Sims Hall | EST 1906


In the fall of 1910, Syracuse University inaugurated the Department of Oratory, one of the nation’s first academic programs devoted to the study of communication and rhetoric. Since that time, the department became part of the School of Speech and Dramatic Arts, then the Department of Speech Communication, and now continues as the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies (CRS).

The College of Visual and Performing Arts celebrated the centennial of the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies in 2010-11 with a special series of public lectures. Scholars, activists, and practitioners from a wide variety of backgrounds spoke to the vital importance of communication in forging into the next 100 years.


Students and faculty in the discipline of communication and rhetorical studies (CRS) focus on communicative discourse and its interactional consequences.

Our collective goals are to articulate the variety and complexity of communication phenomena and the co-creation of social realities that grow out of this process. As researchers of this process, we use social scientific and humanistic methods in order to describe, explain, or critique communication practices.

The roots of our discipline extend back to the classical study of rhetoric, most notably Aristotle. Two of the earliest known rhetoricians, Corax and Tisias, residents of the ancient city of Syracuse, were the first to theorize on the practice of persuasion. While the study of rhetoric and oratory continue to be a central feature of the discipline, researchers have extended the purview to examine other forms of communication, such as interpersonal, group, and organizational communication; argumentation; and political and mediated discourse.

The study and practice of communication is a prominent feature of the educational mission at Syracuse University. In conjunction with this mission, the mission of the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies is to engage with colleagues, graduate, and undergraduate students in innovative, inclusive, and collaborative inquiry into the various theories, perspectives, and methods constituting human communication, rhetorical, and cosmopolitan processes.

The department’s mission blends a traditional liberal arts education with discipline-based knowledge, critical thinking, and the development of communication and rhetorical skills. The approach of communication and rhetorical studies seeks to inform the practice, understanding, and critique of communication primarily with the spoken word, but also with nonverbal, written, or electronic formats.

The department’s curriculum integrates theory and practice. Students assess communication theories, perform theoretically-grounded critiques of communication practices and situations, evaluate and employ research methods, engage in supervised performance-driven experiences, and assess issues of ethics and social justice thereof.


The vision of the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies is to create with colleagues and students discourse communities competent in communication, rhetoric, and cosmopolitanism.

The vision is supported by the core values of our discipline, which complement the values declared in the Syracuse University vision statement. Our core values, as articulated by the National Communication Association, are:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Civic discourse
  • Ethical communication
  • Commitment to social justice
  • Commitment to inclusiveness
  • Democratic discourse
  • Civility

Embodied in our vision is a desire to help students and colleagues understand that communication not only matters significantly in human affairs, but that its significance is often underappreciated. Because of the ubiquitous nature of conversation, people rarely understand the complexity and scope of communication phenomena. While the general public readily acknowledges the influence of media messages or the value of communication skills in presenting oneself as competent, few recognize how much our assumptions about the social and physical world are shaped by metaphors, language choices, and particular discourse practices. Our vision is that as students and colleagues embrace this simple but profound insight, new worlds of possibility become apparent. Instead of simply representing social realities, communication becomes understood as the primary means of creating, sustaining, or altering those realities.


Mission and vision are empty statements if they are not realized in everyday practice. The implementation of our mission and vision is seen in the objectives that we seek to obtain when we enter the classroom, advise our students, and engage in our own scholarly efforts.

Teaching Objectives

The curriculum, programs, and learning activities provide students with critical, theoretical, methodological, and practical abilities. These abilities:

  • Equip students for the responsibilities of citizenship from a communication perspective;
  • Help students make personal and professional choices informed by an understanding of communication processes and products;
  • Prepare students for advanced study of skilled professional practices in communication; and
  • Help students make ethical contributions to the communities in which they live.

Learning Objectives

As students move through the curriculum, they:

  • Demonstrate the ability to perform theoretically-grounded and critical evaluation of communication practices through oral and written class work;
  • Engage in performance-driven, active learning that combines communication theory and practice (e.g., public speaking, interpersonal communication, small group decision-making); and
  • Participate in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities that involve them with other students and faculty. These activities include internships, departmental student organizations, peer consulting, and supervised research projects.

Scholarship Objective

As faculty members, we:

  • Present our work regularly to the intellectual community through publications and through presentations at regional, national, and international conferences;
  • Receive recognition for our research in the form of honors, invitations to participate in scholarly events, citations of our work by other scholars, and sponsorship of our work from University and extramural funding agencies; and
  • Incorporate the results of our research in our teaching and service activities.

Core Learning Objectives

  • To understand the process of contextualizing in communication practices
  • To distinguish the differing demands and expectations inherent in different communication media (e.g., spoken, written, electronic)
  • To understand communication as a constitutive, creative, and transformative phenomenon
  • To understand the foundations and developments in the field of communication as distinct from other disciplinary perspectives on social action (e.g., psychological, managerial, etc.)
  • To appreciate communication as deeply cultured and expressive of various ways of being human
  • To consider in a serious way the moral and ethical implications of communication practices
  • To understand a diversity of perspectives on what communication is and how it works
  • To discern the complexities embedded in communication practices

Core Learning Competencies

  • The ability to organize communication and rhetorical discourses in a coherent manner
  • The ability to gather, synthesize, and critically analyze various communication and rhetorical practices and artifacts
  • The ability to initiate and execute a research project addressing a communicative and rhetorical phenomenon
  • The ability to develop communication arguments and positions that are conceptually, philosophically, and theoretically coherent, rigorous, and compelling
  • The ability to construct and sustain communication and rhetorical practices that respect peoples of diverse realities and histories

Department Policies

Department policies can be found in the CRS undergraduate handbook and CRS graduate handbook.

Undergraduate Handbook

Graduate Handbook