Communication Studies

Kimberly Powell (department head)

Since the ancient Greeks, the study of rhetoric (the art of effective discourse) has been recognized as a vital pillar of human learning. It formed one of the seven liberal arts of education in medieval Europe. Modern communication studies focus on three essential areas: expressing ideas through excellence in speaking and writing; understanding interpersonal, organizational and group dynamics; and appreciating the role of various media in our highly technical world. The communication studies department encourages students to use their communication expertise ethically and in service to the larger community.

Students who major or minor in this discipline take one basic course in each of the three essential areas of rhetoric, interpersonal communication, and mass media. Upper-level courses allow students to deepen their knowledge of these three aspects of the discipline and to specialize in one of them. Internships, campus and community projects, the student newspaper Chips, and the campus radio station KWLC provide practical experience.

Required for a major in communication studies: COMS 130, 132, 133, 357; one theory course of COMS 356 or COMS 362; one applied human communication course of COMS 236, 330, or COMS 350; one advanced oral communication course of COMS 255 or COMS 353; one media analysis course of COMS 258 or 347 or designated COMS 239 or 339 courses; plus eight additional credit hours in the department. Writing requirement completed with COMS 357.

Senior project presentation requirement: All majors who choose to complete their senior project 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.

Required for a minor in communication studies: COMS 130, 132, 133, and three additional courses in the department.

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

Required for a second teaching area in speech and theatre: See Education department for specific requirements. The second teaching area license is offered only in the state of Iowa.

Communication Studies Courses

COMS 130 Interpersonal Communication

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior

A course dealing with the basic concepts of person-to-person communication, such as the relationship between verbal and nonverbal language, the intent and result of message sharing, the variables in communicative efforts.

COMS 132 Public Address

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression

A study of the principles of speech composition, organization, and delivery; emphasis on the role of public address in a democratic society. Each student gives a series of speeches.

COMS 133 Mass Media and Popular Culture

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

To gain an understanding of the relationship between media, popular culture, and society--as well as the historical, political, and social significance thereof--students engage, analyze, and critique a wide variety of mediated texts.

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 Rhetoric of Everyday Life

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression

This course examines the intersection of rhetoric, identity formation, and cultural contexts. During the course of the semester, students explore the way in which active human agents employ everyday rhetorical texts (e.g. conversation, instant messaging, fashion, home decor, music, art) as a means of constituting, negotiating, and transforming the cultures and communities in which they live. The course provides a variety of theoretical frameworks for understanding everyday human interaction as significant meaning-making event and active site of the rhetorical performance of self, other, power, authority and place.

COMS 236 Small Group Communication

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior

A study of the purposes, types, processes, and behavioral dynamics of small group interaction. Covers theory and research with special attention to the dynamics, leadership, and the task dimensions of groups. Each student participates in several groups.

COMS 246 The Internet and American Life

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

This course explores the history and development of the internet and the various communication media that have emerged from it, such as e-mail, web sites, blogs, IM, listservs, mobile networks, podcasts, multi-player online games, virtual environments, etc. Through reading and discussion, students will consider how these technologies have impacted daily life, interpersonal relationships, and American culture.

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 255 Advanced Public Address

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression—Primary Texts
  • Prerequisites: COMS 132

This course delves into the rhetorical tradition of the U. S. through a study of significant historical and contemporary speeches and their respective audiences. An understanding of rhetorical situations and responses culminates in an advanced public speaking experience. Students will write and deliver speeches at the end of the semester. Offered alternate years.

COMS 258 Concepts of Media Production

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: COMS 132 and COMS 133

A project-based course which explores the capabilities and limitations of various electronic media as vehicles for informing, persuading, or inspiring. With emphasis on writing and planning skills appropriate to each medium, the course will utilize actual production experiences to introduce basic camera and lighting techniques, fundamentals of sound recording, principles of screen composition, and essentials of editing.

COMS 260 Sport, Media and Society

  • 4 hours

This course draws from scholarly work being done in media studies and the sociology of sport in order to examine the important cultural, social, and political 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 audiences, masculinity, and commercialism, as well as screenings and discussion.

COMS 320 Urban America and Serial Television: Critically Analyzing "The Wire"

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression—Primary Texts

Frequently hailed as a masterpiece of American television, "The Wire" shines a light on urban decay in contemporary America, creating a dramatic portrait of Baltimore's police, drug trade, shipping docks, city hall, public schools, and newspapers over five serialized seasons. In this course, we will watch and discuss all of this remarkable - and remarkably entertaining - series, and place it within the dual contexts of contemporary American society and the aesthetics of television. This course focuses on close viewing and discussion, and opportunities for critical analysis and research about the show's social contexts and aesthetic practices.

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 335 Masculinity in Film

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression
  • Prerequisites: COMS 133 or WGST 130

This course takes a feminist perspective to analyze portrayals of sex and gender in film with a particular emphasis on how men and masculinity can be represented. 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. Offered alternate years. (Same as WGST 335)

COMS 347 Critical Television Studies

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression
  • Prerequisites: COMS 133

This course examines television within the context of cultural, aesthetic, technological, textual, regulatory, social, and political practices. There are a number of intersecting aims: to trace the development of television (mainly in the United States, but with attention to global systems); to map the contours of critical TV studies; to understand theories and methods of television scholarship; to theorize television's relationship to consumer culture, history, capitalism, diversity, citizenship, everyday life, and selfhood (among other key concepts); and to entertain new directions in critical TV studies. Because television is a medium in transition, the extent to which television remains (or has never been) a truly distinct medium, and its current relationship to media convergence, will also be considered.

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 350 Intercultural Communication

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior—Social Science Methods, Intercultural
  • Prerequisites: COMS 130

Communication theory and research are used to examine the processes involved in communicating with those who are not members of one's particular cultural, ethnic, racial, religious, gender, ability, and socioeconomic group. Discussion, group activities, and papers will focus on the issues of awareness and competence in increasing one's communicative effectiveness.

COMS 353 Argumentation

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Expression
  • Prerequisites: COMS 132

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. Offered alternate years.

COMS 354 Persuasion and Social Influence

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior
  • Prerequisites: COMS 130, 132 and 133

This course looks at the cognitive, social, and rhetorical dimensions of social change considering how persuasive messages affect the thoughts and behaviors of individuals. To understand these elements, students will study social movements and political campaigns in a variety of contexts.

COMS 356 Rhetorical Theories

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior, Historical
  • Prerequisites: COMS 130, 132 and 133

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

COMS 357 Research Methods

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

Students are introduced to communication and rhetorical methods including design of experimental, survey, textual, rhetorical, and ethnographic research.

COMS 358 Concepts of Media Production II: The Documentary

  • 4 hours
  • Prerequisites: COMS 258

In this course students build on the skills of analysis, scripting, and production development developed in COMS 258 to research, script, plan, produce and edit their own documentary programs.

COMS 362 Communication Theories

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior
  • Prerequisites: COMS 130, 132 and 133

This course will examine human communication in interpersonal, small group, and organizational structures at a higher theoretical level. Students will analyze and synthesize various conceptual, descriptive and explanatory theoretical orientations that have been introduced in previous communication courses.

COMS 370 The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication

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

This course will focus on communicative phenomenon and behaviors using the recent scholarly approach known as the "Dark Side." Studies from the dark side perspective focus on aspects of communication that are: (a) dark, dysfunctional, and/or immoral, (b) viewed as dark but may have functional outcomes, and (c) viewed as bright but may have damaging outcomes. For example, why do some relationships include verbal or physical abuse? Is deception regarding a relational transgression acceptable if the goal is to protect the relationship? What happens if there is too much of a good thing, such as overly self-disclosing? During the semester, we will unravel the complexities of the dark side of interpersonal communication. The course will include analysis through readings, discussion, papers, presentations, and projects.

COMS 463 Public Relations and Corporate Communication

  • 4 hours
  • Fulfills: Human Behavior
  • Prerequisites: Junior standing

This course examines concepts of public relations and corporate communication within and outside of an organization. Students will study cases, write communication strategies, press releases, inter-departmental communication, and study corporate responsibility and conduct.

COMS 490 Senior Project

  • 2 hours