Communication Studies  {SF State Bulletin 2011 - 2012}

Image: San Francisco State University seal on a gold background

Communication Studies

College of Arts and Humanities

Dean: Paul Sherwin


Communication Studies Department

HUM 282
Phone: 415-338-1597
Chair: Gerianne Merrigan



Professors: Busby, Chen, Chung, Jenkins, Merrigan, Shimanoff, Tuman, Yep
Associate Professors: Isaacson, Lovaas, Sabee
Assistant Professors: Golden, Kilgard, Wingard



B.A. in Communication Studies

Minor in Communication Studies

M.A. in Communication Studies



Program Scope

Mission of the Department. We are committed to the study of human communication in various contexts from multiple and interconnected perspectives in such a way as to contribute to a more humane world. Through communication humans form identities, connect with one another, examine values, enact cultures, and work collectively.


The department examines how people express themselves verbally and nonverbally; how identities are created, performed, and changed; how people listen to others; and how symbols relate to human behavior. It acknowledges, appreciates, and integrates human diversity in its various forms. It studies human communication in culturally and socially diverse contexts. It does so by using a variety of methods and technologies to discover and share knowledge about communication and to analyze, interpret, and perform discourse. Areas of study include language and social interaction, group processes, organizational communication, interpersonal and intercultural communication, rhetoric and political communication, public speaking, performance studies, and research methodologies.


Communication Studies students can expect to develop skills essential for leadership and career development, and for understanding and interpreting events. They learn to advocate and critically debate ideas in social and political settings, appreciate diverse communication styles, work productively in task-oriented groups, and engage in rewarding interpersonal relationships.


The department works to express, as accurately and clearly as it can, what it perceives, feels, and believes, encouraging students to do the same so that all may engage openly in genuine dialogue. It also encourages the practice of hearing and honoring a variety of voices and celebrating creative and humane approaches to solving complex human problems in our local and global communities.


Advising. Students work with an assigned adviser in designing their academic program. Students must consult with their adviser at the start of the program. Every undergraduate student's application for graduation must be signed by an adviser who has worked with that student and has approved the major program. Students may select an adviser or ask to be assigned to an adviser by contacting the department in their first semester as a Communication Studies major. Otherwise, students are assigned an adviser by the department.


Special Programs. See advisers before selecting these programs.


Forensics: A competitive intercollegiate program in policy debate and individual speaking events such as performance of literature, extemporaneous and persuasive speaking. Director: Whalen.


English Language Arts: Students who wish to teach at the secondary level (grades 7-12) may prepare for the Secondary Credential Program with a subject matter program in English Language Arts. A program that combines Communication Studies and English courses is available. Adviser: Nelson Graffe, English Department.


Career Outlook

Graduates in communication have an excellent track record entering their chosen career fields and attending graduate and professional schools. Communication graduates have secured positions as public relations managers, human resources trainers, employment recruiting specialists, marketing representatives, civil rights activists, campaign managers, and sales representatives, among others. Advisers can assist students in planning programs of study that are attractive to graduate schools and to prospective employers.


The department's internship program has helped many students begin their careers. The program offers over 200 internship and service learning opportunities. Students are encouraged to seek advising from the department's internship coordinator: Isaacson.


Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies

Requirements for the Major

Students pursuing a B.A. in Communication Studies must complete a 44 unit program consisting of 32 units of breadth area requirements and 12 units of electives, which may be used to form a coherent depth of study. There are eight breadth area requirements: Communication Diversity, Group and Organizational Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Language and Social Interaction, Performance Studies, Public Communication, Research Methodology, and Rhetoric and Political Communication.


With adviser approval, up to 9 units of lower division transfer courses may be counted toward the major as elective units or potentially, within a depth of study. A maximum of 8 units may be counted toward the electives/depth of study within the major, from any combination of Projects Teaching Communication (COMM 685), Internship (COMM 695), and/or elective courses from allied departments. Any course that is used to fulfill a Segment I General Education requirement cannot be counted within the Communication Studies major; however, COMM 150 and ENG 214, or equivalent courses, must be completed as pre-requisites or co-requisites to enrollment in any breadth area course in the COMM major.


On-line course descriptions are available.


Breadth Area Requirements
Select eight courses
(i.e., one course from the options listed for each breadth area)

Communication Diversity (4 units)

Course Title
COMM 503 Gender and Communication
COMM 504 Communication and Masculinities
COMM 525 Sexual Identity and Communication
COMM 541 Intercultural Communication
COMM 542 Intracultural Communication
COMM 543 Dialogues Across Differences

Group and Organizational Communication (4 units)

Course Title
COMM 521 Small Group Discussion
COMM 522 Organizational Communication
COMM 531 Conflict Resolution
COMM 532 Interviewing Methods in Organizational Settings
COMM 533 Communication and Empowerment in Organizations
COMM 537 Leadership Communication

Interpersonal Communication (4 units)

Course Title
COMM 502 Interpersonal Communication
COMM 512 Nonverbal Communication
COMM 515 Family Communication
COMM 527 Health Communication
COMM 534 Mediation Theory and Practice
COMM 544 Communication and Aging

Language and Social Interaction (4 units)

Course Title
COMM 561 Social Semiotics
COMM 562 Discourse in Interaction
COMM 563 Conversational Analysis

Performance Studies (4 units)

Course Title
COMM 352 Women and Words
COMM 362 Introduction to Oral Interpretation
COMM 363 Oral Interpretation of the First Person Voice
COMM 364 Oral Interpretation of Children's Literature
COMM 496 Performance Art
COMM 697 Advanced Performance Study

Public Communication (4 units)

Course Title
COMM 351 Public Speaking
COMM 365 Argumentation and Debate
COMM 366 Persuasion

Research Methodology (4 units)

Course Title
COMM 661 Communication Research Strategies
COMM 662 Communication Criticism
COMM 663 Qualitative Methods in Communication and Performance
COMM 664 Research Methods in Language and Social Interaction

Rhetorical and Political Communication (4 units)

Course Title
COMM 302 Communication and Social Process
COMM 341 Rhetorical Theory
COMM 440 Political Communication
COMM 444 Rhetoric of the Media
COMM 445 The Rhetoric of Terrorism
COMM 449 The Rhetoric of Criminality and Punishment
COMM 461 Issues in Free Speech

Students may select any 12 units of elective coursework in Communication Studies, given the stipulations listed above under, “Requirements for the Major.” Alternately, students can develop in-depth knowledge of one area of communication by selecting three additional courses related to a single breadth area (see an adviser for assistance developing a depth of study plan).

Students majoring in Communication Studies must pass the Junior English Proficiency Essay Test (JEPET) OR pass one of the breadth area courses that has been designated to meet the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR). Presently, the GWAR courses in Communication Studies that simultaneously meet a breadth area requirement and GWAR include: COMM 522-GW, COMM 534-GW, COMM 561-GW, COMM 562-GW.

Total for major: 44


Minor in Communication Studies

Select three courses (12 units), each of which is from a different breadth area; select 8 additional units with approval of an adviser in Communication Studies. With consent of an adviser, up to 8 units of lower division coursework in communication may be counted toward the minor. However, any course that is used to fulfill a Segment I, General Education requirement cannot be used to fulfill minor requirements.



Title Units
Units selected from three of the following breadth areas: 12
Communication Diversity
Group and Organizational Communication
Interpersonal Communication
Language and Social Interaction
Performance Studies
Public Communication
Rhetoric and Political Communication
Research Methodology
Additional units on advisement in communication 8

Total for Minor: 20


Master of Arts in Communication Studies

Admission to Program

The requirements for admission are an undergraduate major in communication, a 3.0 or better upper division grade point average, scores on the General Graduate Record Examination, and two letters of reference. Applicants not meeting these criteria may be eligible for conditional admission. Conditions may vary from completing 4 to 16 units of approved undergraduate courses in Communication Studies to earning a B or better in the initial three graduate courses, including COMM 700, Introduction to Graduate Study. None of the undergraduate units used in fulfilling prerequisites for advancement to classified status may be counted toward the satisfaction of course requirements in the graduate program. GRE scores and letters of recommendation should be sent directly to the graduate coordinator in the department: Lovaas.


Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One: Students must take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) analytical writing test prior to applying for admission to the Communication Studies program. Students who achieve a score of 4.0 or higher will have passed the first level graduate writing requirement. Students who achieve a score below 4.0 on the GRE writing test may still be considered for admission to the Communication Studies program, based on the rest of their application materials, but will be required to retake the GRE or complete a department-approved writing skills course (conditional admission) before meeting the first level writing requirement. Level Two: satisfactory completion of master's thesis or written comprehensive examination or creative project.


On-line course descriptions are available. Upper-division courses the department offers may be considered, upon approval of the graduate adviser, except public performance courses.


Core Requirements

Course Title Units
COMM 700 Introduction to Graduate Study 4
COMM 871
COMM 872
COMM 873
Communication Research Strategies
Field Research Methods
Research Strategies in Language and Social Interaction
Units selected in graduate seminars on advisement. Seminars must be from COMM 701-798 16
Electives on advisement 8
One of the following: 3
COMM 894 Creative Work Project
COMM 896 Directed Readings in Speech Communication
Written Comprehensive Examination
COMM 898 Master's Thesis

Minimum total: 35

Note: No more than 8 units may be from upper-division courses regardless of department; no more than 8 units, graduate or undergraduate, may be from an allied department; and no more than 8 units may be in any combination of COMM 850-852, COMM 855, COMM 885 or COMM 899. No more than 4 units may be listed on the ATC for any combination of COMM 851, COMM 852, or COMM 885.


Master's Thesis or Creative Work Project. Each candidate who selects the option of a Master's Thesis or Creative Work Project must submit a written proposal for approval and complete the department's Description of Proposed Culminating Experience form. After the proposal is approved and a supervising committee of two or more faculty members is established, the Proposal for Culminating Experience Requirement form is signed and filed in the Division of Graduate Studies office. Following the candidate’s successful oral defense of the completed thesis or creative work project, a Final Report of Completion for the Culminating Experience is signed and filed in the Division of Graduate Studies.


Master's Written Comprehensive Examination. Each candidate who selects the option of Master's Written Comprehensive Examination must establish a three-member faculty committee and complete the department's Description of Proposed Culminating Experience form. Next, the Proposal for Culminating Experience Requirement form must be signed and filed in the Division of Graduate Studies. The candidate then enrolls in COMM 896 and completes the examinations; COMM 896 is offered in the spring semester of each academic year.


SF State Home