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Curriculum & Course Descriptions

Gonzaga’s online or on-campus M.A. in Communication and Leadership Studies (COML) curriculum encourages you to push boundaries, think critically, and develop a personal sense of leadership.

Courses are designed to foster student engagement, networking and brainstorming, and equip you with practical and applicable skills you can put to immediate use.   Our small class sizes creates an environment that is ideal for meaningful interaction with both your professors and fellow students.

Curriculum Overview

30 semester credits are required to complete M.A. in Communication and Leadership Studies:

  • 12 credits in Theory & Practice Core Courses
  • 12 credits in Communication Electives
  • 6 credits in Capstone Requirements
  • Concentrations listed below

Click to download  printer-friendly Progression Plan that features the most important information about this degree.

Course Descriptions

Download the printable list of course descriptions here.

COML 595: Theorizing Communication (3 credits)

In this foundational course, we introduce you to theories behind the way we communicate.  In simple terms, a theory is an explanation for how something works and there are many practical and useful theories about communication.  You will learn how organizations, the media and people exchange information.  In addition, you will gain the tools to identify how verbal (speeches, music, media) and nonverbal (images, writing, symbols) means are used to craft and deliver a message to create an intended response.  It will also help you discern which tactics and strategies are being used so you can make ethical and effective decisions about the way you and your organization communicate.

COML 596: Masters Level Writing (co-requisite with COML 595, fee-based lab)

No credit, co-requisite with COML 595, fee-based lab

This course is an introduction to the genre of academic writing in the discipline of communication. It is designed to both assess and improve writing skills while serving as a resource for those who are apprehensive or need to brush up on writing.

Students who score 4.5 or above in the Analytical Writing category of the GRE are exempt from taking the Writing Workshop COML 596.

COML 597: Communication & Leadership Ethics (3 credits)

This course is an exploration into the personal, organizational, and social values present in ethical dilemmas.  You will develop skills in ethical communication, decision-making and be able to consider multiple ethical perspectives. You will also learn strategies to respond to ethical problems while balancing your personal beliefs with organizational values.

COML 598: International and Intercultural Communication (3 credits)

You will identify and analyze how communication is affected by culture, identity, gender, race and class.  You will explore the effects of those differences in attitudes, social organization, role expectations, language and nonverbal behavior.  Principles of communication theory as they apply to the intercultural context are also emphasized.

COML 599: Communication Practicum, 3-day on-campus residency, Spokane, WA (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 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.

COML 505: Digital Storytelling (3 credits)

The digital age has changed the way we tell stories. Web 2.0 technologies allow users access to a range of digital technologies to not only create their own stories, but share them widely through social media. But how do stories make an impact on audiences, given that there is so much more information available? This course teaches you different forms of storytelling using digital media tools including Audacity, GIMP, imovie, and Windows MovieMaker. Readings will help you better understand different narrative and persuasive styles of storytelling as well as understand the major theoretical and policy-related issues. Through hands-on assignments, you will acquire technical skills that will help you become a more effective communicator in the digital age.

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.

COML 510: Communication Teaching and Pedagogy (3 credits)

This course is designed for those considering teaching communication at the college level.  You will learn teaching strategies, develop your teaching philosophy and observe college classroom environments.  You will also increase your skills in assessing verbal and nonverbal behaviors to create an engaging classroom experience.

COML 511: Communication Consulting & 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.

COML 512: Strategic & Corporate Communication (3 credits)

You will learn to think strategically to create an effective communication plan that will gain buy-in from stakeholders.  You will conduct research, analyze metrics, identify messaging and take advantage of all forms of media to craft a strategic communication plan that can be used by any organization.

COML 513: Leadership and Mindfulness (3 credits)

This course is a multi-­sensory, experiential introduction to mindfulness supported by empirical research.  Students will learn to define mindfulness and identify its empirical grounding and practical application in multiple leadership and communication contexts.  Discuss the relationship between mindfulness and Jesuit principles.  Engage in a regular, personal mindfulness practice and document reflections and learning achieved.  Make functional/practical and meaningful applications of mindfulness to leadership and/or communication contexts.

COML 513: Advanced Topics (3 credits)

COML 513 can be taken twice for elective credit.

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 514: 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. You 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.

COML 515: 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, etc.). You will use relevant theoretical perspectives in order to understand and improve interpersonal and small-group communication within social contexts. The course encourages you to explore the communication dynamics that create group situations and specific communication actions that can lead to positive social change.

COML 516: 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.

COML 520: Internship (3 credits)

You 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.  With guidance from COML faculty you will work to arrange your internship.

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 and engage your experiences more deeply in both strange and familiar places. 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 522: Renaissance Rhetoric and Contemporary Leadership (Florence, Italy) (3 credits)

Renaissance Rhetoric and Contemporary Leadership

This course examines rhetoric, written, oral and visual to understand the humanistic movement of the Italian Renaissance and the role it continues to play in contemporary leadership.  Through readings, discussions and on-site visits to historical settings in Rome, Florence and Siena, we will formulate and explore the critical questions necessary to bring these ideas to our contemporary world.  This course will be offered every summer.

COML 530: Women, Communication and Leadership (3 credits)

This course will look at gender differences in leadership styles and efficacy as well as specific communication issues women face in attaining and retaining leadership positions. Through readings, discussions, videos, and projects that critically examine images and gender stereotypes of women leaders, the course is designed to give students practical skills they can use to be better communicators and leaders. 

COML 601: Applied Communication Research

Required Prerequisite for COML 602

This course is designed to prepare you for the capstone course. Students will learn and develop competencies in the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and/or engage in primary research in order to frame an applied communication project or truncated thesis proposal.

Practical Application:

Students integrate relevant theory and methods for designing a proposal for their capstone with the assistance of the professors. This course is where research design textbooks come to life as faculty guide students through crafting research or design questions, review literature, and choose appropriate research methods for a truncated thesis or project design.

COML 602: Communication & Leadership Capstone Seminar

Prerequisite: COML 601 

*For students choosing a concentration, the capstone course requires a topic choice relevant to that concentration.

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.

For more information about COML 602, visit this page.

Practical Application:

COML faculty agree that the best way to learn is by doing. The best way to learn how to write a research paper or create a project is by writing or creating one, but not by yourself. Each student works with a faculty person during this 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! Others have implement their projects directly into their organizations (e.g. a crisis communication plan; new website; training and consulting module.)

*Students may also include offerings from the ORGL curriculum for elective courses.
**Students may tailor their elective choices or choose from formal concentrations (listed below).

Customize Your Curriculum with a Concentration

Concentration in College Teaching of Communication

This concentration prepares students to become college teachers through developing a teaching philosophy, creating a teaching portfolio, observing college communication courses, and shadowing current communication professors through an internship.

COML Required Concentration Elective Courses (6 credits):

  • COML 510: Communication Teaching & Pedagogy
  • COML 520: Internship (3 credits)

COML Concentration Electives Courses (3 credits – choose one of the following):

  • COML 509: Social Dynamics of Communication & Technology
  • COML 514: Advanced Criticism
  • COML 515: Interpersonal & Small Group Communication
  • COML 516: Media Literacy
  • COML 522: Renaissance Rhetoric and Contemporary Leadership (Florence, Italy)

*To complete the 30-credit COML degree, the required core courses, one additional elective, and the two capstone course are needed in addition to the above concentration courses.  The capstone course requires a topic choice relevant to college teaching of communication.

Concentration in Strategic & Organizational Communication

This concentration provides practical knowledge and skills needed to be successful in 21st century organizations. Students study best practices and relevant theories in order to solve complex organizational problems, and have the flexibility to choose electives covering communication and technology, consulting and training, strategic and corporate, as well as interpersonal and small group communication.

COML Required Concentration Elective Course (3 credits):

  • COML 504: Organizational Communication

COML Concentration Electives Courses (6 credits – choose two of the following):

  • COML 509: Social Dynamics of Communication & Technology
  • COML 511: Communication Consulting & Training
  • COML 512: Strategic & Corporate Communication
  • COML 515: Interpersonal & Small Group Communication

*To complete the 30-credit COML degree, the required core courses, one additional elective, and the two capstone course are needed in addition to the above concentration courses.  The capstone course requires a topic choice relevant to strategic/organizational communication.

Understand global issues impact organizations and become more culturally sensitive as you gain skills to lead and communicate in diverse work environments.

The Global Leadership Concentration consists of 12 credits.

  • Required Concentration Course (3 credits)
    • ORGL 570: Introduction to Global Systems
  • Elective Courses (6 credits)
  • ORGL 517: Organizational Change and Transformation (3 credits)
  • ORGL 518: Transforming Leadership (3 credits)
  • ORGL 520: Conflict Resolution (3 credits)
  • ORGL 535: Listen, Discern, and Decide (3 credits)
  • ORGL 689: Leadership & Hardiness (3 credits)
    3-day domestic immersion on Mt. Adams, WA.
  • ORGL 689: Global Citizenship (3 credits)

*Contact your Student Services Coordinator for more information on the Global Leadership Concentration Internship.

*To complete the 30-credit COML degree, the required core courses, one additional elective, and the two capstone course are needed in addition to the above concentration courses.  The capstone course requires a topic choice relevant to strategic/organizational communication.

Pre-Fall 2015 Curriculum

To view the pre-fall 2015 curriculum, click here.

Program information subject to change.

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