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Ratings prove that television audiences prefer laugh tracks over silence. Now and then a new show will go experimental, opting to can the canned laughter, only to be promptly cancelled. So why do we want to laugh on cue? Why are shows funnier when a studio full of people laughs with us? You may soon have the answers as a major in communications studies/speech communication and rhetoric. In this program, students learn how certain messages influence individual and group behavior—and why—as well as how our reactions reflect the underlying values of society. You’ll spend a significant amount of time studying different kinds of speaking and writing and the strategies speakers and writers use to make their points and drive them home. You’ll take a look at verbal and nonverbal messages, audience reaction, and the varied effects of different communication environments. Communication theory will play a part too, as you delve into monumental speeches, revolutionary political campaigns, radical social movements, and the trends in styles of news reporting.

Rhetoric itself is about putting together good arguments—communication for the means of persuasion. Fiery personalities, quick wits, and the cunning will take pleasure in a major that includes rhetoric—mastering different types of appeals and how to craft those appeals and make them situation-specific, audience-tailored, and sharp as all get out. Your studies will range from classical forms of rhetoric, like great Roman orations, to modern day places where it rears its head, like websites, film, and television.

A major in communications studies/speech communication and rhetoric makes for solid pre-professional training. It will prepare you for a wealth of careers in business, public relations, advertising, human resources, government, education, media, and social services. You won’t come away with specific skills—like putting together an ad campaign or producing a television show. It will, however, give you a strong foundation from which to launch any number of careers and aspirations.


  • Argumentative Writing

  • Behavioral Research Methods in Communication

  • Business Communication

  • Communication and Society

  • Communication Technology

  • Electronic Media

  • Great Speakers and Speeches

  • History of Rhetoric

  • Interpersonal Communication

  • Nonverbal Communication

  • Propaganda and Persuasion

  • Rhetoric of Film

  • Rhetorical Theory and Analysis


Take all the English and writing-intensive courses you can—there’s no better way to prepare for a communication or rhetoric major. Courses in literature, poetry, drama, and public speaking are all integral to these fields, and instruction in a foreign language would be extremely useful (especially Latin). Consider joining the forensics or debate team, too, or auditioning for a play. What better way to test audience reaction first hand?