The central aim of the Speech Communication program is to explore the significance of making meaning. In concert with disciplinary approaches to communication studies, the program understands communication as a constitutive process through which individuals and institutions negotiate power in ways that have significance for all of social life. Meaning making occurs in a variety of settings, including interpersonal, organizational, and public; through a range of channels and forums (textual, visual, digital, etc.); and in relation to both micro-level and macro-level interactions (such as within the family and workplace; in regard to large structures; and through social norms).
Through exploring the significance of making meaning, students in the Speech Communication program study the dynamics of communication in organizations and the workplace; the construction and significance of communicative messages; and the psychological and social aspects of the processes of making meaning. Meaning making encompasses individual and institutional expressions of agency; the ways in which individuals and institutions use power to convey communicative messages and practices; and the means by which communication is used to sustain and resist social norms and assumptions in numerous and complex interactions.
In relation to exploring the significance of making meaning, the program pursues three primary objectives:
- to examine agency and implication;
- to support critical and creative competencies; and
- to encourage a language and imagination for the public good.
Agency and implication. Agency refers to the ways in which individuals, situated in communities and social structures, use power to sustain, resist, and alter the contexts in which they live. Implication points to the ways in which to be human is to be embedded, to be always situated in relationship to a variety of individuals, communities, and publics. An examination of agency and implication reveals the ways in which discursively constructed conditions constrain and produce possibilities for action within systems of power. Understanding the significance of meaning making through attention to agency and implication foregrounds the ability of students to make a difference in the world in which they live; and the ways in which human interests, desires, and actions are necessarily bound up with the lives of others.
Critical and creative competencies. Critical competencies allow for the recognition and interrogation of the power and politics that underlie all forms of discursive and material production. Creative competencies recognize the open-ended and indeterminate character of the future and encourage the development of communication practices capable of generating change given existing conditions of possibility. An awareness of implicated agency, paired with creative and critical competencies, leads to an ethical and creative praxis. The program aims to study, practice, and teach communication as a set of critical and creative competencies that form the foundation for ethical leadership; that show how discursive practices hold the potential for living with difference; that allow individuals to effectively negotiate power; and that open up possibilities for dialogue, understanding and social change.
Language and imagination for the public good. The public good refers to practices through which institutions value engagement; quality of life (in regard to families and communities, education, employment, meaningful work, health care, aesthetic expression, etc.); and the well-being of, and reduction of suffering among, social groups. A language for the public good supports the identification of the components and communicative practices central to these values. An imagination for the public good will ensure that students can envision a different articulation of social relationships and power, and move from critique to reconstitution of public and communicative practices.