Our mission

The Department of Communication is dedicated to enhancing understanding of communication processes, institutions, systems and practices; informing and educating a wide range of constituencies; and fostering communication competencies, all in service to ethical public discourse in a civil society committed to positive social change.

Our faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and alumni are recognized leaders in developing and applying novel theoretical perspectives to address important issues. Grounded in the theoretical and methodological rigor of the social sciences, we teach classes and conduct research on real-world communication problems related to media, health, agriculture and the environment, among others. We recognize and value a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative empirical methods, and we celebrate research as a core element of teaching in all its forms and teaching as a fundamental spur to research.

Today, the department is a national and international leader in conducting research with a strong commitment to educating the next generation of citizenry to address these issues. Our vision is to be the global leader in promoting greater understanding of human communication—its forms, structures and effects—in a world that is intricately mediated, technologically sophisticated and scientifically informed.

Why is our place in CALS?

Our home in CALS is a testament to the foresight of those who recognized that addressing vital social and policy issues requires an understanding of how people communicate these very issues. Today we do this, not in service to other disciplines, but as a fundamental scientific and educational pursuit. Whether we’re researching how individuals communicate in face-to-face and mediated environments or applying theory-driven science to address issues of online privacy, global security and terrorism, food safety, health and nutrition, youth development, and sustainability, we both advance knowledge and align with the College’s “knowledge with a public purpose” ethos. We provide a unique strength to the College by broadening its scope in innovative social science research in communication and communication technologies, while complementing our fellow CALS schools and departments through our interdisciplinary collaborations and teaching. In so doing, we embrace the College’s Land Grant Mission of benefiting the citizens, communities, and economic well-being of the state of New York, the nation, and the world.

Why are we "Communication" and not "Communications"?

You may wonder why we call ourselves the Department of Communication and not Communications. The simple answer is that we use the term “communication” to reflect our department’s focus on the social scientific study of communication—specifically, the process by which humans use symbols, verbal and nonverbal, to create meaning and form relationships with other humans in face-to-face or mediated environments. This is the essence of what we teach, research, and do in our department. “Communications,” in contrast, is often used to refer to the products—the messages that are transmitted or distributed—or to the equipment (like wireless or fiber optic cables) that conducts the transmission. While these are integral elements of communication study, they do not form the basis for our program. People tend to use the terms interchangeably, and even some social science departments like ours use communications with the "s." But we prefer “communication” and, incidentally, have been the Department of Communication since 1987, when we changed the name from Communication Arts to emphasize our focus on the scientific study of communication rather than the more applied “art” of communicating. 

Virtual Tour

Take a virtual tour of the Department of Communication.

Our undergraduate program

At the undergraduate level, we ensure that students acquire communication competencies and the ability to connect those practices with theory, both through traditional coursework and through active engagement in undergraduate research. Our carefully constructed curriculum provides a core of contemporary communication knowledge, theory, and practice: students learn how communication influences attitudes, opinions, and behaviors; how communication systems work in society; and how to apply this understanding of communication to solving problems, sustaining the environment, reaching the public with new knowledge, and managing the intricate networks of technologies. Our focus areas allow students to deepen their knowledge in one of the four areas of Communication, Environment, Science, and Health; Communication Media Studies; Communication and Information Technology; and Communication and Social Influence.

Our graduate program

At the graduate level, our faculty and associated Graduate Field of Communication ensure that students are familiar with a wide range of tools, theories, and methods and can use these skills in original empirical research that asks and answers theoretically driven, socially relevant questions. Our overarching goal is to produce well-rounded graduates who are equipped to be top scholars in their fields, and to do so, we focus our program on three objectives: scholarship, professionalization, and ethics. Our Field has a long history of strong interdisciplinary research collaborations with other fields, including: Information Science, Psychology, Human Development, Natural Resources, Food Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Nutritional Sciences, Development Sociology, Entomology, Lab of Ornithology, and AEM, to name a few, and through centers like the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. As a result, Communication graduate students enjoy exceptional flexibility in designing a program to fit their needs. Drawing from the resources of Cornell’s outstanding scholars in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities, our students are finding new ways to investigate how communication shapes and molds our society.

Contact Us

Department of Communication

450 Mann Library Building
phone: (607) 255-2601
email: communication [at] cornell.edu

We are located on the 4th floor of Mann Library Building, accessible only by the stairs/elevators within the library, which are just past the information desk.