Karen Erlandson, chair and associate professor.
B.A., 1992, M.A., 1995, Michigan State University; Ph.D., 2002, University of California, Santa Barbara. Appointed 2002.

Andy Boyan, visiting instructor.
B.A., 2003, M.A., 2005, Washington State University; Ph.D. candidate, Michigan State University. Appointed 2009.

Jeremy L. Osborn, assistant professor.
B.A., 1998, Capital University; M.A., 2000, The Ohio State University; Ph.D., 2004, University of Arizona. Appointed 2005.

Yuxia Qian, assistant professor.
B.A., 1996, Liocheng University; M.A., 2001, University of Shanghai; Ph.D., 2007, Ohio University. Appointed 2008.


Communication focuses on how people use messages to generate meaning within and across all kinds of contexts, cultures, channels and media. It is intertwined with virtually every aspect of our lives and plays an integral role in everything from the development of our personal identities to the processes involved with changing our societies. The Communication Studies Department helps students develop the communication skills necessary to succeed in a variety of contexts as well as the knowledge and ability necessary to critically analyze communication phenomena from a variety of angles. In general, courses in the department examine the forms, modes, media and consequences of communication from a social scientific perspective. Specific areas of emphasis include interpersonal communication, organizational communication and mass mediated communication.

Communication Studies Department Web site

Career Opportunities

Although this department's courses are within the mainstream of the liberal arts tradition, intended to provide important theory and practice for all Albion students, concentration in communication studies is especially valuable for students preparing for professions such as public service, public relations, advertising, event planning, business, electronic media, politics, education and the law.

Special Features

Internships are viewed as valuable learning experiences, and the department encourages all interested students to explore and pursue these opportunities. Juniors and seniors may participate in communication internships covering areas such as public relations, event planning, broadcasting and marketing, among others. These internships may be completed during fall or spring semester locally, over the summer in areas such as Detroit or Chicago, or as part of an off-campus program such as Australearn, the Chicago Center or Boston University’s London program. Students are encouraged to discuss these opportunities with faculty in the Communication Studies Department for more information.

In addition, the Communication Studies Department awards several scholarships each year through two different scholarship funds. The Bernard T. Lomas Scholarship is awarded to outstanding incoming first-year students majoring in communication studies or a related field, and the William C. Henning Merit Scholarship is awarded to a select group of current communication studies majors who demonstrate academic excellence and promise. The department also sponsors the annual Kropscott Symposium which provides students the opportunity to attend lectures and participate in workshops presented by scholars and practitioners in various communication fields.

The department offers students the option of completing a general major/minor or to specialize with an emphasis in one of three areas of the field: mass media, organizational communication or interpersonal communication.

Majors and Minors

Requirements for Major

The curriculum in the Communication Studies Department is designed around two components—(1) a common core of three fundamental courses, and (2) a variety of specific courses covering the three primary emphasis areas of interpersonal communication, organizational communication, and mass communication/media. All majors must complete the common core, which consists of:

Communication Studies 101: Introduction to Human Communication
Communication Studies 241: Public Speaking
Communication Studies 322: Communication Theory and Research

Beyond the core, each major must choose from one of five tracks. These tracks include the general track, interpersonal track, organizational track, mass communication/media track, and professional communications and production track. The track chosen determines the required breakdown of a student's remaining six units, and those breakdowns are listed below. The specific courses counting for each emphasis area are also listed below.

General Track Requirements
Common Core: 101, 241, 322
1 course each from List I, List II, and List III
3 additional departmental electives (any course within the department)

Interpersonal Track Requirements
Common Core: 101, 241, 322
2 courses from List I
1 course each from List II and List III
2 additional departmental electives (any course within the department)

Organizational Track Requirements
Common Core: 101, 241, 322
2 courses from List II
1 course each from List I and List III
2 additional departmental electives (any course within the department)

Mass Communication/Media Track Requirements
Common Core: 101, 241, 322
2 courses from List III
1 course each from List I and List II
2 additional departmental electives (any course within the department)

Professional Communication and Production Track Requirements
Common Core: 101, 241, 322
3 courses from 205,306,351, 365, internship off-campus
3 courses from English: 207, 208, 306, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313.

List I: Interpersonal Communication Courses
202: Interpersonal and Family Communication
207: Communicating Gender
313: Intercultural Communication
314: The Other Side of Interpersonal Communication

List II: Organizational Communication Courses
203: Small Group and Organizational Communication
303: Organizational Culture and Communication
306: Public Relations
351: Persuasion

List III: Mass Communication/Media Courses
205: Mass Communication
306: Public Relations
311: Environmental Communication
365: Media Theory

All 287-289 and 387-389 courses (Selected Topics courses) offered will be accepted as electives toward the major. Students may complete multiple Selected Topics courses and count them toward the major, but may not complete the same course more than once. In addition, internships (391, 392) and directed studies (411, 412) may be counted toward the major if they are approved by the department in advance and are taken within the Communication Studies Department (as COMM 391, 392, 411, or 412).

Requirements for Minor

The minor requires a minimum of six units including:

  • Common Core: 101, 241, 322
  • 1 course each from List I, List II, and List III

Communication Studies Courses

101 Introduction to Human Communication (1)
An introduction to the study of communication. Students investigate communication theory, models, symbols and signs, verbal and nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication, group communication, organizational communication, mass communication, communication ethics and new communication technologies. Staff.

187, 188, 189 Selected Topics (1/4, 1/2, 1)
An examination of subjects or areas not included in other courses. Staff.

202 Interpersonal and Family Communication (1)
An investigation of the role communication plays in the formation, maintenance and dissolution of interpersonal and family relationships. Topics include the nature of communicators and communication environments, interaction rules, rituals and intimate dialogue in family systems. Erlandson.

203 Small Group and Organizational Communication (1)
An overview of research and theory in small group and organizational communication from a historical and cultural perspective. Particular attention will be paid to communication and decision-making, and communication and organizational culture. Qian.

205 Mass Communication (1)
An introduction to the different modes of mass communication--from the printing press to the Internet--from historical and cultural perspectives in order to understand the impact of mass communication on society. Topics include mass communication's production and reproduction of cultural mores and values, and the controversy surrounding media "effects." Staff.

207 Communicating Gender (1)
An exploration of the ways in which gender and communication interact. Students are introduced to research in the field and observe and analyze the ways in which our cultural construction of gender impacts on how we communicate and judge the communication of others. Erlandson, Staff.

241 Public Speaking (1)
A theoretical and practical study of speaking in public. Students are introduced to classical and contemporary critical standards of excellence in oral style and delivery, while they develop skills in the art of speaking effectively in informational and persuasive situations. Staff.

242 Professional Communication (1)
Prerequisite: For students in the Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management, or permission of instructor.
Focuses on individual communication skills that enhance professional and career development, including skills needed in the business world. Develops writing skills, presentation skills, and the ability to communicate and work with others. Erlandson, Osborn.

287, 288, 289 Selected Topics (1/4, 1/2, 1)
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
An examination of subjects or areas not included in other courses. Staff.

303 Organizational Culture and Communication (1)
Provides an understanding of organizational communication theories and practices associated with organizational culture. Focuses on how organizational culture is created, maintained and changed through communication practices and processes within organizations and through organizations’ adaptation to the changing external environment. Includes practice in communicatively grounded organizational cultural analyses through research projects. Qian.

306 Public Relations (1)
A theoretical and practical examination of the public relations field, including internal and external communications as well as media relations. Students occasionally gain practical experience by participating in a major campaign. Osborn.

311 Environmental Communication (1)
A study of how the natural environment is socially constructed through its representation in word and image. After introducing students to fundamental environmental terminology, the course will consider a number of key environmental communicators, their ideological positions, and how they shape their messages. This will be followed by a discussion of audiences and environmental communication ethics. Offered occasionally. Staff.

313 Intercultural Communication (1)
An exploration of the role communication plays in defining and sustaining culture both globally and locally. By applying current research and theories in intercultural communication, students are introduced to major topics pertaining to communication between cultures. Topics include, but are not limited to: the way a culture's deep meaning structure impacts the way people communicate, culture-specific verbal and nonverbal norms, advice on verbal and nonverbal behavior when doing business internationally, adjusting to culture shock and exploring various subcultures in the United States. Erlandson.

314 The Other Side of Interpersonal Communication (1)
Interpersonal communication has numerous outcomes—constructive and destructive, functional and dysfunctional, pleasurable and painful. This course examines several of these “other” aspects of communication. Topics include deception, jealousy, gossip, revenge, relational conflict, infidelity, sexual coercion, and psychological abuse, among others. Osborn.

322 Communication Theory and Research (1)
Prerequisites: Communication Studies 101 plus one other Communication Studies course, or permission of instructor.
The capstone course in communication studies. Designed to help students critically analyze what they have learned in previous classes and to actively build on that body of knowledge through personal research. Examines major theories from all corners of the communication discipline and evaluates the utility of those theories. Includes a research project on a topic of the student’s choice.  Osborn.

325 Visual Communication (1)
A theoretical and critical introduction to the study, this course is divided into three parts: visual manipulation, visual literacy and the role of visual images in society. Students study how film editing works, how images can be juxtaposed for persuasive effect, whether or not images can ``lie'' and whether or not viewing skills are comparable to language skills. Offered occasionally.  Staff.

341 Advanced Public Speaking (1)
Prerequisite: Communication Studies 241.
Continuation of Communication Studies 241. Focuses on the adaptation of communication styles and content to diverse co-cultural speakers and audiences. Includes practice in securing the acceptance of ideas through psychological appeals as well as logical reasoning. Advanced work in speech communication research, preparation and delivery is required, as well as some media enhancement. Great speeches from the past will be used as models for analysis and application. Offered occasionally. Staff.

351 Persuasion (1)
A theoretical analysis of the process of influencing belief, attitude or behavior through appeals to reason, emotion and ethos. Students investigate experimental and rhetorical theories in the field and the ethical considerations of persuasion. Staff.

365 Media Theory (1)
Prerequisite: Communication Studies 205 or permission of instructor.
An investigation of both critical and social scientific theories that examine the mass media's (potential) effects on audiences. Social scientific theory and research and the controversies surrounding them in the area of media "effects" are reviewed and evaluated to determine the efficacy of claims such as causal relationships between images of violence and real-world occurrences. Critical theory and research will also be investigated to determine if media create, perpetuate and sustain certain (sometimes objectionable) ideologies. Staff.

387, 388, 389 Selected Topics (1/4, 1/2, 1)
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
An examination of subjects or areas not included in other courses. Staff.

391, 392 Internship (1/2, 1)
Offered on a credit/no credit basis. Staff.

401, 402 Seminar (1/2, 1)
Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing and permission of instructor.
A detailed study of significant and relevant problems in communication studies. Specific topic for consideration will be determined before registration. Staff.

411, 412 Directed Study (1/2, 1)