Degrees & Programs Communication Studies
Cultivate eloquence and wisdom, studying how to imitate Christ's creative, provocative, and reconciling communication.
Develop into a wise analyst of human influence in a globally-oriented, media-saturated culture. Explore the difficulty of interpersonal faithfulness in a transient culture, the increasing power of the media, and the role of persuasion and propaganda in social movements. Study verbal and nonverbal aspects of oral, print and electronic messages and discuss questions such as: How do messages lead to meaning—or misunderstanding or manipulation? How has public discourse influenced culture? What are the effects of image-based communication?
Scheduling Courses in Communication Studies
The Communication Studies program has four foundational, required courses and then students choose seven courses from different categories. While there is no "template" or required order of classes, there are specific recommendations and requirements as outlined here. There is a lot of flexibility in the major, but do see your advisor early and often to make sure you are on track. Course descriptions are in the College Catalog. Download the List of Required COM Courses (PDF)
COM 006: All students interested in Communication Studies should plan to take COM 006 (Messages, Meaning, and Culture) their first semester at Westmont (or second semester if need be). This course is required for the major and it provides an overview of many areas, theories, and concepts within the communication discipline. It also meets the General Education (GE) “Understanding Society” requirement.
If COM 006 is full, then we suggest that first year students take COM 015 (Public Speaking, which meets the Writing/Speech Intensive GE) their first semester and COM 006 in the Spring.
COM 015: Students are encouraged to take Public Speaking in their first year as it meets the Writing/Speech Intensive GE requirement and is a core course in the major.
COM 098: All students are required to take COM 098 (Research Methods in Communication) for the major, and it is a pre-requisite for several courses. We recommend you take this course early, but after you've taken COM 006. It is best to have this course completed by the end of fall semester in your second year (or sooner if you are a transfer student). You may take it second semester of your first year if you've already completed COM 006.
During your second year, you will want to start taking courses that interest you and meet the category requirements for the major. You will also want to look into off campus programs and plan your GE courses based on your major and off campus program plans. Your advisor will discuss your plans for completing major courses, general education courses, and off campus programs with you.
We advise students to take COM 101 - Rhetoric I the Fall of their junior year, unless they plan to be off campus, in which case they should take COM 101 in the fall of their senior year. This course is only offered during fall semesters.
During the spring of your junior year, you will need to talk with your advisor about which senior capstone experience option is best for you. You will choose an internship, a research project, or a senior seminar. You will also complete an "application for degree" with your academic advisor, which is submitted to the Registrar's office for approval.
In your senior year you will complete a senior capstone experience as well as all of your other requirements for a Westmont degree. Whether or not you complete the internship as part of your capstone experience, we recommend all students complete internships, in Santa Barbara, at home over the summer, or on an off-campus program.
Started the Westmont Initiative for Public Dialogue and Deliberation
Studies social change and the rhetorical construction of childhood
Most recent book is Reframing the Soul: How Words Transform Our Faith
Studies interpersonal communication’s impact on resilience and flourishing.
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Broaden and deepen your understanding of how we create, perpetuate, remember, and reconcile conflict – and meet community leaders working toward peace and reconciliation via dialogue and deliberation. Explore Northern Ireland, a bit of the Republic of Ireland, and end in London to see how dialogue is transforming neighborhoods.
Some of the questions we wrestle with include: How do people memorialize war? Peace? Violence? Sacrifice? How are scapegoats portrayed artistically and narratively? How do scapegoats both create recipes for genocide and possibilities for peace? How do we “remember rightly” as Miroslav Volf asks? When we create memorials or stories of our pasts, what are we remembering, and what are we forgetting? Who decides, ultimately, which stories are truthful, and which accounts will be publicly enshrined? Whether in our families or our nations, how do we weave our sense of self into stories and images and spaces that tell us who we are as well as who we are not?
Some places we visit memorialize terrible tragedies and loss of life. Other spaces are still fought over both literally and figuratively. Your feet will get dusty and sore on the paths of conflict. You will experience bodily a space, a memorial, a performance and the resulting uncertainties, anxieties, excitements, and triumphs that accompany the journey to, in, and through new places, peoples, and cultures.
Kaylee Hicks '20, senior of the year in communication studies, is a pursuer of truth, a rigorous discerner in class discussions, and a most dependable student. She does not shy away from raising questions and challenging prevailing flows of thought, yet also challenges and dissents in welcoming ways and with a humble spirit. Her ability to mentor younger students and create hospitable spaces in and beyond the classroom make her a truly ethical communicator and scholar. Kaylee has certainly made her mark on Westmont! She participated in Potter’s Clay all four years, growing in her leadership each year, serving on the core team, leading ministries, and serving as publicity manager. Her love of the Spanish language and Mexican culture led her to study abroad in Querétaro, Mexico, where she found it “a joy and a privilege to become more fluent and able to communicate competently with my host family, professors, and even Uber drivers!” In addition to her ministry and study abroad, Kaylee sang with the college choir and WOW (Women of Westmont, an a cappella vocal group). She’s also worked with the Conversation Café and served as an Orientation team leader and teaching assistant in communication research methods. Professor Lesa Stern says that Kaylee is particularly gifted in helping students clarify and pursue their research ideas while also encouraging them along the way. Kaylee says that her involvement in various ministries and discussion activities were especially valuable, as she cherished helping people feel seen, heard and known. She says that “this is, in large part, what prompted me to pursue a graduate degree in speech language pathology, where I can help to give the gift of communication to others so they are able to express themselves better and find a sense of belonging.”
Greg Spencer recently published his new book, Reframing the Soul. “As we work on our word choice, we become empowered to reframe our story according to the truth of our lives and the wisdom of the gospel. New circumstances, such as a natural disaster, often drive us to reframe. In times of crisis, we might realize that the labels we’ve been using are unsatisfying. Reframing the Soul guides readers through four ‘soul essentials’: remembering the past with gratitude, anticipating the future with hope, dwelling within themselves with peace, and relating to others in love.”
Deborah Dunn and Rachel Winslow (Westmont Downtown) have launched the Westmont Initiative for Public Dialogue (WIPD). The initiative works with neighbors to speak and listen well together about the challenges facing the Santa Barbara community for our common good and human flourishing. The first conversation focused on how to care for vulnerable children, with an emphasis on the foster care system. The Fall 2018 public conversation topic is immigration, using the framework established by the National Issues Forums Institute. Rachel and Deborah spent a year working as research fellows with the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio to prepare for this work. The vision of the WIPD is to promote the common good, equip students and neighbors to facilitate effective community dialogues, cultivate human community through healthy conversation and listening, help community partners frame issues well, support democratic participation, and endeavor to tackle "wicked problems."
Elizabeth Gardner, who completed her doctorate at the University of Maryland, was recently honored for writing the 2017 Outstanding Dissertation by the American Society for the History of Rhetoric. She presented a paper based on the research ("Establishing Adolescents' Rights through State Child Labor Legislation") at the National Communication Association Conference in November 2017.
Lesa Stern spoke to parents and alumni about "Building Resiliency in Ourselves and Others" on October 16, 2021.
Greg Spencer, Westmont professor of communication studies, is the Western States Communication Association (WSCA) Communication and Instruction Interest Group’s 2018 Master Teacher.
There are many exciting and challenging off campus program opportunities that work well with a communication studies major. There are also many programs that work well for your second major, your minor, or for general education. Here is a list of programs that are specific to the major:
- American University of Paris - Global Communication
- American Studies Program, Washington, D.C.
- The Hague, Netherlands (University Studies Abroad Consortium) - Communication Management
- Los Angeles Film Studies Center
- NYU - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Global Media, Journalism, Cinema
- Communication Studies Mayterm in Conflict & Reconciliation (Israel / West Bank & Northern Ireland in 2019)
Senior of the Year. Each year we recognize one student for academic achievement both in communication studies and in their general and other studies at Westmont. Typically, the senior of the year has achieved a near-perfect GPA in communication courses, but contributions to the department and peers are considered as well.
Lambda Pi Eta is the official communication studies honor society of the National Communication Association (NCA). As a member of the Association of College Honor Societies, Lambda Pi Eta has over 400 active chapters at four-year colleges and universities worldwide. Westmont students are invited to join when they've completed at least 60 units overall, at least 12 COM units, and are ranked in the top 1/3 of their graduating class (in recent years, the cut-off for the top third of the class is a 3.5 GPA).
Phi Kappa Phi is the honor society open to all majors at Westmont College, and sponsor of both lectures and banquets honoring scholarship and the love of learning.
Major Honors. Some students are motivated by doing high level research, writing, and working semi-independently. If you desire to go above and beyond what you'd be expected to do in the classroom, or you have a particular research interest, talk to one of your professors about completing an major honors thesis. This is especially encouraged if you plan to go to graduate school. If you choose this option, you will need to have all of your plans in place by the end of your junior year.
Honors at Commencement are awarded based on cumulative GPA. If you are a member of Lambda Pi Eta, you may choose to wear an honor cord with your commencement robe; this is in addition to honor cords for cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude awards, based on your cumulative Westmont GPA.
Scholarships & Fellowships After Westmont. There are many scholarship and fellowship opportunities for Westmont graduates, especially for those considering graduate school. Imagine yourself a Fulbright Scholar or a Javitz or Lilly Fellow.
Two professors (Deborah Dunn from Communication Studies and Caryn Reeder from Religious Studies) will lead students on an academic study abroad program framed by a discussion of borders and how they are physically, symbolically, and politically constructed, interpreted, reified, and enshrined. Our two "cases" for in-depth study and travel include Israel and Palestine/The West Bank, and Northern Ireland/Ireland/The United Kingdom. We will cross many “borders” - from Israel to the West Bank, from the UK to the Republic of Ireland, from a Catholic community to a Protestant Community, from an Arab neighborhood to a Jewish neighborhood, and from the Christian sector to the Jewish sector in the old city of Jerusalem.
We will visit, study, engage in close readings of, and learn to appreciate the various expressions of conflict, peace, and memory over the centuries and across conflicting cultures. How do people memorialize war? Peace? Violence? Sacrifice? How do scapegoats both create recipes for genocide and possibilities for peace? We will observe the borders and boundaries that define one people while excluding another. We observe physical boundaries as well as social boundaries, from walls to music to language to dress to sport. At the same time, we will engage some on-the-ground peacemakers who actively work to create peace in their communities and in their nation via dialogue, prayer, and ancient Christian practices (from fasting to pilgrimage). We also will meet people who insist that the true way to peace is to live more simply, to work in harmony with natural resources, and to change the ways we relate to our physical environment.
Students will earn credit for two courses, for a total of eight units. The courses will be taught organically, as a whole. The courses you will earn credit for include COM 134 (4 units), a course currently in the catalogue, and approved for major credit for communication studies majors and elective credit for students in other majors. COM 134 has also been approved for the GE category, Thinking Historically. You will also earn credit for another 4-unit course, which can count either as a COM special topics course (COM 195) or as a Religious Studies special topics (RS 107 on borders, creation care, and the Bible).
Communication Studies Alumni
Amy Owens Roach ’03
As vice president of iHeartMedia’s Connections West team, she works with the country’s largest advertisers on cross-platform, custom marketing campaigns, reaching more than 243 million people each month. Amy specializes in automotive advertising, working closely with Honda and Nissan to create artist-driven marketing campaigns using iHeartMedia’s suite of assets. “My job is exciting and rewarding, as it allows for me to be creative, meet with clients at the building stage of a campaign, and present opportunities that have been customized for them” she says.
Liane Koh ’08
Liane started as a hotel front-desk agent and concierge in Santa Barbara, earned a diploma in culinary arts from Le Cordon Blue, and worked as a management intern for a major resort in Singapore and the Maldives, before earning a master’s degree in communication management from the Annenberg School for Communication at USC. She now manages five to eight accounts doing traditional and digital marketing, brand strategy, social media and content creation, reputation management, and cause-related marketing.
Paul Angone ’05
Paul is the best-selling author of 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, All Groan Up, and 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties (and let's be honest, your thirties, too). He is also a national keynote speaker, the creator of AllGroanUp.com, which has been read by millions of people in 190 countries, and an organizational consultant with a master’s degree in organizational leadership. Paul has worked with companies such as Intel Security, Wells Fargo, and Aflac to help them attract, develop, and retain the Millennial generation, and his work has featured in Bloomberg, The Chicago Tribune, and Business Insider.
Dave Tell ’98
Dave teaches rhetoric at the University of Kansas, specializing in postmodern theory and the place of religious discourse in public life. After graduating from Westmont, Dave earned his master’s degree and doctorate at Penn State. His current work focuses on the intersections of rhetorical theory and cultural politics. His work on the Emmett Till Memory Project is groundbreaking, as is his forthcoming book, Remembering Emmett Till (U of Chicago Press). His previous book is Confessional Crises: Confession and Cultural Politics in Twentieth-Century America.
Anita Perez Ferguson ’71
Anita is a speaker, author, and consultant in program and leadership development, and has served as president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, chair of the Inter American Foundation, as White House Liaison to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and as a Visiting Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. She translated her experience into her books, A Passion for Politics, and Women Seen & Heard: Lessons Learned from Successful Speakers. See her contribution to California Listens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeEZCDkW3fM&feature=youtu.be
Jim Roach ’00
An Emmy award winning songwriter, record producer, and owner of Santa Monica Recordings based in Los Angeles. After years of being on the road and in the studio as a multi-instrumentalist, he switched gears in 2004 to work exclusively in the recording studio. He writes and produces music for film, television, trailers and commercials and works with artists as well. From 2015-2016 he took a job as executive producer for Apple Music and Beats1 Radio with Zane Lowe.
Joy Eggerichs Reed ’04
Joy is the founder and director of Punchline Speakers, an agency connecting "great speakers to great opportunities (and vice versa)." A speaker and consultant who records a weekly podcast for Relevant Magazine, she is also an advisory board member helping Christian Mingle with their re-branding. For seven years she served as director of Love and Respect Now, serving people trying to navigate dating and their relationships.
Felicia Wright Roark ’07
As a business consultant focused on strategy and change management, Felicia helps business executives and managers build critical leadership capabilities and achieve data-driven results. Consulting allows Felicia to use her passion for self-improvement and continual learning to inspire new ways of thinking within Fortune 100 and 500 company cultures across the globe. To transition from her former career as a political lobbyist, Felicia went back to earn her MBA degree ten years after graduating Westmont.
Kristin Rushforth Ritzau ’04
After internships at Westmont that ranged from the film industry to event planning to Amnesty International, Kristin earned a master’s in Christian leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and worked with young adults in church and university settings. After she published her first book, A Beautiful Mess: A Perfectionist’s Journey Through Self-Care, she sought certification as a spiritual director. Feeling called to the classroom, she then earned a doctorate in practical theology and spiritual formation at Claremont School of Theology.
Don Waisanen ’02
Don teaches at Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. He also delivers workshops on communication strategy, storytelling, and leadership and improvisation. In his research, Don seeks to understand how communication works to promote or hinder the force of citizens’ voices. He is the author of Political Conversion: Personal Transformation as Strategic Public Communication. Previously, he worked in broadcast journalism, as a speechwriter, and on political campaigns. He earned his Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Southern California and is an improvisational comedian.
Megan Moe ’88
After working as a reporter in New Jersey, a market researcher in Delaware, a floor director and camera operator for television in Buffalo, N.Y., and a public service announcement writer for PBS in San Francisco, she moved to overseeing the communication discipline (advertising, journalism and communication studies) in the department of Communication and the Arts at Lee University. She studies women who've been subject to domestic violence, both physical and emotional. She earned her MA at UC Davis and her Ph.D. at Penn State.
Amanda Wigno Harter ’08
Amanda works as the North State Service Area Marketing Communications Manager for Dignity Health. She worked overtime to keep the public updated on evacuations of NICU babies during the Carr Fire this last summer. She earned her master's degree in organizational leadership with an emphasis in nonprofit management from Simpson University and serves as team captain in the Shasta Roller Derby league.
Douglas L. Kelley ’80
Douglas Kelley received his doctorate from the University of Arizona and his master’s from Arizona State University, where he teaches. He studies interpersonal communication processes, focusing on marital communication and how couples negotiate privacy and relational expectations. He co-wrote “Communicating Forgiveness,” an interdisciplinary work that offers a hopeful framework for negotiating healthy and just responses to relational disappointments.
Lauren Cano Amaro ’06
Lauren teaches relational, health, and family communication at Pepperdine University. Her research projects ask: How do families “heal and deal” in the wake of major traumas? She has developed interventions for family caregivers, children of alcoholics, and parents of children with severe allergies, focusing on the importance of positive communication practices such as gratitude and communal coping. She earned her Ph.D. in communication at Arizona State University.
Hillary McCall ’11
Hillary started with the Santa Barbara Foundation doing communications and marketing, developing its first online platforms, implementing new branding strategies, and telling the stories of philanthropy taking action. “Seeing the social impact of my work was of high, personal value in my professional development,” she says. She went on to oversee network and development at Incredible Children’s Art Network (iCAN), and currently serves as senior business development manager at Souktel Digital Solutions in Washington, D.C.
Sarah Higgins '01
Sarah works with children and young adults with autism teaching and doing behavioral therapy, noting that "what has been most fulfilling in this field is seeing students make progress in any area that will enhance how they function in life, seeing them take pride in their work, and discovering what brings them joy." Previously she was a behavioral therapist and instructional assistant in special education, and is a certified assistant in Speech-Language Pathology (CU Boulder). Ready for a new adventure, and drawing on her background in dance and Pilates, Sarah is starting school again to study physical therapy.