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Message from the Department Head

The mission statement of the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences opens with this sentence:

“The Department of Communication Arts and Sciences is committed to the study, teaching, and practice of human communication for the betterment of Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world.” 

Events in the past year, whether on our campus or the other side of the planet, underscore the importance of this mission.  Our faculty uses theories and methods that span the humanities and social sciences to understand the role of communication in diverse interpersonal, communal, national, international, and cultural settings.  Through our research and teaching, we aim to promote and the knowledge and skills related to communication that our communities need to transcend times of discord and to foster our collective well-being.

This year, the Department welcomes three new faculty members.  Mary Stuckey specializes in political and presidential rhetoric, political communication, and American Indian politics.  We celebrate her ascension to Distinguished Scholar of the National Communication Association in November.  Pamela VanHaitsma is an interdisciplinary scholar, who bridges rhetoric, the archive, and gender and sexuality studies.  She also serves as associate director of the Center for Humanities and Information.  Timothy Worley studies how partners in close relationships discuss difficult topics, such as recurring arguments, complaints, and jealousy.  These colleagues join a celebrated faculty this is widely recognized for its leadership in the broader communication discipline. 

Our graduate program also continues to thrive.  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 it compares very favorably with peer programs in communication.  We are proactive about deserving our reputation as a selective, prestigious communication program at the forefront of graduate education in our field.

We also embrace our role in university's undergraduate teaching mission. Our department offers Penn State students 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.  Our department is home to four majors and six minors, and we play a leadership role in general education through our public speaking course (CAS100) and our course in rhetoric and civic life (CAS 137/138).

You’ll find a lot of Penn State pride in Sparks Building these days.  Personally, I am deeply gratified to be surrounded by people of great integrity who seem to have boundless energy to devote to the next generation of communication arts and sciences students, the future of our discipline, and the betterment of our society.



Denise Solomon

Head, Department of Communication Arts & Sciences