As faculty members of the Department of Communication, we are deeply committed to the significance of language, discourse, and media, and we believe that communication matters. The choices that we make in the production and consumption of media can—and should—benefit, support, and promote diversity in all of its forms, including race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, religion, age, and (dis)ability. These choices foster our collective commitment to the basic human rights of inclusion and equity.
As such, we understand the difference between intent and impact in the words that public communicators write and speak, the images and sounds they show and create within written, verbal, broadcast, and digital discourse. Words hold the power to both exclude and diminish, as well as include and uplift. We believe we have the responsibility to promote the latter and to think critically about the former. Communication has the power to build bridges across varying perspectives, backgrounds, and cultural experiences. In short, communication provides the foundation for putting inclusivity into action.
As stated in our University’s Mission Statement, “We embrace our obligation to help create healthy, just, and sustainable societies by equipping our students to live with knowledge, compassion, dedication, humility, and dignity.” All five departmental programs consider how culture, ethics, law, and social norms influence what media practitioners and public communicators do, write, and say:
- The Advertising program considers and speaks to diverse consumers locally, nationally, and globally with varied and at times conflicting cultures through the denotation and connotation of visual and textual advertisements. Advertising plays a key role in promoting diversity through inclusive visuals and messages.
- The Communication Studies program analyzes diversity, or the lack thereof, and interrogates power through the study of rhetoric, language, interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, and mass media and society, in our local, regional, national, and global spheres.
- The Electronic Media and Broadcasting program promotes equity through representation and presentation of all groups and opinions throughout the three stages of production in every media environment and its content.
- The Journalism program investigates the representation of less covered groups, issues, cultures, and people in print and broadcast media. The program also encourages students to draw from diverse sources when reporting, to question their assumptions and life experiences that may be affecting how they approach stories, and to strive for fairness, depth, empathy, and context in order to practice journalism that is inclusive and reflective of the communities they serve.
- The Public Relations program examines visual representations and the language used in texts and products. It approaches diversity and inclusion through maintaining transparency, striving to diversify our practice by active outreach to underrepresented groups and early career practitioners, and through fostering ethically balanced communication between organizations and their publics.
This disciplinary concern for what to do, write, and say also informs the research and service of many of our faculty members. Select scholarship from our faculty that challenge not only people who contribute to the repression of others, but also, as scholar Ibram X. Kendi (2019) has advocated, systems and policies that allow them to do so, can be found here. Additionally, areas of service to the field, Department, University, and community of Boone to which our faculty dedicate their time include, as a few examples, bringing in diverse speakers for student organizations, taking courses on inclusive teaching practices, contributing to diversity initiatives for national organizations and conferences in various communication fields, serving on boards and interest groups for issues related to religion and gender, leading events to expand networking opportunities for underrepresented students, and participating in intercultural training in public schools.
In addition to recognizing how the creation and production of meaning directly shapes, informs, and alters the lenses through which people do, or do not, embrace and perpetuate a diverse society, we also recognize that people may inhabit discursive spaces from divergent frameworks. Jamaican-British scholar Stuart Hall recognized that individuals bring diverse meanings to messages, while mass media support those already in positions of power and sustain dominant social norms and assumptions that are in “the sphere of the lived – the sphere of experiencing rather than of ‘thinking’” (Hall, 1977, p. 326). These norms and assumptions constitute the mental frameworks that different classes and social groups use to make sense of how society works. In the Department of Communication, we are committed to deconstructing these methods of thinking through our teaching, research, and service so that our student communication scholars can make informed, ethical decisions as they forge their own unique paths in the world as public communicators.