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Curriculum & Course Descriptions

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

Courses are designed to foster student engagement, networking and brainstorming, and equip students with practical and 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.

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)

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 engage in understanding and critiquing theory ; Students also trace the historical development of a theory of their choice, and finally, in teams, students follow the theory building process to both better understand solve a social problem.

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 designed to introduce students to the genre of academic writing in the discipline of communication. It is designed to both assess and improve students’ writing skills while serving as a resource for graduate students who are apprehensive or 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 596.

COML 597: Communication & Leadership Ethics (3 credits)

Inquiry into the personal, organizational, and social values present in ethical dilemmas. Students will develop skills in ethical communication and decision-making, and recognize how to act for the common good as leaders who can acknowledge and consider multiple ethical perspectives.

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 598: 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 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.

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 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 students different forms of storytelling using digital media tools including Audacity, GIMP, imovie, and Windows MovieMaker. Readings help students better understand different narrative and persuasive styles of storytelling as well as understand the major theoretical and policy-related issues. Through hands-on assignments, students will acquire technical skills that will help them become more effective communicators 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.

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 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: 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.

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: Strategic & 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: 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. 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: 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: 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: 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 522: Renaissance Rhetoric and Contemporary Leadership (Florence, Italy)

Renaissance Rhetoric and Contemporary Leadership

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 it. Whether the fiery oratory of the Dominican Friar Savonarola trying to reform the republic of Florence, the famous letters of St. Catherine of Siena trying to persuade the Pope to repair a schism in the Church, Nicola Machiavelli’s The Prince as a primer on leadership, or Dante’s Inferno which looks at where bad people and bad behavior will lead — all provide an amazing repository of examples of the birth of humanism and its influence on persuasive discourse to lead social progress. This course examines this period through readings, discussions, and on-site visits to historical settings in Florence and Siena 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 523: Peacebuilding Through Dialogue in Northern Ireland (Derry, Ireland)

Peacebuilding Through Dialogue in 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 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)
  • COML 523: Peacebuilding Through Dialogue in Northern Ireland (Derry, Ireland)

*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 International & Intercultural Communication

This concentration is designed to prepare students to understand communication and leadership in global contexts. The ability to quickly assimilate and discern other cultural values are indispensable tools for anyone working where globalization and multi-culturalism are becoming increasingly important.

Please note: This concentration is undergoing revision, please check back for curriculum details or talk with an admissions counselor.

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.

Pre-Fall 2015 Curriculum

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

Program information subject to change.

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