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Course Descriptions

Here you can explore the course descriptions for the M.A. in Communication and Leadership Studies (COML) Program. These courses are designed to foster student engagement, networking and brainstorming, and equip students with applicable skills they can put to immediate use. The COML curriculum builds on the educational philosophies of John Dewey and Ignatius Loyola through pragmatism, experience and action, and learning by doing. Students often say, “I needed that course at that time in my life.” This thrills us because this is exactly how faculty designed the program. Furthermore, small class sizes create an environment that is ideal for meaningful interaction with both professors and fellow students.


Course Descriptions - Communication & Leadership Studies

COML 500 Organizational Leadership (3 credits)

An introduction to organizational leadership begins with an examination of these questions: How do leaders explain the causes of dysfunctional thinking and/or behavior in themselves, other leaders, or in organizations? How do they understand the differences among a variety of styles of leadership and organizational models? How do they apply the theories of leadership and the principles of organizational behavior to actual situations? How do they formulate a broad, integrative perspective from which to view leadership and organizational behavior? Drawing from the social science, this integrated course focuses on research and models of leadership relevant to defining and achieving collective goals in a variety of organizational settings.

COML 501 Communication and Organizational Research (3 credits)

Required Prerequisite for COML 680

Students will learn and develop competencies in the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and/or engage in primary research. Students will learn: how to identify, select, and review academic studies relevant to a research topic; how to generate research questions by refining and distilling a research topic; and how to develop a methodological design that identifies and explains the research method to answer research questions. For students in the COML program, this course serves as a critical building block for the capstone COML 680 Thesis/Project course.

Practical Application:

Research Methods is where students learn to design research by designing research with their professors. This is where research design textbooks come to life as faculty guide students through crafting research questions, reviewing literature, and choosing appropriate research methods. Students leave this class having designed their own rough draft of the first three chapters of their thesis or a project.

COML 503 Communication and Organizational Ethics (3 credits)

This course will examine ethical dilemmas of communication and leadership within the context of moral choices and implications of decision-making. Course readings and case study analysis will prepare students to function ethically in personal, social, political, and professional spheres. Defining and analyzing personal values and worldviews in online postings will help students identify and clarify personal motivations, behaviors, and reactions to ethical problems. Students will integrate and apply ethical principles to logically identify, develop, and evaluate solutions to real-word ethical problems.

Practical Application:

The emphasis of this course is in articulating strategies for ethical situations each of us face in our daily lives. Students create strategies for responding to ethical problems, for balancing personal virtues and organizational values. Students learn strategies for creating cooperative communities with shared values, and they learn what to consider when recommending ethical courses of action after analysis of ethical dilemmas.

COML 504 Organizational Communication and Leadership (3 credits)

All organizations — from Microsoft, to churches, social clubs, and universities — rely on communication. Being able to communicate strategically is crucial to meaningful participation. This course will explore contemporary concepts about the meanings and functions of communication in organizations. Organizational communication encompasses not only communication within businesses, but also within large private or nonprofit associations, larger community groups, and governments both large and small. We will cover selected topics in organizational communication research such as culture, socialization, systems theory, communication and technology, and globalization.

Practical Application:

Recognizing and understanding the influence of overt and subtle structures and organizational cultures are central to the exploration and understanding of effective communication in organizations. In this course, students explore contemporary concepts about the meanings and functions of communication in organizations, while integrating their own experiences in group discussions and case studies. Students also learn practical and useful consulting, research, and analytical skills by conducting a communication assessment/audit of an actual organization as a culminating project for the course.

COML 506 International and Intercultural Communication (3 credits)

Who we are – whether we are comfortable with this idea or not – is shaped in part by the social roles we occupy and how society sees us in those roles. As we will see from the very beginning of this class, our social roles, the class we are born into, and our gender all have implications for our lives. We will explore intercultural communication as a tool for bridging differences and learning about identities, practices, and cultures.

Practical Application:

International and Intercultural Communication is a practical course where students learn to explain and evaluate the impact of race and ethnicity on an individual’s life, and demonstrate the ability to understand the perspective of another by applying intercultural communication theory and practices. Students engage in critiques having to do with gender and class constraints and challenges in communication. This class necessarily immerses students into situations that require empathetic explanation of various individuals’ perspectives, through use of competent intercultural communication. Finally, students delve into intercultural research and write their own literature review. Student groups collaboratively propose and present together.

COML 508 Theorizing Communication (3 credits)

As an introduction to the field of communication, this course investigates major theories of communication, emphasizing theorizing as a process of constructing visions of reality. Critical analysis of the underlying assumptions of theoretical models of communication will help to frame your understanding of communication into a philosophical and ethical statement.

Practical Application:

To see the value of communication theory is to apply it. Once you apply communication theory and see its practical nature, you will deepen that understanding in this class by doing some theorizing of your own. First students immerse in understanding theory critiquing it, then students learn to work with theory by teaching it to each other. Students trace the historical development of a theory of their choice. Finally, in teams, students follow the theory building process to both better understand a social problem and help solve one.

COML 509 Social Dynamics of Communication and Technology (3 credits)

This course will explore, examine, and analyze the ways in which communication technology influences our shared fundamental assumptions about the nature of communication, and the manner in which we interact with one another on a daily basis, as well as our socially shared values, beliefs, and attitudes.

Practical Application:

This is the class where students learn some of the seminal innovations, cases, ideas and debates that have influenced how communication systems have developed and take root in society. It is then that students can articulate a critical stance toward the deluge of electronic communication we are all subjected to today. Students create a technology profile in addition to learning to synthesize the readings and offer critical insights. In the end, students get to explore a particular empirical and/or theoretical issue related to communication technology and to develop your unique interpretation of the topic.

COML 517 Communication Practicum: Speech, Writing and Multi-Media (3 credits)

3-day on-campus residency

This course is grounded in the principle that the best learning is experiential, and occurs in the context of a community. This practicum is designed to merge theory and praxis, providing practical application of communication knowledge and action with a focus on public speaking, group processes writing, and multi-media products. Students will work to create a website/blog of a community profile that includes speaking, writing, and multi-media components.

COML 518 Writing in the Discipline (no credit, co-requisite with COML 508, fee-based lab)

No credit, co-requisite with COML 508, fee-based lab

This course is designed to introduce students to the genre of academic writing in the discipline of communication. It is designed to both assess and improve a student\’s writing skills while serving as a resource for graduate students who are apprehensive about their writing skills or who need to brush up on writing competencies.

Students who score 4.5 or above in the Analytical Writing category of the GRE are exempt from taking the Writing Workshop COML 518.

COML 680 - Capstone Communication Seminar - Project or Thesis (3 credits)

Prerequisite: COML 501 and thirty graduate credits

In this integrative capstone course students will complete a thesis or project on a communication topic. Under the guidance of a professor and a mentor, the student will complete an original research study or applied project to be presented in a public forum.

Practical Application:

COML faculty agree that the best way to learn is by doing. The best way to learn how to write a thesis or create a project is by writing or creating one, but not by yourself. Each student works with a faculty person during this semester course. Some students submit their completed work from this class to regional and national conferences where it is often accepted for presentation. Some of these students have even won “top graduate paper” awards!

COML 510 - Communication Teaching and Pedagogy (3 credits)

This course is designed for people considering a career as a communication educator at the college level. The goals for this class have three interrelated dimensions: cognitive learning, affective orientation, and behavioral development. Students will develop curriculum, learn teaching strategies, develop goals and assessment, observe college classroom environments, and build a teaching portfolio.

Practical Application:

In this course, students learn to construct meaningful learning environments for adult learners. Students will also increase skills in adapting verbal and nonverbal behavior in ways that maximizes interpersonal understanding and instructional effectiveness in college classroom contexts. Students explore their identity as a teacher and create teaching philosophies. Students learn from observations and explore some learning technologies. Students create lesson plans and micro-teaching lessons. In the end, students have a teaching portfolio in hand to help launch their work as teachers.

COML 511 - Seminar in Communication Consulting and Training (3 credits)

In a global economy, it is increasingly important to have the training and consulting skills that will allow you to interact effectively with many different cultures. Understanding and creating new media programs is vital to you and your organization’s success. This course will explore the unique application of communication skills and models for training and consulting. There will be practice in consulting in a variety of settings, developing resources, marketing, workshop development, training, skill building, and evaluation.

Practical Application:

Based on communication theory and research, the goals are to understand and explore the elements of communication effectiveness in organizational settings and develop rhetorical skills to become effective trainers and consultants. In a global economy it is increasingly important to have the training and consulting skills to interact effectively with many different cultures. In addition, understanding and creating new media programs is also vital to students and their organization’s success. Students find their unique path and passion in the training and consulting disciplines. Students connect the dots between their real life experience, classroom discussions, theory and ultimately practicing their consulting and training skills at a deep and practical level.

COML 512 - Seminar in Strategic and Corporate Communication (3 credits)

Gone are the days when organizations can afford to just wait it out while their competition moves ahead. Whether a student leads or works for an organization, or is in charge of strategic planning or communication, it is critical to understand how to develop, implement and evaluate effective integrated communication plans. New ideas, trends, issues, projects, and services in our workplaces are all opportunities to plan, strategize and communicate with the many stakeholders. Students learn from real-life examples as well as their colleagues to fully understand and implement campaigns, media relations strategies, and social media tactics.

COML 513 - Seminar in Advanced Topics in Communication (3 credits)

This seminar explores cutting-edge technologies, theory, and issues. The specific theme of this course varies each time it is offered because communication is constantly evolving.

COML 513 - Communication, Technology, and Social Change (3 credits)

Social media and other new forms of electronic communication play an integral role in who can and cannot participate in these turbulent times. One course goal is to become aware of the many ways activists are working to direct our attention and accomplish social change. Understanding how the world is influenced by individuals working together is vital in today’s society.  Students are introduced to the major concepts related to social movements and the role that communication and technologies play in facilitating social change. This course explores these questions: How do social movements form? What communication strategies do they use to accomplish their goals? And, what are the barriers to their success?

COML 513 - Peacebuilding through Dialogue (3 credits)

11-day residency in Derry, Northern Ireland

The aim of this course is to introduce concepts from the field of communication that enable an understanding of how local peacebuilding can build bridges across conflicting groups in deeply divided societies. Communication and dialogue are closely intertwined and together act at the heart of establishing shared space and creating a common future. This course will reflect on the causes and history of The Troubles (1969-1998) as well as the tortuous peace process following the Belfast Agreement in 1998. Based on that agreement, Northern Ireland’s devolved government finally became a reality in 2008. Local peacebuilding through dialogue is central to understanding how peace has been maintained.

COML 513 - Renaissance Rhetoric and Contemporary Leadership (3 credits)

14-day residency in Florence, Italy

Communication and leadership are closely intertwined, whether in our current period of post-modernity or during the European Renaissance. Fifteenth century Italy and Florence in particular, saw a flowering of the arts and scholarship unmatched in history. This can be seen in the rhetoric of art and architecture, religious preaching, political writing and oratory, and in the humanistic philosophy that emerges from them. This course examines this period through readings and discussions in order to formulate the critical questions necessary to bring these ideas to our contemporary world. Using the Italian Renaissance as the canvas we will study multiple examples of rhetoric, both written and visual.

COML 514 - Seminar in Advanced Criticism (3 credits)

The study of criticism begins with the understanding that as human beings we use language and other symbols to shape the world in which we live. Rhetorical theory allows us to begin to understand how symbols function. Rhetorical criticism is one of the processes through which we assess specific symbolic acts. Students will explore and apply several different methods including how to describe primary rhetorical acts or texts (including speeches, films, news coverage, television programs, songs, and advertisements, among others) in rich, relevant detail; how to situate or make sense of rhetorical acts or texts within their historical, cultural moments; and how to use theory to develop a rhetorical perspective that will help render a judgment about a text or act.

Practical Application:

Most seminars are for talking about readings. This seminar is where students put course reading and rhetorical theory into practice. First, students collaboratively choose persuasive artifacts and sift through different methods of rhetorical analysis to discover and defend the best choices on a group-created Wiki. For the second rhetorical analysis, students choose their own artifacts and defend their own conclusions.

COML 515 - Seminar in Interpersonal and Small Group Communication (3 credits)

This course will enhance your ability to assess an interpersonal or small-group communication event and its context (a “context” can be familial, business, church, school-related, and so on). Students will learn to choose among relevant theoretical perspectives in order to understand and improve interpersonal and small-group communication within specific social contexts. The course is designed to encourage students to explore the communication dynamics that create group situations (and the ethical dimensions of these situations), and to explore specific communication actions that can lead to positive social change.

Practical Application:

Most of us work in groups. Most of us communicate interpersonally throughout our day. These are two areas that can become more enjoyable and human through practical application of interpersonal theory and small group theory. In this class we assess our communication contexts and apply theory and skills to improve them. Also, students qualitatively explore a topic of their choice and design their own research question.

COML 516 - Seminar in Media Literacy (3 credits)

Despite our awareness that we live in an age of communication, we are often unaware of how we contribute, define, make, use and are used by various forms of communication media. Communication in our society takes place in many forms, including mass electronic media, telecommunications, transportation, publishing and even our educational system. This course examines the implications of several forms of communication for how we live and what we believe, including the impact of mass media on modern societies, conflicting social interests and the needs of different groups in society, the formation of public opinion, and the diffusion of innovations. Attention will be directed throughout the course to the processes of developing action plans for communication that incorporates principles of media literacy.

 Practical Application

Students learn uses and gratifications theory by responding to a survey and keeping a 24-hour log of media usage. Students learn the power of the medium by writing a brief comparative analysis of the same story in two different media. Students learn to consider mass media influence through a class debate on Huxley an Orwell. Students also participate in a Community Action Outreach/Service Learning Project where they develop a community or organizational project that focuses on an area of media literacy that can help improve or enhance communication media practices or understanding. Through the project, students learn what is important to them about the potential of media literacy in community.

COML 520 - Communication Leadership Internship (3 credits)

Students will complete an approximately 240-hour internship under the supervision of a communication professor at a local college or university for one semester or quarter. The internship includes the development of a portfolio and evaluations from internship supervisors. Students are responsible for arranging the internship.

Practical Application:

COML has optional internships to aid students in the real world application of the theoretical knowledge they gain in our classrooms. Students who pursue internships have to have a 3.0 GPA, 15 credits completed in our program, a recommendation by the Chair of COML, a complete resume, a successful interview with the on-site internship supervisor, and a faculty sponsor from COML to oversee the academic side of their experience.

COML 521 - Travel Writing (3 credits)

This course is designed to improve your ability to write a narrative from stories about travel. The genre ranges from the documentary to the evocative, from literary to journalistic, and from humorous to serious. This course will show you how to put your camera aside (temporarily) and engage your experiences more deeply in both strange and familiar places close to home. Text exercises will help you develop the basic storytelling and descriptive skills this genre requires. Selected current readings will serve as examples of good writing.

COML 660/661 - Directed Readings (3 credits)



Maximizing your Master’s Degree in Communication and Leadership with Area Studies.

Gonzaga University offers a wide selection of courses within the field of Communication. Additionally the field of Communication is very broad.  Gonzaga offers students the utmost flexibility relevant to their interests and offers a broad selection of courses that students are free to choose from to complete their degree.  Many students choose to take particular courses to create opportunities to develop skills in particular sub-specializations within the field of communication.

Here are some of the examples that students have selected, but it is always recommended you speak with your Academic Advisor when making choices.

College Teaching of Communication

Course a: COML 510 Communication Teaching and Pedagogy

Course b: COML 520 Internship in College Teaching in the student\’s region

Course c: COML 517 Practicum and Teaching Portfolio

Course d: COML 680 Capstone with project or thesis in Teaching & Learning

Course Descriptions

COML 510 – Communication Teaching and Pedagogy (3 credits)

This course was designed for people considering a career as a communication educator at the college level. The goals for this class have three interrelated dimensions; (a) cognitive learning, (b) affective orientation; and (c) behavioral development. Students will develop curriculum, learn teaching strategies, develop goals and assessment, college classroom observations, and build a teaching portfolio.

COML 517 Communication Practicum: Speech, Writing and Multi-Media (3 credits)

Residency course that can be taken in Cagli, Italy or on campus in Spokane, WA. This is a Core Course requirement for the COML Program.

This course is grounded in the principle that the best learning is experiential, and occurs in the context of a community. This practicum is designed to merge theory and praxis and provide practical application of communication knowledge and action with a focus on public speaking, group processes writing, and multi-media products. Students will work to create a website/blog of a community profile that includes speaking, writing, and multi-media components.

Syllabus/Portfolio Design

You will be required to complete a syllabus/portfolio similar to our COML 517 course. The syllabus/portfolio should be submitted AFTER you have completed COML 517 and BEFORE you enroll in COML 680. It is graded on a Pass/ No Pass basis. The grade will not show up on your official transcript, but is a required element for the Emphasis. Students who receive a No Pass can revise the syllabus/portfolio ONE TIME.

The goal of this syllabus/portfolio is for you to develop syllabi for teaching public speaking, writing, and multimedia. As you pursue a career in teaching, you may be asked to teach in any or all of these three areas. The syllabus/portfolio, then, offers an opportunity for you to think through how you would teach these skills and develop a course (or courses) that incorporate public speaking, writing, and multimedia.

Syllabi Assignment

You will need to submit 3 separate syllabi. The following should be included on each of the three syllabi:

  • Course objectives
  • Courses policies
  • Assessment and grading
  • Required and optional readings
  • Skills that will be developed
  • Assignment descriptions
  • General course calendar

You can be creative in this portfolio. COML 517 includes 3 separate syllabi, yet the final project integrates speaking, writing, and multimedia components. Our course includes a 3-day residency, but you may choose to design your 3 courses as separate entities. In the end, the ultimate goal is to demonstrate how you would teach these skills to undergraduates.

Paper Assignment

In addition to the syllabi, you will submit a 3-5 page reflective paper that discusses the rationale behind your syllabus. Your paper should address the following questions: What instructional strategies are you using to achieve your course objectives? How is your teaching philosophy reflected in your course design?


You should submit your portfolio to your teaching advisor for approval.

COML 520 Internship in College Teaching in the student\’s region.

COML 680 Thesis or Project

  • Students  are required to do their capstone project or thesis on a topic related to communication education or teaching.

Global/Intercultural and International Communication

Course a: COML 506 International and Intercultural Communication in Cagli, Italy

Course b: COML 517 Multi-Media Practicum in Cagli, Italy

Course c: Choose one of the following two courses:

  • COML 508 Theorizing Communication or
  • COML 509 Social Dynamics of Communication Technology

Course d: COML 680 Capstone with project or thesis on Intercultural Theme

Strategic and Organizational Communication

Course a: COML 504 Organizational Communication & Leadership

Course b & c: Choose two of the following three courses:

  • COML 511 Strategic and Corporate Communication, or
  • COML 512 Consulting and Training, or
  • COML 515 Seminar in Interpersonal and Small Group Communication

Course d: COML 680 Capstone with project or thesis in this specialization

Any Organizational Leadership (ORGL) course can be used to meet this elective. Talk with your Academic Advisor regarding which one would support your degree goals.

Organizational Leadership Domestic Immersion Electives

Program information subject to change.