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Undergraduate Programs

Communication Studies Program

Communication Studies is an interdisciplinary program that draws from an array of fields in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This interdisciplinarity allows students and faculty alike to explore a variety of approaches, theories, methods and other resources for analyzing communication in social, economic, political and cultural environments that are rapidly changing and becoming increasingly complex.

The program at Laurier offers a four-year honours degree, and a four-year combined honours degree in which Communication Studies is combined with another honours major. There is also a co-op option that allows eligible students to work in communications-related summer jobs.

In addition to a small number of required courses, students are able to choose from among a wide range of other Communication Studies courses. The program is designed to allow students to customize their education, to match personal interests and career plans and to keep pace with rapid changes in the field.

Students can also choose to do a Concentration in one of six areas:

  • Media and communication history;
  • Media and cultural theory;
  • Visual communication;
  • Global communication;
  • Cultural and creative industries; and
  • Digital media studies.

Learning Objectives

The Department of Communication Studies offers students a comprehensive approach to the study of communication in society. We aim to provide students with the critical skills to assess and understand the role of communication and media in their lives and in society in general. Viewing communication as a fundamental human activity, the department provides students with the skills to be active and engaged participants in public life within local, national, and international contexts.

100-Level Courses

The department offers two courses:

  • CS100: Media History; and
  • CS101: Canadian Communication in Context.

These two survey courses are designed to introduce students to the major social transformations that accompanied the emergence of communications, and the development of mass media and communication in Canada. Course material and assignments are designed to encourage students to conduct research, develop expository writing skills, and become familiar with the research materials offered through the Laurier Library.

200-Level Courses

Students are exposed to core courses and elective courses designed to introduce some of the core conceptual, theoretical, and methodological issues that shape communication studies. Core courses at the 200 level include verbal and non-verbal communication, intercultural communication, visual communication, the role of language, and the media’s role in disseminating messages. Additionally, courses offered at the 200 level introduce students to quantitative and qualitative research methods employed in communication studies.

300-Level Courses

Communication Studies courses at this level build upon the conceptual, theoretical, and historical issues introduced in previous years, and allow students more advanced exploration in the six key thematic and substantive areas in the program: media and communication history, media and cultural theory, visual communication, global communication, cultural and creative industries and digital media studies.

Core courses include critical advertising studies, visual communication, communication and gender, print communication, communication and political economy, international communication, alternative media, media ethics, television studies and digital media. These courses are intended to provide students with both depth and breadth in the field of communication studies appropriate to this level of study.

400-Level Courses

At the 400 level, Communication Studies courses offer a more specialized analysis of specific issues related to communication studies. These courses require students to undertake research that integrates theoretical frameworks and perspectives with media and communication studies. Students are expected to produce theoretically informed and critically engaged analyses of communication and society. Senior seminar courses (CS400) are tied to faculty research interests, while the advanced courses (CS411, CS412, CS413, etc.) are capstone courses offered in the areas of departmental focus.

Upon graduation, Communication Studies students will be prepared to pursue post-graduate studies, or work in a variety of media and non-media related fields.

Learning Outcomes

A program-level learning outcome can be defined as a statement that articulates what a graduate of the program should be able to know and/or do upon completion of their degree. Upon completion of the Communication Studies program, you will be able to:

  • Understand basic concepts, key terms and main theories in the field of communication studies.
  • Situate main theories in the interdisciplinary area of communication scholarship through the material context of historical, existing and emergent communication and media forms.
  • Identify, compare and contrast major developments in the history of communication forms and technologies.
  • Investigate parallels, similarities and differences between contemporary media and previous communication technologies, and critique the development and use of media technology broadly — both historically and in the contemporary moment.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the differences between — and the contexts of the emergence of — methodological approaches to communication studies, weighing their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Identify appropriate methodological approaches and successfully apply them to a research question in the field.
  • Collect, understand, synthesize and apply appropriate theoretical and historical interdisciplinary research in the formulation and defence of convincing written, visual and oral arguments in communication studies.
  • Understand and explain fundamental theories and processes in the histories and contemporary systems of globalization as they pertain to communication studies.
  • Elaborate and elucidate the major vocabulary, theories and issues arising in the area of visual culture and communication, and apply this ability to specific instances of this sub-field.
  • Articulate connections and discontinuities between the periods, theories and sub-fields of, as well as methodological approaches to, communication studies as a discipline.

Cultural Studies Program

Cultural Studies takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of culture in multiple forms, from the workings of culture industries — those institutions that produce mass culture — to how people make sense of the culture around them. A focus on mass culture goes with an interest in popular culture. From popular music (KS210) to cartoons and comics (KS205) and monsters (KS330), Cultural Studies seeks to understand how cultural objects and processes matter in everyday life.

Cultural Studies resides at the intersection of the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts, and it understands scholarship as having an integral role to play in global social justice. Cultural Studies works to break down barriers that can sometimes divide academia from the communities it studies. Cultural Studies classrooms are exciting and innovative and you may well find yourself tackling unique assignments while drawing critical conclusions about things you experience and encounter every day. If you are an engaged learner, Cultural Studies will certainly be a good fit for you.

Learning Expectations

First Year

100-level courses introduce students to the history and contemporary articulations of Cultural Studies through an exploration of everyday and popular cultures. Students are introduced to key theories and theorists in the field and become acquainted with the methods of cultural studies through practicing them in analyses of cultural practices, products and institutions available to them in the Kitchener-­Waterloo region.

Second Year

200-level courses reinforce and extend knowledge of the theoretical, methodological and analytic framework provided by a cultural studies approach through focussed analyses in various areas such as the study of either Cartoons and Comics or Cultural Studies of Popular Music.

Third Year

300-level courses further extend, expand and encourage mastery of the theoretical and methodological imperatives of cultural studies as well as the ways in which these apply to issues of social justice and cultural activism. Courses encourage issue- or theme-based critical thinking and research and illustrates connections between these and concerns of social justice and cultural activism.

Fourth Year

The 400-level senior seminar in Cultural Studies serves as the capstone course for the honours Cultural Studies program. This course promotes discussion of advanced topics or themes in Cultural Studies, gives students the opportunity to develop their own research questions and conduct advanced research in the field, and provides a forum for presentation of research findings in both written and oral form.

Learning Outcomes

A program-level learning outcome can be defined as a statement that articulates what a graduate of the program should be able to know and/or do upon completion of their degree. Upon completion of the Cultural Studies program, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a cohesive understanding of cultural studies as a discipline formed by interdisciplinary trajectories.
  • Engage in interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the ways in which culture is formed, practiced, and constituted.
  • Employ the primary disciplinary debates within cultural studies as a discipline, particularly the ways in which culture can be understood in the context of identity formations and systems of power generated around concepts of race, gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, and forces of globalization.
  • Become conversant in the central questions, theories, methodologies, methods, and concepts that guide knowledge formation in the context of cultural studies as a discipline.
  • Generate a critical awareness of the institutional and social structures that circumscribe forms of cultural production and be able to critique assumptions around notions of "high" and "low" culture.
  • Understand all forms of cultural production, including popular culture, as sites of ideological production which can be "unpacked" utilizing the aforementioned tools.
  • Perform a close reading of any cultural "text" (including visual culture, sound and music, forms of textual culture, etc.) in order to examine the underpinning ideological structures.
  • Comprehend the implications of different interpretive techniques, weighing their benefits and limitations.
  • Construct rhetorically persuasive arguments, identifying and articulating compelling questions and synthesizing relevant scholarly literature (both orally and in written form).