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A Message from the Department Head


John Gastil 013.jpgThis is an exciting time for the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences. We have hired several new faculty, including social scientists Erina MacGeorge, L. J. Shen, and Anne Merrill and rhetorical scholars Anne Demo and Brad Vivian. We have also promoted many of our instructional faculty to the rank of senior lecturer. Meanwhile, our graduate students have landed jobs at top programs, including research universities such as the University of Iowa and Louisiana State University, and excellent liberal arts institutions, such as Hope College. Our undergraduates have one of the best job-placement records in the College of the Liberal Arts, and our faculty have continued to exercise leadership in their respective areas of expertise.

Each of those achievements relates back to strategic goals we set for the future, including (1) shaping the future of communication research, (2) maintaining a first-tier graduate program, and (3) providing an undergraduate education that increases and broadens the appeal of the CAS major.

With regard to the first goal, the CAS faculty includes established leaders in the discipline. Our faculty include past presidents of our professional associations, editors of leading journals, and scholars whose work has become foundational in our core areas of study. Many of our senior faculty hold College-named professorships, and our faculty’s per-capita productivity rates greatly exceed those of our peers. The most recent hires we have made are all aimed at continuing that tradition of leadership, and we have made it possible for our current faculty to take on more visible roles, such as Kirt Wilson accepting the opportunity to serve as president of the Rhetorical Society of America.

As for our graduate program, historically our department has placed roughly two-thirds of its graduate students in post-docs and tenure-track jobs. Our performance is above the averages for humanities and social science placement in the College of the Liberal Arts and compares very favorably with peer programs in communication. As the job market tightens, we are taking special care to ensure that we continue to recruit the best students and help them develop strong publication records, teaching portfolios, and research skills for the evolving job market in communication departments and outside academia. We will undertake initiatives that advance our reputation as a selective, prestigious communication program at the forefront of graduate education in our field.

We are also at the heart of the university's undergraduate teaching mission. We are in the process of updating our major and curricula to better articulate its value for Penn State students who want an intellectually challenging education that prepares them for a range of possible careers, instills a sense of personal and professional ethics, readies students for active roles in public life, helps them form enduring relationships, and inspires continued learning after college. We also continue to play a leadership role in general education through our public speaking course (CAS100) and a special course in rhetoric and civic life (CAS 137/138).

In these ways and many more, we hope to improve the public's understanding of communication and our ability to work effectively together in a wide variety of settings--from personal relationships to health care to public life.


John Gastil, Head

Department of Communication Arts & Sciences