Communication and Rhetorical Studies

Professor Adrienne E. Hacker Daniels
Associate Professor Adam C. Jones
Associate Professor Christopher J. Oldenburg
Assistant Professor Mizuki Wyant
Instructor Shawna Merrill

The mission of the Communication and Rhetorical Studies Program is to cultivate in students theoretically grounded and highly developed competencies in the production, delivery, and criticism of diverse forms of human communication. It is the expectation of the department that students will use their communication expertise ethically in the pursuit of both personal growth and professional advancement as well as in the fulfillment of their duties as responsible citizens and community leaders.

Studies in Communication and Rhetorical Studies are the heir of a long and honored tradition. Since its inception in ancient Greece, the art of rhetoric (effective discourse) has consistently been recognized as a pillar of humane learning and assigned a foundational role within the liberal arts. Contemporary studies of communication and rhetoric focus on the construction, evaluation and use of communication theories, the criticism of communication practices, and the refinement of skills necessary for communicating effectively in a technology-permeated, multicultural world.

While the heart of the field’s self-understanding remains the humanistic rhetorical tradition, its broader contours also seek to integrate methodologies from the social sciences as well as to extend its collective insights into the application and criticism of diverse communication media.

Education in the rhetorical tradition and its intrinsically adaptive dynamics thus constitutes the conceptual core of the curriculum which integrates theory and practice and combines work in the classroom with co-curricular activities. Majors also learn to advance their understanding of communication processes through the use of empirical research methods as well as have an opportunity to develop communication expertise for a variety of contexts (interpersonal, professional, organizational, small group, and intercultural).

Majors & Programs


CO 101: Speech Fundamentals

An introduction to the various types of speech. Required except for those students whose background and competence in speech qualifies them for departmental approval for substituting an advanced course.

CO 204: Communication Theory

This course allows students to understand both the humanistic and social scientific theories in communication. Areas of inquiry include the ethical implications of individual theories, the development of knowledge and appreciation of theory building in the communication discipline, the ability to discern roles that communication theories play in our daily lives, and the examination and testing of communication theories using different methodological approaches. This course is a foundational requirement for all students majoring or minoring in Communication and Rhetorical Studies.

CO 210: Business Communication

This course is designed to enhance one's understanding of the skills, principles and contexts of communication in business and organizational settings. Oral presentations and written assignments are utilized to evaluate competencies in verbal and nonverbal communication efforts. A framework of strategic communication is introduced for the planning and implementation of various interpersonal and presentational principles and skills along with an examination of important theories of organizational communication.

CO 214: Advertising and Public Relations

This course is designed to provide the student with an understanding of the advertising industry's “identity,'' an identity which has mirrored - as well as participated in the creation of - a uniquely American identity. Significant historical, cultural, gender, aesthetic, ethical, legal, and rhetorical perspectives are examined. Public relations will be examined in theory and practice as it intersects with advertising theories and practices in their roles within a mass media framework.

CO 220: The Rhetorical Tradition

A survey of major trends in the development of rhetorical theory from Homer to the present. Special attention is given to comparing and contrasting different theories of rhetoric, the implications of these theories primarily for oral communication and its consequences, and the ways these theories are adapted to a variety of philosophical, social and political contexts. This course is a foundational requirement for all students majoring or minoring in Communication and Rhetorical Studies.

CO 224: Rhetorical Criticism

A quasi-chronological examination of the variety of methods used by rhetorical critics in analyzing the suasory dimensions of public civic texts. The issues and circumstances that have generated these methods will be considered as well. Students develop a familiarity with the tools, purposes and problems faced by rhetorical critics and an ability to produce rudimentary rhetorical criticism.

CO 225: Interpersonal Communication

This course explores the motivations, characteristics, and consequences of interpersonal communication. Over the semester, students will learn the various theories, models, and vocabulary of the interpersonal communication field. Attention is paid to topics such as self-concept, perception, and disclosure as well as uncertainty, affection, maintenance, and conflict across a variety of relational contexts. Students reflect on and improve their own interpersonal skills while learning to apply various interpersonal communication theories toward the end of developing more positive relationships in their personal and professional lives.

CO 226: Intercultural Communication

This course explores the synergy between communication and culture. Specifically, students investigate various value orientations and verbal and nonverbal behaviors that occur in several cultural contexts, such as within the religious, business and health contexts. A variety of intercultural communication issues are explored including cultural identity, disability, sexual orientation, ethnocentrism and stereotypes. Emphasis within all assignments is placed on the importance of developing intercultural communication competence in all contexts.

CO 230: Organizational Communication

This course is broadly designed to explore communication processes and problems that occur within the organizational context. To accomplish this, students will be exposed to the managerial and communicative theories pertaining to organizations and relevant research covering a host of topics. Specifically, this course will examine organizational culture (and how to adapt one's communication successfully one's culture), communication in the superior-subordinate relationship, impact of organizational structure on communication, and techniques for assessing and improving organization and individual communication effectiveness.

CO 235: Strategic Communication and Social Media

This course examines how recent advances in information technology and online social networking provide opportunities as well as challenges for those who practice and research strategic communication. Issues covered in this course will include ways that various organizations (corporate, governmental, and non-profit) strategically identify key audiences, effectively create and share social media content, evaluate social media-based strategic communication initiatives, and use social media to improve their image and brand. Students will also learn about the significant changes in strategic communication approaches brought about by the networked information society. This course combines theoretical and hands-on approaches to these issues. Additionally, in conjunction with the theoretical understandings of social media, students will study and use different social media applications throughout the course.

CO 240: Introduction to Mass Communication

An introduction to the theory and practice of mass communication, with historical and critical examination of print media (books, magazines, and newspapers), electronic media (television, radio, and recordings), film, and the internet. Related topics covered include media research, mass media effects, mass media and society, mass media and government, mass media ethics, and mass media law.

CO 252: Competitive Debate and Speech

Participation and competition in intercollegiate policy debate. This course may be repeated; however, no more than 4 semester hours of CO 252 may be applied to the major or minor. Permission of instructor required.

CO 260: Communication Research & Methods

This course introduces students to the conceptual and methodological paradigms utilized in pursuing communication research. Operating primarily from a social science perspective, students will learn how to generate important research questions and hypotheses pertaining to human communication, how to design and carry out research projects, and how to do competent research within the communication discipline. Students are introduced to a variety of research paradigms as well as quantitative and qualitative approaches to communication research and the appropriate methodological approaches within each purview.

CO 311: Argumentation & Debate

An introduction to both the mechanics of academic debate and principles of argumentation that can be applied to other methods of decision-making in which people weigh reasons pro and con. Students apply these insights to the analysis of arguments in the public sphere and participation in oral debate.

CO 314: Freedom of Expression

This course examines the verbal and nonverbal communication tenets of the freedom of speech clause of the first amendment of the Constitution. The history of the first amendment will be traced, including careful analysis of Supreme Court decisions. Topics covered include political heresy, defamation, obscenity, commercial speech, and technology.

CO 315: Communication Ethics

This course examines the ethical issues surrounding the role of verbal and nonverbal communication in distinguishing human participation in society. Students are asked to think critically about the range of issues germane to communication from a variety of normative perspectives.

CO 324: American Public Address

A history and critical appraisal of the rhetors, movements and rhetoric from the First Great Awakening to the present. Analysis and discussion of specific rhetorical episodes are designed to nurture the student's understanding of the exigencies and constraints that confront public advocates as well as to illustrate the relationship between rhetorical practice and American public culture.

CO 325: Public Relations in Practice

Public Relations (PR) helps to establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance, cooperation, and mutually beneficial relationships between organizations or public personalities and their various publics. Among the topics this course will cover are the social function of public relations, its diverse forms (e.g. media and community relations, the management function of public relations, and the role of the practitioner in crisis communication). The students will also develop their skills in public relations by creating publicity products, such as press releases, feature stories, brochures, posters/flyers, photo essays, and speeches.

CO 330: Developing Talent and Intercultural Competence

Training employees in today's increasingly diverse world requires a great deal of knowledge. This course will discuss intercultural competence in global organizations. Then, building upon that foundation, the course will discuss how to train and develop employees, giving perspective to working in different world cultures. Major topics include the ADDIE training model, training methods, and intercultural communication in the workplace.

CO 336: Rhetoric of Women’s Discourse

This course examines women's “voices” through a myriad of modalities and genres in order to understand the themes of women's discourse for the achievement of empowerment and enfranchisement in a society whose “order” has been at odds with such goals. Areas of inquiry include the relationship between public and private communication as understood through the prism of gender, polemical issues such as reproduction and pornography, and the meaning of the literary and visual arts in pursuit of a feminist rhetoric.

CO 353: Communication and Leadership in Teams

This course explores how communicating in small groups and teams is a significant part of the human experience. In this course, students will examine how the behavior of groups, leaders, and followers is inherently communicative. Specifically, students will study small group communication theory, research, and practice from several different perspectives, focusing on how individual and group behavior “emerges” from group communication and interaction. In addition, students enrolled in this course will participate in small groups on a semester-long service-learning project connected to local community non-profit or charitable organizations.

CO 381: Health Communication

People who face illness or who try to maintain or achieve good health experience a number of challenges, such as decisions about treatments, coping with large volumes of medical information, and responding to changes in their identities as a consequence of illness. Managing those challenges can be helped or hindered by communication with others (e.g. family, friends, and healthcare providers). Both theoretical and practical in nature, this course will help students understand the impact of communication in a health context. Among the topics that will be addressed are: health and identity, patient-practitioner communication, cultural perceptions of health, healthcare policies, health communication campaigns, and health images in the media. (See NU 381.)

CO 388: Special Topics in Communication Studies

Topics vary by semester. Study of some selected period or genre of public discourse, some significant social movement or some major issue or individual within the field of rhetoric and communication theory.

CO 415: Senior Seminar in Communication

This course will serve as the capstone course for all Senior-level students majoring in Communication and Rhetorical Studies. In addition, a strong emphasis will be placed on undergraduate research. Specifically, students will be asked to research relevant communication topics from either the social scientific or humanistic perspectives during the semester and formally present their scholarly findings. As part of the capstone experience in this course, students will also be asked to synthesize their previous coursework and critically reflect on their experiences in the Communication and Rhetorical Studies program.

CO 520: Leadership and Instructional Communication

The overall focus of this course is to help students explore the various leadership and instructional communication skills and knowledge that are foundational for effective learning to occur across any and all educational settings. Specifically, students will learn about the founding perspectives of leadership and instructional communication scholarship, examine the different contexts of leadership and instructional communication research (e.g., leadership styles, teacher effectiveness, instructional strategies, teacher immediacy and credibility behaviors, etc.), and then apply the lessons learned in this course to the nursing educational setting. After completion of this course, students going into nursing leadership or educator roles will leave with a broad, interdisciplinary set of leadership and communication skills and knowledge that will help them be more clear, interesting, and engaging instructors. This, in turn, will ultimately help produce an even better “next generation” of nurses in the future.