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.
Mission and Vision Statement
The Department of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh educates students who make positive change in the world. We are engaged in the production and study of cultural, political, and material practices of meaning-making. In pursuing our goals, we examine contexts of power, knowledge, and desire that exert differential impacts on various kinds of bodies and groups. We collaborate with students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels to inform their lives through practical knowledge and scholarly criticism.
In short, we attend to the intersection of continuity and change. Our research, teaching, and public-facing work in community outreach attends to structures of power. We find such power at work in capital, race, class, gender, sex, sexuality, ability, and elsewhere, and we look for opportunities for social justice. Moreover, we examine the forms of persuasion, protest, silence, coming-to-voice, testimony, noise, and imagination needed to transform such power structures.
The Department of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh is committed to cultivating a fundamentally diverse, inclusive, supportive, and self-reflexive environment for all its undergraduate, graduate, staff, and faculty members. Cultivating this kind of environment will allow the Department to make the greatest positive impact on the field of communication. We commit ourselves to becoming a creative community of inquiry in which all can flourish and contribute to disciplinary innovation in research and teaching. We also strive to bring intellectual curiosity, skill, and dedication to the question of how to generate and maintain a just and equitable scholarly community.
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.