Student Handbook

Student Handbook

Faculty & Staff

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Curriculum Design

The curriculum in this department is designed so when you graduate with a major in Communication you will have knowledge and skills that apply to a wide range of communication experiences. Although some people who are unfamiliar with this department think we're only concerned with delivering speeches to an audience, we actually deal with much more than that. The curriculum is designed so you can also improve your ability to communicate with individuals, in small groups, in organizations, and with people who are quite different from you. We're also interested in helping you learn to write more effectively and to use technology to communicate.

Improving your ability to communicate involves knowing more about communication. All of your classes in the department will introduce you to principles of communication developed through the study of human communication over time and through research. The senior level classes (numbered 400-480) focus on communication theory, which helps you both understand how communication works and how you can adapt your communication to the specific situations you will encounter throughout your life.

As you complete your major in Communication you will become a communication generalist; someone who is knowledgeable about a wide range of communication, and who is a more skillful communicator. You'll be prepared to go on to graduate school in Communication, if that's your interest, or continue your education in law school or some other post-graduate study. Or you'll be prepared to use your communication skills and knowledge in whatever career you enter, with everyone you encounter, and as a consumer of other people's messages.

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Choosing Courses

Anticipated Course Rotation

When we determine which courses the department will actually offer every semester there are a lot of things to consider. They include the university's budget, enrollment in the course the last time it was offered, the number of Communication majors who need the course, which faculty are available, enrollment in the course during early registration, and how often the course--or another course meeting the same requirement--is offered. We have to plan the schedule of offerings to make maximum use of the faculty and can't afford to offer courses with only a few students in them. That means that, although we can guarantee courses will be offered to allow you to graduate on time, we cannot guarantee precisely which courses will be offered each semester or that the courses offered when you should take them will be those you are most interested in taking.

There are some things you should keep in mind as you choose your classes to complete the major:

  • You should try to take at least one Communication course every semester. That helps you stay connected to the department by getting to know other students and professors.
  • Be sure to take COMM 105 as soon as you can because it is a prerequisite for upper division courses.
  • Some of your major requirements must be fulfilled by specific courses, while other requirements are fulfilled by choosing among a set of courses. Be sure to plan which courses you'll take and when you'll take them. You can keep track of when we plan to offer courses at the Anticipated Course Rotation part of the department’s web site.
  • In general, you should try to take the lower numbered courses before you take the higher numbered courses, because the lower numbered courses often help prepare you for the higher numbered courses. The higher numbered courses are also generally more difficult, so it's better to work your way up to them. Sometimes that's not possible because of when you enter the program and when the courses are offered, but you should do it as much as you can. Freshmen should try to take courses numbered 100-299, sophomores should try to take courses numbered 100-399, juniors should try to take courses numbered 200-499, and seniors should try to take courses numbered 300-499.
  • When you have choices between courses that meet the same requirement, it is generally in your best interest to take the courses that we do not plan to offer every semester as soon as you appropriately can. That doesn't mean freshmen should take 300 or 400 level courses. It does mean, for example, that if there's a choice between taking a course that meets a requirement in your junior year or another course that meets the same requirement in your senior year, it would be less risky to take the course offered when you're a junior. If you really want the other course you can either skip the course offered when you're a junior and take the chance we'll be able to offer the one scheduled when you're a senior, or take the course offered when you're a senior as a free elective after taking the course offered when you're a junior. If a course is offered at an appropriate time for you to take it, and you don't take it at that time, it will not be waived or substituted. Making sure you take the courses to complete your major is your responsibility. If you’re ever unsure whether you’re making the correct choice, please talk to your advisor or the department chair.
  • Some of the major courses are only offered once every two years. When they are offered, if it's the appropriate time for you to take the course, be sure to build your schedule around that course. You should be ready to adapt if we offer required courses less frequently than we plan, but you should not plan for any courses to be offered more frequently.

You can use the Anticipated Schedule of Course Offerings to plan when you will take the courses you need to complete the major. Keep in mind that it is a plan, and plans may change. The further you look in the future, the greater the likelihood is that plans could change.

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Directed Study, Field Experience, and Seminar Courses

These courses in the major are a little different from the other classes. Directed Studies (COMM 499) and Field Experiences (COMM 495) do not require you to attend regular classes, and the Seminar in Speech Communication (COMM 280 and COMM 480) classes are special topics courses that are not regularly offered. The classes are offered for variable credit, and you need to make sure you accumulate enough units to fulfill the requirements of the areas you use them to complete.

A Directed Study gives you the opportunity to learn more about a particular subject even though we don't offer a class on that subject. The possibilities are literally unlimited. If you want to do an independent study you must find an instructor willing to direct your study, establish with that instructor what you will do, and negotiate with that instructor how you will be graded. Depending on what you do, you could receive from one to three units of credit. Independent studies should not be undertaken until you have a sound background in the discipline.

Field Experience allows you to get credit through some kind of experiential learning. That might mean doing an internship, doing volunteer work, helping with the communication in a political campaign, tutoring, working as an Undergraduate Instructional Assistant, or a variety of other experiences. If you want to do a field experience you must find an instructor willing to be your supervisor, establish with that instructor what you will do, and negotiate with that instructor how you will be graded. Depending on what you do, you could receive from one to six units of credit.

The Seminar in Speech Communication classes are courses that give you a chance to learn more about a more specialized area of communication. Since the topics for these courses vary we rarely know what it will be more than one semester in advance. Sometimes the seminar classes are conducted on weekends or on some other schedule that departs from what you're used to. The expectation is that COMM 480 will be more challenging than COMM 280.

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Minors and Concentrations

When you complete your General Education requirements and the Communication major you'll have about 30 units of free electives left. You could choose those free electives just based on what looks interesting among what's offered each semester, but it's usually a better idea to choose them with some purpose in mind by exploring unfamiliar subjects and either completing a minor or concentrating your electives in specific areas of interest.

A minor is a set of courses designated by a department offering the minor. Minors are taken through departments different from your major department and usually require twelve to eighteen units. If you declare a minor when you do your graduation check you must complete the required courses for the minor to be listed in your records. You also have to make sure the office of Admissions and Records lists your minor on your transcript.

Concentrating your electives means you select courses because they're associated with what you want to do in the future. Usually the classes you select will be from departments other than Communication, but they don't have to be. If you want to learn more about communication than you'll get by meeting the minimum requirements for the major you can take more Communication courses as electives. A concentration is not formal so you don't fill out any paperwork or declare it, but you pick and choose classes based on the your interests.

For example, if you want to do Public Relations in the future you should take the Public Relations minor and some basic business and marketing classes. If you want to go to law school you should concentrate your electives on classes that will develop your critical thinking, oral communication, and written communication skills. If you want to go to graduate school in Communication you might take more classes in this department and some in Psychology, Sociology, Statistics, History, or other departments, depending on the area of the discipline you're interested in. If you want to advocate for social causes or for nonprofit institutions you could minor in Social Advocacy. If you want to go into business management you should take some business management courses. If you want to go into computer sales you should take some business classes and some computer classes. If you're interested in a career in mass communication you should take courses from the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The variety of minors or concentrations you might take are limited only by your interests, and your interests may change several times before you graduate. The point is some of your elective units should be chosen based on what can add to your major and help you in the future.

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Opportunities to Excel

When you graduate you'll want to be able to send out a resume that says you're the person who should be selected for the position, whether it's a job or a place in graduate school. Right now your resume may be close to blank. Even though you won't graduate for a while, it's not too early to consider what you'll be able to put on it.

Of course everyone knows it's important to have a good grade point average and in some cases (entry to law school, for instance) it's necessary. But good grades only meet minimum selection criteria. You need them to be considered, but you need much more to be selected.

You'll also want to have good letters of recommendation, which is different from simply favorable letters of recommendation. Good letters don't just express a favorable opinion of you based on one or two classes. Good letters come from people who have seen you demonstrate initiative, who have seen you perform well in a variety of conditions, who have seen you overcome adversity, who have observed you work well with others, who have observed your leadership skills, and who have seen you consistently go beyond the minimum expectations and strive to excel. Good recommendations usually come from people who have worked with you on projects other than those assigned in classes.

The other thing you'll want in your resume, and perhaps the most important, is a solid record of experience and achievement. More and more employers and graduate schools want to know what you've done that sets you apart from others and indicates that you're used to working hard and well. It doesn't have to be something identical to what you'll do if hired, but it should be something that shows that you're someone who seeks out and accepts challenges, and who strives to achieve goals beyond merely meeting requirements set by someone else.

Of course there are many opportunities to excel through community service and involvement in organizations outside the Department of Communication. But there are also several opportunities within the department that you should take advantage of, and they're described on the following pages.

Whichever opportunities you take advantage of, you should keep in mind that it's not important that you just have something listed, but it is important that you did something worth noting. Listing that you were, for example, a member of the Communication Club doesn't mean much. Being an officer of the CC and initiating several projects that were successfully completed means much more.

Below are descriptions of opportunities to excel within the Department of Communication.

INTERCOLLEGIAL SPEECH AND DEBATE (formally known as FORENSICS) is the intercollegiate speech and debate team that represents Humboldt at tournaments in the region and, if you qualify, at national tournaments. In addition to developing your critical thinking and public speaking skills it's a great opportunity to demonstrate that you set goals and work hard to achieve them, can work well under pressure, are willing to take challenges, take initiative, and cooperate with others. Since there are many events and many levels of competition you get the most out of this activity if you get involved as soon as you can and stick with it until you graduate. As a result of your experience on the Forensics team you can become eligible for membership in Pi Kappa Delta, the national Forensic honorary society.

No previous experience in interscholastic or intercollegiate speaking competition is required to be part of the Humboldt Forensics team.

To become part of the Forensics team you should enroll in COMM 110: Intercollegiate Speech & Debate, which can be repeated each semester. You should also talk to the Director of Forensics, Aaron Donaldson. He can tell you more about the expectations of the activity.

COMMUNICATION CLUB is a student run organization promoting the Communication department and the student interests in the department. The specific activities of CC vary from year to year depending on who is involved, but it gives you a chance to initiate and carry out projects in which you're interested. In addition to the organization's officers, the CC also elects student representatives to the department's Executive Committee. Those representatives attend the department’s Executive Committee meetings and each has a vote equal to that of any other member of the committee. Active membership in the CC helps you establish a record of initiative and achievement and gives you the chance to influence what is done in the department.

All Communication majors and minors are eligible for membership in the Communication Club. All you have to do is start showing up to the meetings.

LAMBDA PI ETA is the student honorary society which is affiliated with the National Communication Association. Humboldt is home to the Delta Pi chapter. Primarily, this honor goes to those who excel academically. Requirements for induction include:

  • completion of 60 or more college units
  • completion of 12 or more units of communication study
  • earned GPA of at least 3.0
  • earned GPA in communication classes of at least 3.25
  • enrolled as a full-time student
  • displays commitment to the field of communication

Members receive a certificate of membership, a membership pin, and society newsletter. The also may elect to wear honors cords at graduation. If you qualify, you will be invited to join. However, do not hesitate to remind the department chair of your qualifications if you are interested.

BASIC COURSE TUTORING is done by students who have successfully completed Fundamentals of Speech Communication, Critical Thinking and Small Groups, Introduction to Argumentation, or Critical Listening and Thinking. Tutors work one-on-one with students from those classes who want help learning the concepts, studying for exams, or preparing speaking assignments. Tutoring not only helps you learn to work individually with people to improve their performances, but also demonstrates your willingness to be of service to others.

To become a tutor you must discuss your interests and qualifications with the department chair and enroll in COMM 495: Field Experience, which can be repeated.

UNDERGRADUATE INSTRUCTIONAL ASSISTANTS are advanced students who assist in the instruction of Communication courses. Depending on who their supervising instructor is UIAs may help design the course, deliver lectures, and grade assignments. Being a UIA helps you demonstrate your ability to act in a leadership role while you learn to supervise others. The experience of being a UIA is very helpful for students who want to get a teaching assistantship when they go to graduate school, as well as for students who anticipate being in professional situations where they will instruct others.

To become a UIA you must find a professor who is willing to be your supervising instructor. Then contact the department chair to get the application information needed to receive department approval to be a UIA. If you receive such approval you must also enroll in COMM 495: Field Experience under the supervising instructor's name.

ACADEMIC CONFERENCES allow you the opportunity to extend the work you do in class and present it to other students and professors from other universities. Since only outstanding research is selected for the conferences, presenting at the conferences demonstrates your work is significantly better than that done by most undergraduate students.

Each year there are two conferences Humboldt students might attend. The Bay Area Undergraduate Research Conference is hosted by different schools in the San Francisco area each spring. They accept completed research reports. The Western States Communication Association is a yearly conference that takes place in one of the Western states. There is a program dedicated to only undergrduate research at the convention. In addition, when the National Communication Association convention is nearby you could attend it. There are also other undergraduate research conferences held in other parts of the country that Humboldt students could attend if qualified and if funding is obtained.

If you're interested in attending any of the conferences, discuss the possibility with a faculty member you’d like to supervise your research.

FIELD EXPERIENCE involves working off campus in an organization, putting your knowledge of communication to work. You might work for a business, in a nonprofit organization, in a government agency, or some other organization. Field experience gives you the opportunity to both put your knowledge to work and to learn more about the way communication works in the real world.

To do a field experience you need to find a professor who will supervise your experience and a place that will accept you as a full-time or part-time intern. You will negotiate with the organization what your duties and responsibilities will be and you will negotiate with the instructor what you will need to do to receive credit. You will also need to sign up for COMM 495: Field Experience.

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Other Things You Should Know About

The Squad Room on the main floor of the house is also available for your use. On Wednesdays from 2:00-3:00 it will be used for department Executive Committee meetings, and at other times it may be reserved for use for other department meetings, by the Speech and Debate team, or for other purposes. When it is not being used you're welcome to use it as a place to spend time between classes. You will be able to connect to the internet from Telonicher House.

Right inside the front door to Telonicher House are some boxes mounted on the wall. You may find them useful as a place to drop off material you want to get to other students.

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Assessment Procedures

The Department of Communication uses an assessment procedure both to make sure our students are benefiting from our curriculum and to evaluate the curriculum itself.

At the heart of the assessment is the Capstone Class (COMM 490). The requirements for the capstone class change from year to year as it is taught by different professors and as we decide we need different information. The university requires every program to assess their students' writing ability and in 2010 the Communication department decided that the writing assessment would be done in the Capstone class since you'll take it when you have had the most instruction and experience in writing. One of our department's Student Learning Outcomes is Oral Communication, and that is also assessed in the capstone class for the same reason as the written communication. You can go to the following links to look at our assessment plans and results so far:

Communication Major Goals & Outcomes (doc)

Annual Assessment Progress Report: 2008 -- Students will prepare and present and original, formal, and researched speech (doc)

Annual Assessment Progress Report: 2009 -- Students will demonstrate fundamental understanding of how knowledge is generated in the Communication discipline (doc)

The class often requires a portfolio that you are supposed to compile as you take classes that fulfill major requirements. The portfolio consists of the assignments and exams you complete as you go through each class. At the end of each semester, or at the start of the following semester, you should organize the material to go into your portfolio and keep it until you take the Capstone Course. Then, when you take the Capstone Experience course in your senior year you will use the material to complete the portfolio.

Another common part of the Capstone class is a Student Self-Assessment and Integration Assignment. That has been a five to ten page essay assessing your strengths and weaknesses in each of the major areas, plus skills in writing, speaking and critical thinking. This is meant to be an integrative exercise in which you will show your understanding of how all the areas of the major are related.

In the Capstone class you may also be reuired to complete a senior project, the purpose of which is to demonstrate that you can integrate all of your skills and to allow you an opportunity to have at least one polished, professional example of your work. This project may take many forms, such as a speech, a training and development manual, a report of original research, a rhetorical criticism, or another project that you work out with the instructor. It must, however, demonstrate that you have integrated theory, research and practice in an area of communication. You may start this project before the Capstone Experience and you may consult with faculty who are most appropriate for the topic.

Another part of the Capstone class is often a final presentation of your work. Department faculty will be invited to attend final presentations of senior projects and your portfolio will be available for them to review.

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