UMass SealUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst - 2007/08 Guide to Undergraduate Programs
[ Home ][ Undergraduate Admissions, Expenses, & Financial Aid ][ Academic Information ][ Schools & Colleges ]
[ Departments & Programs ][ Other Academic Opportunities & Services ][ General Information ][ Site Index ]
Department & Program Listings
[ Departments & Programs A-D ]
[ Departments & Programs E-L ]
[ Departments & Programs M-R ]
[ Departments & Programs S-Z ]
[ Departments & Programs - Show All ]


Communication | Courses | Faculty

The Department of Communication offers two majors, Communication and Journalism. These have separate requirements and each offers a Bachelor of Arts degree. More information is provided below.


407 Machmer Hall

Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Contact: April M. Tidlund
Office: 407 Machmer
Phone: (413) 545-3539

Chairperson of Department: To be announced. Professors Carbaugh, Cooks, Cronen, Hanson, Jhally, Morgan, Norden, Servaes; Associate Professors Bailey, Castañeda, Chakravartty, Chang, Ciecko, Geddes, Henderson, Scharrer; Assistant Professors Fuentes-Bautista, Gencarella, Moreira, Shabazz, Shimpach, West; Lecturers Geisler, Phillips; Adjunct Professors Byg, Portuges.

The Field

Majors focus on the role of communication in society, learning new ways of thinking about communication as they explore everything from face-to-face interaction to new media technologies. Students develop critical and analytical skills for understanding the role of communication in their own lives and in the larger society.

The goals of the major are largely analytical: to understand how communication processes work, whether in an argument between friends, in a political speech, in misunderstandings between people from different cultures, in governmental regulation of media industries, or in how a television program may affect children. Emphasis is on theory, methods of inquiry, and critical thinking on a variety of topics, including the role of various media forms (advertising, television, the news, film, newer technologies such as the Internet) in society, and social forces and the regulation of media, as well as social interaction and the construction of personal identities and interpersonal relationships.

The Major

The emphasis in most courses is on critical thinking, and the courses focus on one or more of five topic areas: 1) film studies; 2) rhetoric and performance studies; 3) media and popular culture studies; 4) gobal media, technology, and governance; and 5) language, culture, and social interaction.

Issues of diversity, globalization, social justice, multiculturalism, and democracy and citizenship are central in the department. A number of community service learning options or other opportunities to participate in important public initiatives regularly exist in the curriculum. The goal is for Communication majors to be informed and committed citizens of the world.

A small number of courses with technical or skills-based components supplement the largely analytical nature of the major. For instance, the department offers multiple sections of a very popular course in public speaking each semester. It also offers a course designed to introduce students to the concepts involved in television and film production, as well as two courses in production using camera and studio equipment. The major also regularly offers one or two courses in screen-writing.

In addition to these opportunities within the curriculum, students are very successful at gaining applied training and skills through internships or various extracurricular campus experiences, e.g., working at the campus TV station, radio station or newspaper. Note: Students can count only two courses in TV/film production toward major requirements.

Admission to the Major

Admission to the undergraduate major is restricted. Although many first-year and transfer students are admitted directly into the Communication major when they are admitted to the university, the major is restricted for students already on campus.

Students who are not directly admitted may apply to the major during the semester in which they complete the following three courses:
1. COMM 118 Introduction to Interpersonal Communication
2. COMM 121 Introduction to Media and Culture
3. One analytical reasoning course, i.e., a General Education R2 course.

Enrollment in these courses is limited. No action will be taken on an application until grades have been received for these three courses.

Students not directly admitted to the major must complete and submit a written application provided by the Department of Communication. The application includes 1) an up-to-date, unofficial transcript that includes the grades received in the three predictor courses, above, and 2) one to three written statements on the student’s academic interests and record, career goals, and reasons for wishing to become a Communication major. Forms are available from Machmer 407.

The evaluation of the application is based primarily on: 1) performance in Communication courses, 2) overall academic record, and 3) the written statement(s). For the 2009-10 academic year, it is projected that students with GPAs above 2.900 in University of Massachusetts Amherst Communication classes and above 2.700 overall in UMass Amherst classes will be guaranteed admission but that a number of students with GPAs below these thresholds will also be admitted. Applications with an overall UMass Amherst GPA or UMass Communication GPA below these thresholds are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Major Requirements

Students majoring in Communication must complete at least 12 courses (36 credits) in Communication.

1. All three of the following (9 credits):
118 Introduction to Interpersonal Communication
121 Introduction to Media and Culture
375 Writing About Communication (fulfills Junior Year Writing requirement)

2. At least one course (3 credits) from the following:
212 Cultural Codes in Communication
263 Introduction to Argumentation and Debate
265 Democracy and Discourse
297M Communicating Gender
297Z Performance and Social Theory
310 Persuasion Theory
318 Comparative Communication Theory
352 Group Dynamics
366 Approaches to Rhetorical Criticism
397F Myth, Ritual and Performance
397I Communication, Culture and Social Identity
494S Conflict/Mediation
495K Rhetorical Criticism
497E Advanced Interpersonal Communication

3. At least one course (3 credits) from the following:
222 Media Programming and Institutions
226 Social Impact of Mass Media
240 Modes of Film Communication
287 Advertising as Social Communication
297E Special Topic—Popular Culture and Cultural Studies
397T Special Topic—Contemporary World Cinema

4. Seven additional courses (21 credits minimum). At least 15 credits (five courses, including 375) of the total 36 credits for the major must be at the 300 level or above, and must include at least three credits from courses numbered at the 400 level or above.

Each semester a number of Special Topics (COMM 297, 397, 497, or 597) and Seminar (COMM 491, 492, 493, 494, 495, 591, 592, 593, 594, or 595) courses may also be used as electives.

Please note the following restrictions:

1. All major courses must be taken for a letter grade, not Pass/Fail.

2. Only three credits of COMM 396 Independent Study may be used within the 36 credits of departmental requirements.

3. General practicum (UMASS 298Y) credits given for internships may not be counted toward the major.

4. A minimum GPA of 2.000 in the major is required for graduation.

5. Only 6 credits of production courses may be applied toward the 36-credit department requirement.

Internships and International Exchanges

Internships are optional, supervised apprenticeships that serve as introduction to many types of organizations and professional work. They can provide applied, hands-on experiences that complement the theoretical orientation of the undergraduate curriculum. In many cases, they provide experiences and connections that help students find jobs after graduation.

Communication majors are encouraged to study abroad, and over 40 majors do so each year. Many such students report the experience to be life-changing.

Career Opportunities

The B.A. in Communication is a liberal arts degree, preparing students for any career that calls for higher literacy skills, analytical reasoning, and critical thinking. The Communication major helps prepare many students for work as communication specialists in industry; local, state, and federal government agencies; educational institutions; research organizations; and political organizations. Specific positions in such organizations can include: production, sales, and programming positions for radio and television stations; media and communication advisers for political campaigns, intercultural organizations, labor unions, and government agencies; and communication consultants for personnel management, advertising, and sales organizations.

Surveys of Communication alumni indicate that about 30 percent of graduates work in print, film, and broadcast communication industries; about 45 percent work in government, non-profit or business-related occupations, such as advertising, public relations, sales, financial or social services, and administration; and about 20 percent go on to graduate study, professional schools or teaching.


108 Bartlett Hall

Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Contact: Karen List
Office: 108 Bartlett
Phone: (413) 545-1376

Director of Major:? Professor Karen List. Professors Blais, Sims, Whitehead; Associate Professor McBride; Lecturers Fox, O’Brien-Weiss, Perkins, Roche, Simurda; Adjunct Lecturers Allen, Berman, Brodeur, Carey, Cohen, Forcier, Foudy, Katzenbach, Madsen, Muller, Neal, Newton Skolfield, Vandal.

The Field

The field of journalism is changing rapidly. The emphasis on traditional, ethical journalism remains, but the ways in which journalism is gathered and transmitted have been transformed. Reporters who once wrote for a newspaper are likely now to find themselves also writing for the paper’s website, taking digital photos to accompany articles, and recording podcasts (audio) and vodcasts (video). Multimedia reporting is the reality not only for newspapers, but also in television, radio, photography, public relations, and online jobs. As equipment becomes cheaper and more portable, freelancing work for a variety of media has also become easier. “Backpack reporting” allows one person to report, write, take pictures and record audio and video on assignments, both domestically and abroad, and transmit them to media outlets instantaneously. Journalism also continues to be a solid foundation for many going into teaching, the law, government and other fields where communication and critical thinking skills are paramount.

The Major

The Journalism major has a distinguished, award-winning faculty including winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Freedom Forum Journalism Teacher of the Year Award. It draws a diverse group of students who graduate to jobs in newspapers, magazines, television, on-line journalism, and other fields requiring skills in reporting and writing. The major emphasizes both the theory and practice of journalism. Students receive a thorough grounding in the ethics and traditions of journalism as well as the nuts and bolts of reporting and writing. Although graduates of the program end up in a variety of fields including law, government, public relations, and teaching, the major is geared for students who want to work in journalism: daily or weekly newspapers, magazines, online publications, and broadcast media. Alumni work at the New York Times, the Boston Globe, National Public Radio, Dateline NBC, The Associated Press, and dozens of top media outlets around the world.


1. JOURNAL 300 Newswriting and Reporting (4 cr), plus at least one advanced writing course offered by the program.
2. Any two of the following five courses: JOURNAL 312 Journalism and Law; JOURNAL 320 History of American Journalism; JOURNAL 345 Media Criticism; JOURNAL 360 Ethics; and JOURNAL 450 Freedom of the Press.
3. At least four additional elective courses from the department, numbered 200 and above, for a total of at least 26 credits in Journalism courses, but no more than 36. Neither Pass/Fail credits nor internship credits may be counted toward these requirements. No more than three credits of independent study may be applied to the major.
4. A formal minor from outside the Department of Communication, or, when no formal minor exists, 15 credits in courses numbered 200 or above in an individual concentration, with the writtten approval of the director.
Students are encouraged to consider studying at a university outside the United States whenever possible, or completing an internship. International study and mastery of a language other than English enrich the academic experience, and internships enhance career opportunties in journalism and related fields.

Admission to the Major

Admission to the Journalism major is restricted. Students may be admitted directly into the major as first-year students when they apply for admission to the university. Transfer students may be admitted directly to the major during orientation or may be asked to complete more coursework at the university before admission. For students already on campus, the major is restricted, and they must apply. Students from any major are welcome to apply during the first or second semester of their sophomore year. Applicants must be a 3.000 GPA and provide a written statement of purpose. There are no prerequisite courses. Applications are available from the Journalism office or online at

Career Opportunities

Journalism majors acquire qualifications for positions in which reporting, research, writing, and editing are central. These may include work for newspapers and other news organizations, book publishing, public relations, and government agencies. The major is also recognized as strong liberal arts preparation for graduate study in such fields as journalism, mass communication, history, advertising and public relations, or law.

Communication | Courses | Faculty