May 21, 2024  
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Communication Studies, Public Relations Studies Concentration, B.S.

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Dr. Eric M. Fife, Director
Dr. Toni S. Whitfield, Assistant Director
Phone: (540) 568-6228
Location: Harrison Hall, Room 1276


M. Alemán, P. Bsumek, E. Fife, C. Hickerson, S. Mazzarella, L. Nelson, S. Opt, R. Soenksen, T. Whitfield

Associate Professors

C. Alemán, T. Ball, A. Bodkin, L. Britt, H. Carmack, S. Richards, D. Schill, C. Woo

Assistant Professors

M. Brigham, M. Broderick, M. Davis, L. Harvell-Bowman, K. Hobson, Y. Kim, L. Kristiansen, S. Meganck, J. PeeksMease, J. Rosier


E. Armstrong, A. Brickner, J. Briscoe, A. Dupal, A. Ewing Goodman, J. Gochenour, G. Hazard, J. Krauklis, P. Mabrey, L. Mayfield, A. Noland, A. Reid, C. Saindon, S. Taylor Mayhak 

Mission Statement

The School of Communication Studies promotes an academic environment in which students, faculty and staff develop innovative communication practices and facilitate constructive dialogue in the classroom and community to inspire responsible citizenship in a diverse world. We are committed to the teaching of communication theory and criticism, the development of communication and advocacy skills, the research of communication processes and practices, and the application of generated knowledge about human communication toward the betterment of self and community.

Accordingly, members of the School of Communication Studies strive to create a learning environment whereby:

Individuals are academically well-rounded, diverse in experience and reflective in their methods, research, and skill sets for approaching communication;

Scholarship is communication focused, but inter-disciplinary in approach, and produces meaningful dialogue within our academic disciplines and communities;

Professional service, outreach to communities, and advocacy for human betterment is valued by and from each individual.


As the school offers courses and programs in communication studies, the school seeks to fulfill the following goals:

  • To prepare all JMU students who take a communication studies course to use oral communication skills effectively.
  • To prepare students with a major or minor in communication studies for graduate and professional study as well as for careers in communication and communication-related professions.
  • To provide co-curricular opportunities which enhance and reinforce communication competencies for all JMU students.

Career Opportunities and Marketable Skills

Students of communication studies develop skill competencies required for effective interaction and leadership in communities, workplaces and groups. Some of these skills include:

  • Speaking
  • Interacting in small groups
  • Using nonverbal communication skills such as use of space, voice, gaze and facial expressions
  • Constructing persuasive messages and campaigns
  • Using computers for word processing, statistical analysis, desktop publishing, graphic design, web page construction and browsing the Internet
  • Analyzing communication at all levels including interpersonal, small group and organizational
  • Persuading successfully
  • Using language effectively
  • Writing effectively
  • Mediating and resolving conflicts
  • Listening and problem solving

Such careers are part of the following fields:

  • Consulting
  • Entertainment
  • Hospitality Industry
  • Management
  • Personnel
  • Politics
  • Sales
  • Teaching

Study in communication studies also serves as valuable pre-professional preparation for graduate and professional studies in the following fields:

  • Communication
  • Counseling
  • Law
  • Management
  • Ministry

Students who study communication studies acquire skills that enable them to interact with others effectively. These skills include:

  • Speaking in front of groups
  • Interacting effectively in small groups
  • Using nonverbal communication skills such as use of space, voice, eyes and facial expressions
  • Constructing persuasive messages and campaigns
  • Using computers for word processing, statistical analysis, desktop publishing, graphic design, web page construction and browsing the Internet
  • Analyzing communication problems at the organizational level
  • Persuading successfully
  • Using language effectively
  • Writing effectively
  • Mediating and resolving conflicts

Co-curricular Activities and Organizations

To enhance courses and programs in communication studies, the school offers a variety of co-curricular activities and organizations open to all JMU students. Co-curricular activities involve practical communication experiences for which credit is available, either through the various practicums or one of the school’s applied courses. Co-curricular organizations are student clubs and honorary societies associated with the school’s individual programs of study.


  • Institute for Conflict Analysis and Interventions: Activities concern the use of methods of alternative dispute resolution for resolving conflicts.
  • Annual Communication Studies Conference: Annual program highlighting undergraduate scholarship in which students deliver professional presentations to the JMU community on a variety of topics that reflect the diverse research methodologies and areas of study in the School of Communication Studies.
  • Debate Team: Affords students interested in debating intercollegiate tournament competition and local audience experiences.
  • Individual Events Team: Intercollegiate tournament competition and local audience experiences for students interested in public speaking and the oral interpretation of literature can be acquired through individual events team participation.


  • Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha: A chapter of a national honorary organization for students competing in intercollegiate debate and individual events.
  • International Association of Business Communicators: A chapter of a national organization for students and professionals interested in business communication and public relations.
  • Lambda Pi Eta: A chapter of a national honorary organization for students interested in communication.
  • Destination Imagination: Students interested in effective conflict resolution and mediation skills can participate in the activities.
  • Public Relations Student Society Association: An award-winning student organization for students pursuing careers in public relations.
  • Health Communication Institute: Students interested in effective communication with health communication professionals can work with the institute in a practicum or directed project.
  • Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue: An cross disciplinary organization whose goal is to bridge the gap between the university and the broader community through outreach, community service, research and scholarship centered on productive communication processes and efforts. Students can work as trained dialogue facilitators.

Admission to the Major

Admission to JMU does not guarantee admission to the School of Communication Studies. All students interested in majoring in the program must apply for a limited number of spaces while first completing SCOM 240 and SCOM 241. In order to register for these classes, students must change their major to “SCOM declared” to register for SCOM 240 and SCOM 241.

The School of Communication Studies reviews applications for admission to the major each semester. Students must submit their applications (which can be accessed from the SCOM website and submitted by email) in the semester in which they are completing the SCOM 240 and SCOM 241 requirements. Applications are due by November 15 (fall semester) and April 15 (spring semester). Students who have applied by the above deadlines will be notified of the department’s admission decision at the end of the semester in which they complete the SCOM 240 and SCOM 241 requirements.

Admission to the major is based on availability to the most qualified students as determined by performance in SCOM 240 and SCOM 241. It is possible for a student to be accepted into the major but not into their first choice concentration.

Students who are not admitted may file one more additional application in the next regular semester. Students reapplying must apply in two consecutive semesters of enrollment at the university. If a student reapplies after retaking SCOM 240 and SCOM 241 (whether repeat or repeat/forgive), the school will look only at their highest grades earned when evaluating their second application.

Successful completion of a major in the School of Communication Studies requires, at the very least, a minimum of four semesters after a student is fully admitted to the School. Depending upon the student’s particular circumstances and degree progress, more than four semesters may be required for completing the major. Once admitted to the School of Communication Studies, a student cannot retroactively apply more than nine hours of SCOM courses, including SCOM 240 and SCOM 241, to his/her major (SCOM 121/SCOM 122/SCOM 123 does not count towards those nine hours).

Policy for Students Transferring from Another Institution

Students applying from other institutions are held to the same policies and guidelines as other applicants. However, once admitted to the School of Communication Studies, transfer students may petition for SCOM credit for courses taken at previous institutions. As with other applicants, they cannot retroactively apply more than nine hours of SCOM courses taken at JMU, including SCOM 240 and SCOM 241 , to their major or minor once admitted to the School of Communication Studies.

Minimum Grades

Any course taken to fulfill a degree requirement in communication studies must be completed with a minimum grade of “C” (2.0). A communication studies course completed with a grade of “C-” or “D,” including courses to fulfill JMU’s baccalaureate degree requirements, may be credited toward graduation but may not be included as course work toward a communication studies major or minor. Additionally, courses completed with a grade less than “C” will not count as fulfilling prerequisites for future courses, and enrolled students may be administratively removed from courses for which they have not completed a required prerequisite with a grade of “C” or higher.

Limitations in Applied Courses

No more than six hours combined credit in SCOM 318. Practicum in Communication Studies; SCOM 390. Directed Projects and SCOM 495. Internship in Communication Studies may be counted toward a major in communication studies unless approved by the academic unit head.

Double Counting

Students with a communication studies major are allowed to count toward the major a maximum of six hours of credit earned to satisfy requirements in another major or minor.

Public Relations Studies Concentration

This concentration focuses on the management of communication between organizations and their internal and external publics with the goal of mutual understanding and influence. Public relations practitioners work with specific audiences relative to focused goals. Preparation for a career in public relations should include a broad educational base and a variety of communication skills.

In addition to the 15 hours of required communication studies courses, students studying public relations must complete the following 18 hours from among the depth requirements in order to receive a letter upon graduation that verifies that they have completed a program of public relations studies. The school also recommends that students enroll in an internship during their junior or senior year.

Degree and Major Requirements

The School of Communication Studies offers the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees with a major in communication studies. Students must take at least 39 hours of work in communication studies beyond the General Education  requirement.

All programs must include at least five elements:

  • Twelve hours of required courses.
  • Successful completion of the milestone, Core Assessment in Communication Studies, upon completion of the core requirements
  • Fifteen hours of courses within distribution areas to meet the school depth requirement.
  • Nine hours of free elective courses in communication studies at the 300 or 400 level and three hours at the 200, 300 or 400 level.
  • Twelve hours of course work at the 300 level or above outside of the major program of study; or a second major or minor.

Degree Requirements

Required Courses

  • General Education  41 Credit Hours 1
  • Quantitative requirement 3 Credit Hours 2
  • Scientific Literacy requirement 3-4 Credit Hours 2
  • University electives 21-46 Credit Hours 3
  • Major requirements (listed below) 39 Credit Hours

1 The General Education  program contains a set of requirements each student must fulfill. The number of credit hours necessary to fulfill these requirements may vary.
2 In addition to course work taken to fulfill General Education  requirement.
3 A minimum of 12 credit hours of university electives must be at the 300 level or above, or students must earn a second major or minor.

Additional Information

In addition, students pursuing a B.S. in communication studies must complete MATH 220. Elementary Statistics  or a school-approved statistics course. School-approved statistics courses include, but are not limited to, COB 191. Business Analytics I . MATH 220  can count as either a General Education  or a B.S. quantitative requirement, but not both.

Total: 120 Credit Hours

Major Requirements

Core Requirements


1 This course fulfills the College of Arts and Letters writing-intensive requirement for the major.

Depth Requirement: (15 hours required from the depth areas below)

Communication Theory and Context (choose three): 9 Credit Hours

At least one theory and context course requirement must be at the 400-level.

Total: 39 Credit Hours

Advanced Public Relations Skills: Choose one: 3 Credit Hours

Public Relations in Context: Choose one: 3 Credit Hours

Total: 21 Credit Hours

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