communication Studies

Thomas C. Johnson (department head)

Communication--from an intimate conversation with friends to a thoughtful documentary to a politically charged protest--provides individuals, groups, and communities the opportunities to navigate relationships, impact culture, and participate in democratic self-governance. The faculty of the Department of Communication Studies at Luther College is committed to helping students understand, evaluate, and practice human communication in all its forms. Specializing in the areas of relational studies, and rhetorical studies, the department encourages students to interact purposefully, create intentionally, and communicate eloquently.

Required for a major in Communication Studies: COMS 130, 132, 133; two relational studies courses of COMS 236, 240, 275, 325, or 330; two media studies courses of COMS 250, 258, 260, 335, or 348; two rhetorical studies courses of COMS 233, 234, 333, or 353; two methods courses of COMS 356, 358, or 362. Writing requirement completed in COMS 356 or 362. Courses designated as 185's or 239's will be evaluated by the department head on a case-by-case basis in reference to fulfillment of requirements.

Senior project presentation requirement: All majors that complete their senior project, COMS 490, in the Communication Studies department must present their research in a public forum scheduled by the department each semester. The senior project requirement is not completed until the project has been publicly presented. COMS 490 is required unless their senior project is completed in another declared major.

Required for a minor in Communication Studies: COMS 130, 132, 133; one relational studies course of COMS 236, 240, 275, 325, 330, or 362; one media studies course of COMS 250, 258, 260, 335, 348, or 358; one rhetorical studies course of COMS 233, 234, 333, 353, or 356. Courses designated as 185's or 239's will be evaluated by the department head on a case-by-case basis in reference to fulfillment of requirements.

Required for a minor in Journalism: See requirements listed under Journalism in the Curriculum section of the catalog.

View program learning goals for an explanation of learning outcomes in Communication Studies. 

Communication Studies Courses

COMS 130 Interpersonal Communication

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior

Since communication in relationships is tied to life satisfaction and success, this course provides an introduction to person-to-person interaction in the interpersonal communication field. Students begin to explore aspects of self and communication (e.g., culture, verbal, nonverbal) in relation to personal relationships in multiple contexts (e.g., friendships, family, romantic, workplace).

COMS 132 Public Address

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression

Grounded in the principles of speech composition, organization, and delivery, this course emphasizes the role of public address in a democratic society. Students will research, craft, and present a series of speeches.

COMS 133 Media Literacy

  • 4 hours

This course considers how and why media matters. The focus is on engaging, analyzing, and evaluating mediated texts and practices, in addition to articulating and cultivating arguments about their cultural, political, and social merits. The course includes lectures on programs, audiences, institutions, and contexts, as well screenings and discussion.

COMS 233 Rhetoric of Spirituality

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression, Religion

Engaging a variety of traditions (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Wicca, New Ageism), Rhetoric of Spirituality explores the relationship between communication, U.S. American popular culture, and spiritual practice. Utilizing the fundamentals of rhetorical analysis--close textual reading, thematic interpretation, and critical judgment--the course examines the role of religion and spirituality in public dialogue. Throughout the course, students study how popular spiritual texts like political speeches, feature films, television shows, and written works contribute to the communicative creation, maintenance, and reconceptualization of self, other, and spiritual ideologies.

COMS 234 Popular Culture

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression

This course examines the intersection of rhetoric, popular culture, and broader cultural contexts. During the course of the semester, students explore how people employ popular culture texts (e.g. film, television, fashion, music, architecture, public art) as a means of constituting, negotiating, and transforming the cultures and communities in which they live.

COMS 236 Small Group Communication

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior

Effective group navigation is essential to success in many facets of life. Students will be introduced to the uses and types of group and team communication, including aspects such as evolution of groups, roles, leadership, creativity, managing meetings, presentations and group problem-solving. Because of the group work nature of the course, students are very involved in designing and navigating activities, discussions, and direction of the daily and long-term aspects of the course.

COMS 240 Cultivating Quality Communication Communication

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior—Social Science Methods

This is a student-driven course whereby students determine interpersonal areas (such as personal, romantic, small group, workplace, and other interpersonal communication contexts) in which they create opportunities to develop and improve quality interpersonal communication skills (for example network and job shadow, create and test a relational improvement self-disclosure guide, work in a small group to create a community building experience on campus). Because of the experiential and out-of-class aspects of the course, students must have flexibility in their schedules during January.

COMS 250 Contemporary Journalism

  • 4 hours

This course studies the rapidly evolving state of journalistic practice. Topics include the rise of new media, the disintegration of traditional editorial controls, the splintering of audiences, as well as personal journalism and state-influenced journalism. As they study its modern forms, students create works of journalism.

COMS 258 Video Production

  • 4 hours

This course explores video production, primarily single-camera field production and editing. The focus is on narrative as communication, message-centered content, and technical expertise. The course includes lectures on phases of production, screen composition, and color temperature, training sessions on lighting techniques, sound recording, and post-production, as well as screenings and discussion.

COMS 260 Communication and Sport

  • 4 hours

This course draws from scholarly work in critical media studies, relational studies, and sociology to examine cultural, political, and social roles of sport in contemporary society. The focus is on how sport, as well as mediated sport, can be approached critically and read in different ways. The course includes lectures on nationalism, commodification, and identity, as well as screenings and discussion.

COMS 275 Workplace Relationships

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior

There are few contexts that involve more time than that of our workplaces; thus, understanding workplace relationships is essential in navigating quality experiences both professionally and personally. Despite the ubiquity of workplace relationships, they are nuanced and may be challenging. In this course, students will explore communication aspects (e.g., influence, management, gossip, affection, perceptions) in the many relationships that may be encountered (e.g., peer, subordinate, superior, customer/client, romantic, friendship, bullying).

COMS 325 Romantic Relationships

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior
  • Prerequisites: COMS 130

Students will challenge notions of romantic relationships to better understand societal implications and actions regarding communicative aspects that make them beneficial, disadvantageous, bright, dark, and otherwise further complex and nuanced. Engaging in multiple avenues for exploration, students will consider communication and aspects such as courtship, maintenance, technology, termination, affection, intimacy, abuse, aggression, and more.

COMS 330 Family Communication

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior
  • Prerequisites: COMS 130

In this course, students will examine the role of communication in families, how families shape us as individuals, and how the context of family functions in larger society. Through reading scholarship on family communication, discussion, projects and presentations, we will address questions such as how definitions of family have changed overtime, how individuals define self in relation to family members, how challenges in families are managed, how differences in family forms influence family function, and how communication patterns affect how we interact with and understand each other. Ultimately, this course investigates individual human behavior and human interactions within the societal context of the family.

COMS 333 Rhetoric of Identity and Difference

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior, Intercultural

This course examines the role of rhetoric in such significant identity categories as race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, nationality, and ability. Focusing on historical and contemporary political discourse, protest movements, and media representations, students examine how people navigate individual, cultural, and national identities as they strive for social justice.

COMS 335 Masculinity in Film

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression—Primary Texts
  • Prerequisites: COMS 133 or IDS 101

This course takes a feminist perspective to analyze portrayals of sex and gender in film with a particular emphasis on representation of men and masculinity. The focus is on how films construct different notions of gender, how films can be read in different ways, and to what social uses film portrayals may be put. The course includes lectures on film criticism, gender theory, and theories of representation, as well as screenings and discussion. (Same as IDS 335)

COMS 348 Radio Journalism

  • 4 hours

The course addresses the history, theory, and practice of American radio journalism. Topics of study include interviewing, news writing and reporting, hosting, documentary making, sound collecting, and studio and field production techniques. The course follows primarily the model of non-commercial American radio journalism, especially National Public Radio and Public Radio International. Students learn both to critically evaluate the work of others and to produce their own examples of these forms of radio journalism. It is strongly recommended that students who enroll in this course have at least one semester of on-air experience with Luther College Radio station KWLC. Offered alternate years.

COMS 353 Argumentation and Eloquence

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression

The course takes a rhetorical perspective on argument. Basic principles of argumentation are explored: problem solving through evidence, reasoning, and persuasion. Analysis and criticism of various types of contemporary speech-making based on principles, models, and theories of argumentation.

COMS 356 Rhetorical Criticism

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression—Primary Texts, Historical
  • Prerequisites: COMS 130, 132 and 133

This course examines key concepts in the area of rhetorical theory and methods. Grounded in classical and contemporary texts, students explore the function of rhetoric in relation to knowledge, community, governance, and power. Throughout the course, particular attention is given to the way specific methodological approaches help explore the relationship between rhetoric and social transformation.

COMS 358 Documentary Storytelling

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: COMS 133 COMS 258

This course builds on video production skills developed in COMS-258. The focus is on researching, scripting, planning, producing, and editing short subject documentary films. The course includes lectures on the history of the genre, exemplar filmmakers, and dramatic structure, training sessions on shooting, interviewing, and advanced editing, as well as screenings and discussion.

COMS 362 Relational Theories and Methods

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior—Social Science Methods
  • Prerequisites: COMS 130, 132 and 133

This course is a combination of studying advanced relational communication theories and learning and implementing social scientific research methods (such as interviewing and survey data collection and qualitative and quantitative data analysis). By reading and researching relationship theory and engaging in collecting and analyzing data, students will focus on the connections between theories of relationships while learning research methodologies to understand the complexities of communication in human relationships.

COMS 490 Senior Project

  • 2 hours