The mission of the faculty and students of the Department of Communication Studies is to examine human symbolic activity as it shapes and is shaped by relationships, institutions, technology, and culture. This work concerns the creation, analysis, and critique of messages ranging from face-to-face to digital media contexts. The department’s research and teaching devote particular attention to scholarly initiatives aimed at understanding and explaining the role of communication in (a) facilitating civic engagement, mediating public controversies, and organizing for social change, (b) constituting individual and family health, promoting healthy behaviors, and helping persons navigate relational challenges, and (c) creating, maintaining, and challenging personal, social, and community identity in a complex and diverse world.
In a close-knit, collaborative community, we offer students bachelor, master and doctoral degrees that come with the prestige of a Big Ten University.
Our faculty is on the cutting edge of research in their respective areas of specialty. Our talented professors have received outstanding teaching, research and service awards. They care deeply about teaching, and their students. We actively mentor and collaborate with our students, focusing research and teaching on digital media, public advocacy, argument analysis, communicating across difference, negotiation and conflict management, family interaction and relational competencies.
Whatever you want to do professionally, and wherever you want your skills and degree to take you, we’ll help you find your voice.
The charge to provide academic instruction in communication goes back to the University’s founding. The original charter of the University of Nebraska mandated the appointment of seven professors, including a professor of rhetoric. When the campus doors opened for the first time in the fall of 1871, speech and debate activities were carried out by the Palladian and Delian Literary Societies. In fact, our debate program is the oldest organized student activity on campus.
The history of communication at UNL is a story similar to the evolution of the discipline at many public research universities. It began with a focus on instruction in rhetoric and oratory. The oral traditions of rhetoric and drama grew together in the early years. Then, with the development of cognate disciplines in the mid-twentieth century, various communication programs were housed in a large umbrella department containing Speech, Theatre, Communication Disorders and Audiology, Radio and Television. In the latter half of the twentieth-century, specialization lead to the creation of departments with more defined intellectual missions. Theatre joined with disciplines in fine and performing arts. Audiology and Communication Disorders migrated to special education. Radio and Television became Broadcasting and found a home in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. The speech portion of communication broadened its scope beyond just orality and with its twin foci on communication research (social science) and rhetorical studies (humanities), found its intellectual home where it began in antiquity in the liberal arts the College of Arts and Sciences.
Recent years have brought significant growth in the research productivity of the department. In July 2011 UNL moved to the Big Ten. This move has important academic implications, as UNL has become part of one of the elite academic consortiums in the nation, and this adds to the prestige of a UNL degree. Our faculty members and graduate students have received more recognition and awards from the University, College, and national and regional organizations than during any other period in the department's history. Members of our faculty are leaders in our national professional associations. Faculty regularly work on research projects with graduate and undergraduate students. The department is well known for excellent research, superlative teaching and for being a close and caring community.