The study of communication is one of the oldest, and yet one of the most contemporary, of fields. Communication majors examine important questions about communication in society, civic engagement, and persuasion in a way that combines the best of the ancient liberal arts tradition with the critical attention to the newest media technologies.
About 500 students are currently enrolled in the communication program, which offers 41 undergraduate courses. The average size of upper-level courses is 30 students.
The department’s record of research excellence distinguishes it as one of the premier centers for study of communication in the world. Faculty members publish award-winning work on rhetoric, media, public address, and argument in leading university presses and journals. Collaborative links forged with other programs such as bioethics, cultural studies, philosophy of science, security studies, and women’s studies promote interdisciplinary inquiry and help make our department an intellectually dynamic community.
Programs and Opportunities
We house the William Pitt Debating Union, a co-curricular program enabling undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty to engage in public debates, debate tournaments, and debate outreach initiatives. The department makes available additional opportunities for practical application of communication skills through our Oral Communication Lab and Speaking in the Disciplines program.
Our renowned graduate program encourages individually tailored plans of study leading to Master of Arts and PhD degrees; our alumni have gone on to academic careers in some of the nation's most respected colleges and universities.
Whether locally or globally, it is through communication that people define and interpret the world around them and enter into community with others. It is therefore crucial to foster critical awareness of the choices made when people communicate and to create conditions that enable people to communicate well.
To those ends, the Department of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh is committed to providing exceptional educational opportunities for its students and to shaping the direction of communication studies and practices in state, national, and international settings.
We seek to develop and synthesize new philosophical, theoretical, critical, cultural, and historical approaches to the examination of communication. We attend to symbolic action and public advocacy through diverse media with critical attention to history, culture, and rhetoric. We consider the ramifications of technologies for the production, dissemination, and reception of communicative artifacts. We share a common commitment to intellectual and cultural pluralism, public issue awareness, and concern for social justice.
Our research faculty is particularly strong in drawing on the past to understand the future of communication, and using future trends to guide historical study of communication texts, practices, and technologies. Recognizing that the past is always present, we see history as a resource for understanding cultures as complex fields of communication. Studying communicative cultures as both tradition and legacy, we aim to make positive interventions into the public life streaming through them.
Academic study of communication in Pittsburgh dates to 1794, when students delivered orations and debated as part of their coursework at the Pittsburgh Academy. The teaching of classical rhetoric continued as the school evolved into a modern university at the turn of the 20th century, when Pittsburgh professors helped to drive a movement to establish freestanding speech departments in the United States.
Today, scholars in the Department of Communication critically analyze artifacts such as speeches, films, public arguments, media technologies, and interpersonal encounters. Our undergraduate major draws from a liberal arts tradition to cultivate skills and knowledge that empower students in personal, professional, and cultural settings.
The Department of Communications offers access to its Bylaws.