Jul 18, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2024-2025 
Rensselaer Catalog 2024-2025

Communication and Media

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Department Head, Communication and Media: Tamar Gordon
Director, Graduate Program in Communication and Media: Helen Zhou
Director, Center for Global Communication+Design: Patricia Search
Department Home Page: https://hass.rpi.edu/communication-media

The Department of Communication and Media encourages versatile, professional, and creative communicators  for the media age. Students have the opportunity to expand their creative, intellectual, and collaborative abilities and apply them to the study and design of a range of communication forms and media platforms. The department offers a B.S. in Communication, Media, & Design (CMD).   Graduates of this program bring important skills to a networked society where strategic communication, media literacy, and design thinking foster excellence, innovation, and social change.

The department also offers Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Communication and Rhetoric. The M.S. prepares students for applied research in industry or government, or for further study in a doctoral program. Doctoral students leave the program with the conceptual background necessary to respond to our ever- changing media landscape and its impacts whether in academia, media, technological and creative industries, or the non-profit and government sectors.

Research Innovations and Initiatives

In research, the department’s mission is to develop and assess new understandings of how people create and manage their social and professional worlds through the mediation of symbol systems and communication technologies. Faculty conduct research on a broad range of topics, with particular strengths in the following areas:


Undergraduate Program

The undergraduate program in Communication, Media, & Design provides students with the multidisciplinary education that is essential for leadership in an information-based society, a society that is continuously being transformed by new communication processes and technologies. Building on Rensselaer’s technological infrastructure, the CMD major prepares undergraduates to communicate creatively and professionally across diverse multimedia and multicultural contexts. 

Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to demonstrate:

  • Communicate strategically and creatively in oral, visual, and textual formats across professional, academic, and artistic contexts. 
  • Explain the mutual ways society, culture, and technology influence each other, as demonstrated by their critical analyses of specific media products. 
  • Explain how mass media and new media technologies shape communication and design choices.
  • Analyze audience, purpose, content, and genre in order to communicate effectively. 

Minor Programs

The Department of Communication and Media (C&M) offers a wide selection of minors, all of which require a minimum of 16 credits and one course at the 4000-level. Most C&M minors are based on institute Integrative Pathways (IPs) and many simply require the addition of one course, for a total of four courses, from the same Pathway. Currently, the department offers minors in:

Graduate Programs

The Department of Communication and Media addresses the communicative processes by which humans construct and share meaning in all media. Faculty comprise a diverse, yet integrated community dedicated to teaching and mentoring graduate students.  Graduate students conduct advanced and original scholarly research informed by the historical, sociocultural, political, and rhetorical contexts that shape, and are shaped by, diverse communication practices, technologies, and media environments. The Department of Communication and Media’s graduate programs consist of an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric.

Doctoral Program

The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric enables students to make a significant contribution to a wide range of issues in communication and media. For decades, its graduates have been pioneers in the study of the relationship between communication and technology. Drawing from numerous disciplines in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, this flexible program enables students to tailor dissertation projects to match their own interests and expertise. Students are supported through teaching and/or research assistantships, including positions in the Center for Global Communication & Design. Ph.D. students are also eligible for university-level fellowships after completing their course work. 
The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric requires the satisfactory completion of 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree.

Course Descriptions 

Courses related to all Communication and Media curricula are described in the Course Descriptions section of this catalog under the department codes COMM, LANG, LITR, WRIT, and occasionally IHSS.

Faculty *


Deery, J.—D.Phil. (Oxford University); media studies; television; political representation; media and class; advertising and culture; literature and science. 
Kimball, M.—Ph.D. (University of Kentucky); technical writing; information design; graphic design; digital humanities; the history of data visualization.
Search, P.—M.A. (Goddard College); visual design theory and practice; interaction design and multimediate art; computer animation and hypermedia interface design; indigenous knowledge and interaction design; multiliteracy models for intercultural communication.

Associate Professors

Gordon, T.—Ph.D. (University of California-Berkeley); religion and media; ethnographic methods; discourse analysis; documentary theory; visual culture; themed environments; South Pacific and U.S.
Suckling, M.—Ph.D. (Newcastle University); storytelling for games, game narrative design, narrative systems within games, professional writing techniques, processes and approaches within the games industry.
Zhou, Y.—Ph.D. (University of Missouri—Kansas City); applied linguistics, technology and game-enhanced language learning; and learning English/Chinese as a second/foreign language.

Assistant Professors

Fitzgerald, A.—Ph.D. (Stanford University); critical communication and cultural studies, technology and audience studies, media theory, and global media ethics.

Jones, C.—Ph.D. (University of Central Florida); digital rhetoric and communication, digital activism, technical and professional communication, and social media.

Suckling, M.—Ph.D. (Newcastle University); storytelling for games, game narrative design, narrative systems within games, professional writing techniques, processes and approaches within the games industry

Teaching Faculty

Anicca, S.—Ph.D. (State University of New York at Albany); literature; creative writing.
Greenfield, A. - Ph.D. (Linguistics, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign); sociolinguistics; second language acquisition, teacher education.

Jeansonne, C.—Ph.D. (The Ohio State University); media studies; media pedagogy; popular culture studies; transnational media and transmedial genres; film; television; video production.
Ran, W.— Ph.D. (Washington State University); media multitasking; media effects on public health (e.g. sexual health, drug abuse, and nutrition); persuasion in health campaigns; entertainment education.
Tack, S.—M.F.A (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); graphic design theory and practice; typography; design history.
Yue, J.—M.A. (Beijing Language and Culture University); Chinese linguistics and pedagogy; second language acquisition; Chinese character evolution; grammar instruction.

Professor Emeritus 

Halloran, S.M.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); memory studies; the role of museums and historical artifacts in preserving collective memory; historical sites as sites of rhetorical education and citizen formation; rhetorical tradition(s) in the United States.
Odell, C. L.—Ph.D. (University of Michigan); composition theory and research; integrating visual and verbal information; writing in nonacademic settings; writing in engineering; rethinking literacy; education reform.

Whitburn, M. - Ph.D. (University of Iowa); rhetoric, technical communication, literature

Zappen, J. – Ph.D. (University of Missouri,Columbia); Rhetorical theory, digital rhetoric, technical communication, contemporary literature


*Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions, including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster section of this catalog.






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