The mission of our graduate program is to promote research and understanding of human communication and to train qualified students to pursue careers in research and teaching within and beyond higher education.
Communication, the Individual, & Society
Through communication, individuals become groups, organizations, communities and societies. Communication forms the basis of our perceptions of the physical and social world as individuals, and allows us to develop personally. Communication cultivates shared identities among members of collectives, is used to make decisions and coordinate actions, and enables social evolution. Our graduate program offers students the opportunity to understand communication through multiple levels of analysis. We offer coursework that examines the production, distribution, processing and impact of messages from a bottom-up (micro) and a top-down (macro) perspective in a multidisciplinary context.
Our program’s main focus is the study of mediated communication and digital society. The digital revolution has transformed the nature of communication. Increasingly, we interact with others through the mediation of technology. We maintain many of our relationships through social media, and a growing number of people find romantic, nonromantic and life partners using online dating tools. Most of us will participate at some point in geographically dispersed workgroups, with members spread across the nation or even the globe; online collaborative technologies make this possible. We can now watch our favorite news channel on television or any of a number of mobile devices. We can even have breaking news on personally important topics "pushed" to us through alerts that appear on these devices. We can view our favorite movies whenever and wherever we want through streaming. On a daily basis we influence (and are influenced) through entertainment and persuasive technologies, including digital games, blogs, smartphone applications and database-driven message tailoring platforms. Digital communication systems now mediate the majority of human communication. The resulting global socio-technological ecosystem constitutes the current, primary driving force of social, political and economic evolution.
A Social Science Perspective
Our graduate program emphasizes the social scientific study of human communication using quantitative methods. Our students receive training in the traditional methods of social scientific research, including experimental methods, survey research and content analysis. In addition, we require our students to complete a sequence of courses in statistics, which can be taken in the Department of Psychology, Political Science or Sociology. We are preparing to conduct advanced training in emerging methods of the computational social sciences, including "big data" analytical methods, modeling and simulations. We do not object to qualitative and humanistic methodological orientations, but we do not attempt to be all things to all students. Our program best serves students who wish to understand human communication through the prism of quantitative approaches.
We believe that students can learn about research in classes, but can truly learn how to do research only through collaborative projects with their professors and other students. For this reason, all of our graduate students are expected to engage in collaborative projects from their very first quarter of academic studies in our graduate program. Our students take an increasingly independent role in these projects as they gain experience in research and complete their coursework. We help our students develop their presentation skills by giving them opportunities to present their research findings in the weekly Department of Communication colloquia, and by offering them travel support to attend national and international conferences.
Although most of the students in our graduate program intend to pursue positions as teachers and researchers in academia, we anticipate that a growing number of students will seek research positions in industry and government in the future. The training we conduct will enable them to pursue such opportunities, and we intend to cultivate strong program-industry collaborations in the near term that could give students access to research internships in information and communication technology.
Our ultimate objective is to produce well-rounded scholars who are effective in both research and teaching. Most of our students obtain teaching experience in one of our two basic communication classes during the regular academic year and summer sessions. As students master their substantive area of emphasis (e.g., political communication, social media, computer-mediated communication), we afford them the opportunity to teach or assist in upper division undergraduate courses in their area of specialization. We also offer ongoing instruction in pedagogy – methods and practice in teaching – as well as classroom visits and personalized coaching by an experienced teacher. We believe that such skills are invaluable to all of our students, even those who do not intend to pursue an academic career.