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Communication Studies

Department Office
Nichols Hall 330
707 664-2149

Administrative Coordinator
Cathryn Stuckey

Department Chair
Jonah Raskin

Melinda Barnard / Theory, Advertising, Public Relations, Quantitative Analysis
Elizabeth Burch / Criticism, Ethics, Scriptwriting, Environmental Communication
Benét Leigh / Journalism, Criticism
Michael Litle / Film, Video, Criticism
David Page / Radio
Jonah Raskin / Journalism, History, Law, Film Criticism

Course Plan / Sample Four-Year Program for Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies / Minor in Communication Studies / Individual Course Descriptions

Program offered
Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies

The communication studies major is an innovative, interdisciplinary program that prepares students for careers in the media or for advanced graduate study and research.

Communication studies coordinates three distinct approaches to the media: practical application, historical study, and critical analysis. Practical application combines basic training in equipment operation, communication skills, production design, organizational skills, and professional internship. Historical study focuses on the evolution of the mass media, the relationship of the mass media and society, and public relations. Critical analysis explores media ethics, and the analysis and evaluation of specific mediated texts using qualitative and quantitative methods.

Students are encouraged to develop a specific advisory plan with the assistance of a faculty advisor. Advisory plans, based on the student’s specific interests, may focus on:

The department emphasizes internships that provide students with real-world insights into the media. Students are advised to gain the practical experience and skills needed in the media marketplace by participating in a variety of internships. The department has developed professional media internships with community organizations, radio and television stations, newspapers, magazines, and other media groups.

All on-campus media operate in conjunction with communication studies classes.

On-campus media offer a variety of opportunities for students. They include the Star, the student newspaper; Detour Sonoma, a video magazine; and KSUN World Wide, an internet radio station that can be heard at

Facilities available to students include: recording studio, photography darkrooms, computer labs, a state-of-the-art theatre, a videotape/digital editing facility, an equipped studio for multi-camera video production, a newspaper production facility, and a cablecast radio station.

Communication studies majors are employed in either the public or private sector. Students aim toward such entry-level positions as media craftsperson in video, audio, film, graphics, or radio; newspaper, radio or TV reporter; radio announcer; sports broadcaster; magazine writer, scriptwriter, advertising or public relations copywriter; graduate-level study in professional career preparation programs.

Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies

Degree Requirements units
General education 51
Major requirements 46
General electives 23
Total units needed for graduation 120

Students applying to become communication studies majors must have an overall 3.00 GPA.

The communication studies course requirements are divided into two groups: core (25 units) and major electives (21 units). All students are required to take the seven prescribed core courses, which total 21 units. In addition, every student must earn 4 additional units either as a media intern (COMS 499) or by completing an extensive senior project (COMS 498) for a total of 25 core course units.

Major Core Requirements

COMS 200 Principles of Mass Communication 3

COMS 201 Story Telling Via Video; or
COMS 210 Writing for the Media; or
COMS 240 Introduction to Public Relations; or
COMS 265 Introduction to Radio Broadcasting
COMS 202 Methods of Media Criticism 3
COMS 301 Mass Communication Theory and Research 3
COMS 302 Media Ethics 3
COMS 315 Media Law 3
COMS 402 Advanced Media Criticism 3

COMS 498 Senior Project; or
COMS 499 Internship in the Media
Total units in the major core 25

Major Electives / Concentrations

Students declare an elective concentration and take 21 units within that concentration. Elective concentrations include radio/music, journalism, video, public relations, general, and Spanish. Students also take the appropriate beginning skill course for their concentration from the communication studies core classes. A completed minor can be substituted as a concentration. Substitutions and individually-designed concentrations will be approved on a case-by-case basis.
Total units in major electives 21
Total units in the major 46

Majors may not use their COMS electives to meet GE requirements.

Sample Four-Year Program for Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies

This plan urges students to take COMS 200, the introductory communication studies course, in spring of their freshman year. This plan does not identify the communication studies elective courses an individual student might take. A complete list of campus-wide courses which are accepted in the major is available through the Communication Studies Department. Students may also complete a minor to count as communication studies elective units. Students may not use General Education courses for their major elective courses.

Freshman Year: 30 units

Fall Semester (15 units) Spring Semester (15 units)
ENGL 101 (3) PHIL 101 (3) Mathematics GE (3) HUM 200 (3)
GE (3) University Elective (3)
GE (3) COMS 200 (3)
University Elective (3) COMS Elective (3)

Sophomore Year: 31 units

Fall Semester (16 units) Spring Semester (15 units)
GE (4) GE (3)
GE (3) GE (3)
GE (3) GE (3)
COMS 201, 210, 240, or 265 (3) COMS 202 (3)
COMS Elective (3) COMS Elective (3)

Junior Year: 31 units

Fall Semester (16 units) Spring Semester (15 units)
Upper-Division GE (4) Upper-Division GE (3)
Upper-Division GE (AE) (3) GE (3)
COMS 301 (3) COMS 302 (3)
COMS Elective (3) COMS 315 (3)
University Elective (3) COMS Elective (3)

Senior Year: 28 units

Fall Semester (12 units) Spring Semester (16 units)
University Elective (3) University Elective (3)
University Elective (3) University Elective (3)
COMS Elective (3) University Elective (3)
COMS 402 (3) COMS 498 or 499 (4)
COMS Elective (3)
Total semester units: 120

Minor in Communication Studies

The communication studies minor is designed for a limited number of students who recognize the need to understand the pervasive role the media play in society. Students who minor in communication studies must register with the department to be allowed into courses. Students with a minor in communication studies bring important skills to their employers. The minor provides background in the history and theory of communication, insight into the economic, sociological and political dimensions of the media, and a hands-on introduction to the audio/visual and electronic tools of the trade. All students are required to take COMS 200 (Principles of Mass Communication). In addition, students choose 18 units from the COMS core and concentration courses. Acceptance to the minor is based upon GPA of 3.00 and at least three remaining semesters.
COMS 200 required for all minors 3
Total elective units 18
Total units in the minor 21

Communication Studies Courses (COMS)

Classes are offered in the semesters indicated. Please see the Schedule of Classes for the most current information and faculty assignments.

200 Principles of Mass Communication (3) Fall, Spring

Introduction to the history and function of mass communication; the mechanics and psychology of mass communication; a survey of current theory and research models in mass communication.

201 Story Telling Via Video (3) / Fall, Spring

Designed for beginning video students. Assignments include creating skits and music videos, and conducting interviews using DV camcorders. Students also do a final creative project of their own. COMS 201 must be taken before COMS 325, though exceptions are allowed with approval of instructor.

202 Methods of Media Criticism (3) / Fall, Spring

A survey of ways to analyze mediated texts. Focus on magazine ads, comic books, news, rock tunes, television programs, and feature films. Methods include folklore, content analysis, psychoanalysis, narrative theory, art criticism, semiotics, and cultural theory.

210 Writing for the Media (3) / Fall, Spring

Introduction to a wide range of writing styles and formats, from hard news and features to press releases. Students learn to write for newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and the internet, as well as for public relations.

240 Introduction to Public Relations (3) / Fall, Spring

An overview of the history, structure, and organization of public relations. Students also learn the basic public relations tactics of writing, presentation, event organization, and web communication.

262 Recording I (2)

Fundamentals of recording in a studio environment. Discussion and demonstration of major types of equipment used in the recording chain. Students will develop skills in all phases of studio operation and will complete a number of individual projects. Cross-listed as MUS 262.

264 Music Business I (2)

This course begins with an overview of the music industry, general business practices, professionalism, and presentation skills. It then proceeds into the specific topics of songwriting, publishing, copyrights, songwriter contracts, and licensing. Independent project, exams, and class participation assignments are required. Cross-listed as MUS 264.

265 Introduction to Radio Broadcasting (3) Fall, Spring

History of broadcasting; evolution of broadcast technology; introduction to basic theories and techniques of radio broadcasting. Overview of radio station organization, programming, and operation. Experience in radio program development and production techniques.

280 Live Performance Techniques (2)

A study of live performance techniques and their impact and effectiveness on musical performance. To perfect attitudes of professionalism, cultivate confidence, and prepare music students for classical, jazz, or popular performance careers. Cross-listed as MUS 280.

301 Mass Communication Theory and Research (3) Fall, Spring

Intermediate-level study of the key research events that contributed to the development of communication theories, government policy, and the emergence of communication as an academic discipline. Cross-listed as SOCI 331. Prerequisites: COMS 200 and 202.

302 Media Ethics (3) / Fall, Spring

Students analyze real-life ethical issues that media professionals face on TV, radio, newspapers, the internet, in public relations, and in the music and entertainment industries. Classroom exercises involve discussion, debate, critical thinking and reasoning, and practical application of ethical principles. Prerequisites: COMS 200 and 202.

315 Media Law (3) / Fall, Spring

An intensive look at the laws governing media in the United States. Material includes historical perspective, structure, and function of laws and government regulations for news, entertainment, and publishing industries. Prerequisites: COMS 200 and 202.

320 Selected Topics in Communication Studies (3) Fall, Spring

Intensive study of various topics and trends in the mass media, including advertising, propaganda and persuasion, children and the media, technical and scriptwriting, environmental and international communication, and film. May be repeated for additional credit with new subject matter.

325 Video Workshop: Documentary/Fiction (1-4) Fall, Spring

Intensive production for filmmakers. In fall semester, students work on biography, news, and multi-camera talk shows. In spring, students work on screenplays, scenes with actors, and images for songs. Beginning students use DV camcorders and I-Movie 2. Advanced students use 3-chip cameras and edit on Final Cut or Avid. Prerequisite: COMS 201 or permission of instructor. May be repeated for up to nine units.

331 Songwriting (2)

This class provides information concerning all aspects of songwriting both as a commercial craft and as a musical art form. Music theory, form, lyrics, demo production, and the music business will be discussed in detail. Participants will have numerous opportunities to have material evaluated and critiqued. Cross-listed as MUS 331.

340 Advanced Public Relations (3)

A hands-on class for students who are planning to work in the field of public relations. Students work as consultants with clients to develop plans for public relations campaigns. Prerequisite: COMS 240 or an introductory public relations course.

360 Studio Musicianship and Production (2)

The class will focus on the development of listening skills, with a study of established production styles and the perfection of individual musicianship in performance. It will include microphone technique, studio terminology, use of special effects in performance, and artistic creation through multitrack production. Cross-listed as MUS 360.

362 Recording II (2)

A continuation of Recording I (COMS 262). Prerequisite: COMS 262 or consent of instructor. Cross-listed as MUS 362.

364 Music Business II (2)

This course continues with an intensive study of record companies, artists contracts, record production, promotion, distribution, retailing, music merchandising, studios and engineers, concert promotion, music and theatre, radio, television, advertising, and film. Independent project, exams, and class participation assignments are required. Prerequisite: COMS/MUS 264 or consent of instructor. Cross-listed as MUS 364.

368A Newspaper Writing and Editing (3) / Fall, Spring

This class reviews the past week’s paper (the Star), makes assignments for the next week’s paper, and covers headlines, leads, pull quotes, interviewing. First Amendment, libel, and ethics will also be taught. May be repeated for up to 12 units.

368B Newspaper Production (3) / Fall, Spring

Students learn the techniques of desktop publishing, including the principles of newspaper design, layout, paste-up, ad placement, and photography. Students prepare the flats of the Star for the printer each week. May be repeated for up to 12 units.

385 Media Lab: Radio (1-4) / Fall, Spring

A media lab to develop a range of skills in the production of radio programs. Work focuses on the production of live and prerecorded pieces for KSUN. The lab also serves as the staff meeting of the radio station. May be repeated for up to 12 units. First enrollment must be for 3 units.

402 Advanced Media Criticism: Selected Topics (3) Fall, Spring, Summer

In-depth critical analysis of media content, forms and formats, as well as modes and methods of mass communication. Topics often reflect current issues and trends. They may include feminist criticism, international film and film noir, Hollywood genres, children and television. Course may be repeated twice only for credit with permission of the instructor. Prerequisites: senior standing and completion of COMS 200, 201, 202.

415 Investigative Journalism (3)

This course will focus on the full range of practical aspects of investigative journalism, including subject selection, research, locating and evaluating sources, approaching and interviewing contacts, writing the story, and finding a market for the investigative story. May be repeated for credit.

435 Seminar: Mass Media (4)

Seminar provides an opportunity to gain new insights into social problems through an intensive analysis of the role and impact of mass communication in contemporary society. Emphasis is on exploring, through a major research project, social issues that should be, but are not, fully covered by the mass media. Prerequisite: COMS 301 or SOCI 300 or SOCI 331 or consent of instructor. Cross-listed as SOCI 435.

459 Music for Media (2)

Composition-based course which will focus on music and sound composition as it applies to the media. Student-based projects will include the creation of both copy (script) and sound for television, film, video, advertising, jingle identities, and theatre. Prerequisite: COMS 362. Preferred Prerequisites: COMS 259, 331, and 362. Cross-listed as MUS 459.

460 Teaching Assistant in Communication Studies (1-4) Fall, Spring

Intended to give students experience assisting instructors. Teaching assistants help teach, do research, and tutor students in classes. Consent of instructor and department contract required.

462 Recording III (2)

Continuation of Recording II (COMS 362). Exploration of different microphone and instrument configurations required to obtain specific types of recorded sound. Extensive individual work in the studio on specific projects designed to develop student capacity to plan and engineer a demonstration tape. Prerequisite: COMS 362 or consent of instructor. Cross-listed as MUS 462.

464 Music Business III (2)

This course continues with the study of topics including unions and guilds, agents, managers, and attorneys. It then concludes with a focus on setting your own career goals and developing and implementing a plan to achieve them. Independent project, exams, and class participation assignments are required. Prerequisite: COMS/MUS 364 or consent of instructor. Cross-listed as MUS 464.

470 Research Assistant in Communication Studies (1-4) Fall, Spring

Intended to give selected students experience in the construction and implementation of a professor’s research project. Consent of instructor and department contract required.

472 Recording IV (2)

A continuing study in the area of audio recording. The class includes lectures, demonstrations, field trips, student projects, new technology in using computers for recording, editing, and mastering functions. Students are required to participate in the maintenance of the recording facility. Cross-listed as MUS 472.

495 Special Studies (1-4) / Fall, Spring

Supervised study of a particular problem or area of interest in the media selected by the student in consultation with a sponsoring faculty member. Meetings will be arranged for discussions and progress evaluations. May be repeated for credit. Consent of instructor and Special Study 495 contract required.

498 Senior Project (1-4) / Fall, Spring

An extensive project in one particular area of media study. Students concentrating in one medium—film, video, photography or recording—will be expected to present a work in that medium demonstrating a high level of technical and production skill. Students concentrating in criticism will develop a project in criticism of comparable scope. Consent of instructor and senior project contract required.

499 Media Internship (1-4) / Fall, Spring, Summer

This class provides students with an opportunity to make the transition from the classroom to the workplace. For a semester, individuals work in a media firm or business, a newspaper, radio station, or in another communications market. On the job, students learn networking and negotiating skills. Assignments for class include: resume; self-evaluation; profile of supervisor; and album with photos and text that describe the experience. May be repeated for up to 12 units. Consent of instructor, internship agreement form, and department contract required.

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