Communication Studies

Bohn Lattin, Ph.D., chair

Faculty: Dare, Fletcher, Foster, Kerssen-Griep, Lovejoy, Nelson-Marsh, Na, Pierce

The communication studies (CST) department at the University of Portland supports undergraduate and graduate degree programs in communication and organizational communication (see the Graduate School section for CST graduate degree program details), while also offering coursework that satisfies University and College of Arts and Sciences curricular requirements. The bachelor of arts degree  in communication offers optional concentrations in rhetoric and media, leadership and advocacy, and journalism. The bachelor of science degree in organizational communication, crafted collaboratively with the Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. School of Business Administration, offers optional interdisciplinary concentrations in organizing and public relations, and in organizational leadership and global sustainability.

Graduates with these degrees often find work in professional communications, organizing, public relations, personnel management, social media, advertising, design, sales, development, print and online journalism, broadcasting, reporting, and technical and creative writing, among an increasing host of careers relying on advanced communication abilities of all kinds. For example, CST graduates from UP currently work in health care, journalism, environmental policy, and political advocacy; mediate collective bargaining agreements, manage employees, coordinate events, write grants, create media products, develop fundraising for nonprofits; provide training, manage and design social media, and are public relations professionals and entrepreneurs. Given the programs' global emphasis, CST graduates are also sought for Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and other teaching positions; CST students also frequently attend graduate school and law school.

It is the mission of all communication studies (CST) programs at the University of Portland to produce ethically grounded students who apply theory and best practices in oral and written communication. The discipline is rooted in one of the original liberal arts, rhetoric, concerned with how people use symbols to reach agreements that permit coordinated efforts. CST degrees animate the heads, hearts, and hands of students who learn to facilitate meaningful interpersonal, workplace, journalistic, and public communication, mediate conflicts in contexts ranging from local to international, and advocate for truth and social good. Our undergraduates and masters degree programs rely on up-to-date scholarship to develop communication professionals invested in sustaining just relationships, organizations, and societies. Students prepare through faculty-collaborative and independent research and applied communication coursework; via internships and other community-based learning; and in co-curricular activities such as CST's Speech and Debate Union and a group, Teaching Our Leaders Civil Discourse and Service (T.O.L.C.S.), dedicated to creating experts who help facilitate sustainable civil discourse in society. The department's award-winning teaching faculty are active scholars committed to integrating social justice and reason in their work.

Learning Outcomes for Communication Studies Majors

Communication studies graduates of the University of Portland should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate ability to apply communication concepts and theories to address everyday dilemmas within dimensions (ethical, social, legal, technological, relational, and cultural) central to the student’s major focus.
    1. Ability to write critical analysis papers about theories’ applications and validation.
    2. Ability to analyze communication variables in personal, professional, and community settings and propose competent communication strategies.
  2. Demonstrate oral communication skills expected of a future professional in the field.
    1. Ability to speak in public settings.
    2. Ability to advance decision-making processes within groups.
    3. Ability to negotiate and collaborate.
  3. Demonstrate written communication skills expected of a future professional in the field.
    1. Ability to write for specific audiences and situations.
    2. Ability to apply theory to justify conclusions, hypotheses, research questions, and/or need for further study.
    3. Ability to write informatively and persuasively.
    4. Ability to write with clarity, economy, and precision.
  4. Demonstrate communication research skills expected of a future professional in the field.
    1. Ability to interpret, conduct, and evaluate the quality of communication research
  5. Demonstrate understanding of ethical values central to the communication discipline.
    1. Ability to understand the value of respect for diverse societies.
    2. Ability to understand the value of broad civic participation.
    3. Ability to understand the value of freedom of expression.

Undergraduates earning the bachelor of science (B.S.) degree in organizational communication additionally should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate the ability to integrate communication and business scholarship for application in work settings.
    1. Ability to apply organizational and interpersonal theories to work settings.
    2. Ability to integrate communication theories and skills with knowledge about business in marketing or human resources.

Communication studies major curricula are designed to develop the abilities embodied in these learning goals. Senior students’ capstone projects form the primary means by which the department assesses how thoroughly students have met these learning goals. Critical analysis and term project papers from a variety of CST courses are additional means by which the department assesses whether students have achieved these learning targets.

Capstone Experience

The communication studies capstone project demonstrates each graduate’s preparation in CST learning outcomes, and it gives students their most independent opportunity to explore a phenomenon of genuine interest with faculty mentorship. During the summer prior to the senior year, each rising senior is asked to choose the 400-level CST course within which s/he will accomplish a relatively independent capstone project during the coming year; such a project takes the place of that course’s major assignment for that student and is mentored by that course’s professor. Several project options may be available to such students in a given course, including a standard research project within that course’s content realm. Alternative project options may include a deep case analysis project, community-based grant-writing project, or applying communication scholarship to explain, evaluate, and/or improve some aspect of a community-based learning situation in which the student gets involved. All capstone projects are shared within the course in which the capstone project is planned, designed, and accomplished. Selected student capstone projects are presented orally to the University community at one of two “CST Capstone Showcase Nights” held each academic year. These projects and presentations help expose students’ achievement of the performance indicators associated with each departmental learning objective.