About the department

Communication Studies refers both to a practice and an intellectual inquiry into the ways communication constitutes our relationships to and our interpretation of the world. As a discipline, communication studies focuses on how political, cultural and social discourses create meaning, distribute resources, and organize behavior.

Along with other departments in the School of Social Research and Justice Studies, Communication Studies is committed to promoting critical thinking skills, speaking and writing competencies, and collaborative abilities to empower students to effectively work with others in their personal lives, careers and communities. Effective communicators seek solutions to conflict through dialogic encounters; thus the department advances listening, negotiation and conflict resolution competencies in communication students.

In the spirit of the liberal arts, the study of communication cultivates the qualities necessary to be effective citizens by developing problem-solving and advocacy skills, as well as fostering an understanding and appreciation of the multiple perspectives, cultures and individuals that constitute democracy. The department promotes discourse production for ethical ends and for just social relationships. Students with communication competency can find success in a variety of careers and enjoy more enriching personal lives; thus the focus in communication studies aims to connect the classroom to the real world.

Mission Statement

Communication studies is a discipline that addresses communication processes at work in virtually all human activities. The University of Nevada, Reno program focuses on these processes as they occur in: a) public advocacy and civic engagement, and b) relational dynamics.

A balance of contemporary social science and critical-cultural perspectives on human communication guide teaching and research efforts. Accordingly, the department emphasizes a breadth of research methodologies. The mission embraces the importance of contributing new knowledge while maintaining high standards of teaching and advising. Faculty and staff see research, teaching, and professional service activities as mutually reinforcing.

The program views the refinement of communication skills as central to achieving civility and effectiveness in personal and professional activities. The power of communication inspires the department's commitment to students and the greater Nevada community.

Program Description

The dynamic faculty specializes in the areas of communication research and teaching related to Relational Dynamics (RD) and Public Advocacy and Civic Engagement (PACE).

Relational Dynamics

This focus emphasizes the role of communication in the development and maintenance of relationships, and centers on the ways communication creates, defines, influences, and reflects the nature and quality of relationships (friendship, family, personal, romantic, organizational, workplace, intercultural and community). The ability to effectively convey one's intentions, interpret and perceive other's intentions, and develop a repertoire of skills to manage relational interactions is integral to competent communication. In this focus, analysis of communication events pertinent to relational interactions focuses students' knowledge and skills in listening, conversational management, conflict management, and social influence. Students will apply theory and analysis to an array of situations to foster understanding of ethical, inclusive, outcome-oriented, healthy relational communication patterns.

Public Advocacy and Civic Engagement

This focus emphasizes the role of communication and agency in social and political contexts as a means of exerting influence through speaking, argument, and forms of dissent. A major area in the study of communication relates to understanding how communication affects public and political processes, how reasoned civic public discourse and deliberation is cultivated (or impeded), in an effort to revitalize the political system through building political literacy and renewing civic responsibility. Analysis of contemporary events and speaking situations in this track will focus on persuasive strategies, as well as ethical and philosophical issues underpinning rhetorical action. Students will apply theory and analysis in creating and understanding how advocacy campaigns, policy, speeches, and mediated communication shape and influence the public.