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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.” 

The faculty in this department reveal their commitment to this statement each and every day of the year.  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.  From our leadership roles in the Center for Democratic Deliberation and the Center for Humanities and Information to our curricular oversight of programs such as the course in Rhetoric and Civic Life or the Intercollege Minor in Civic and Community Engagement, the faculty in CAS 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.  Ekaterina Haskins examines rhetoric as an intellectual and pedagogical tradition and a practice that shapes individual and collective identities.   We celebrate Katya as the recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Scholar Award from the Rhetoric and Communication Theory Division of the National Communication Association in November.  Andrew High studies interpersonal communication, with a focus on supportive communication and computer-mediated communication.  Andy received his PhD from our department in 2011, and he received the Early Career Award from the Interpersonal Communication Division of the National Communication Association in 2017.  Michael Steudeman focuses on the rhetoric of education policy in the United States to illuminate how policy makers invoke education to sidestep, reframe, or obfuscate debates over other social problems.  He is also the 2017 recipient of the Gerald R. Miller Outstanding Dissertation Award, conferred by the National Communication Association.  These colleagues join a celebrated faculty that 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 the 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