Faculty members in the Department of Communication Arts study and teach about the principal modes and media of communication. Areas of research include rhetoric, communication science, film, media and cultural studies. At the undergraduate level, these four areas are combined into two concentrations:

  1. Communication Science and Rhetorical Studies
  2. Radio–Television–Film

Courses deal with a wide range of communicative phenomena and approach them from a variety of functional, aesthetic, and theoretical perspectives. The curriculum is designed to foster understanding of communication processes, improve communication and digital literacy skills, and develop the capacity for critical appraisal and reflection.

Communication arts majors should consult one of the department's undergraduate advisors to discuss requirements and courses each semester.

Declaring the Major

Students interested in pursuing the communication arts major are encouraged to meet with a communication arts advisor. To declare the major, Letters & Science students complete a major declaration form. Forms are available in the communication arts academic advising offices and the communication arts main office. Non–Letters & Science students will need permission from their school or college to pursue an additional major in communication arts. Students may not declare communication arts as a second major if they have earned more than 100 credits.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional foreign language

Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include one 3+ credit course in the biological sciences; must include one 3+ credit course in the physical sciences
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.

Communication Arts Major Requirements

Communication arts offers two options within the major:

  • Communication Science and Rhetorical Studies
  • Radio–Television–Film

Students declare one of the two options and complete a minimum of 10 courses and at least 30 credits in the major. Please note that COM ARTS courses numbered below 200 as well as COM ARTS 605  COM ARTS 614 and COM ARTS 615 do not count toward a requirement within the major.

Select one of the following concentrations:

Communication Science and Rhetorical Studies

This option deals with social, psychological, and practical aspects of communication and human behavior. Students focus on public, mass, online, organizational, group, and interpersonal communication. They develop qualitative and quantitative research skills, conceptual and analytical thinking, and effective oral and written communication.

COM ARTS 260 Communication and Human Behavior3
Core Courses
Select one of the following: 13
Introduction to Rhetoric in Politics and Culture
Great Speakers and Speeches
Rhetoric of Campaigns and Revolutions
Select one of the following: 13
Introduction to Quantitative Research in Communication
Theory and Practice of Persuasion
Applied Communication
Select one of the following:3
Theory and Practice of Argumentation and Debate
Speech Composition
Theory and Practice of Group Discussion
Introduction to Interpersonal Communication
Theory and Practice of Interpersonal Communication
Select three of the following:9
Topics in Rhetoric and Communication Science
Rhetoric and Health
Media and Human Behavior
Online Communication and Personal Relationships
Introduction to Rhetoric in Politics and Culture
Introduction to Quantitative Research in Communication
Theory and Practice of Persuasion
Great Speakers and Speeches
Communication and Conflict Resolution
Rhetoric of Campaigns and Revolutions
Intercultural Communication & Rhetoric
The Rhetoric of Religion
Topics in Digital Studies (Communication Science & Rhetoric)
The Rhetoric of African American Discourse
The Psychology of Communication
Contemporary Political Discourse
Rhetoric and Technology
Nature of Criticism-The Public Arts of Communication
Rhetoric and Power on the Internet
Digital Media and Political Communication
Digitally Documenting Everyday Communication
Media, Deliberation, and Public Issues
Communication Theory
Theories of Deliberation and Controversy
Communication and Interethnic Behavior
Classical Rhetorical Theory
Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
Rhetoric of Globalization and Transnationalism
Communication in Complex Organizations
Principles of Rhetorical Criticism
Dynamics of Online Relationships
Special Topics in Rhetoric and Public Address
Special Topics in Communication Science
Mass Media and Youth
Health Communication in the Information Age
History of American Public Address
Communication and Social Conflict
Rhetoric of Women's Social and Political Discourse
Select any course from the Radio–TV–Film Option3
Select any two COM ARTS courses numbered 200 and above 26
Total Credits30

Can be applied to only one requirement within the major.


Excluding COM ARTS 605, COM ARTS 614 and  COM ARTS 615.


This option focuses on the history, theory, criticism, cultural uses, and production practices of television, film, radio, and digital media. While there is no production major, students are required to take a media production course in order to gain a concrete understanding of the possibilities of these media. Emphasis is on critical analysis, creative expression, and an understanding of how media functions in our society.

COM ARTS 250 Survey of Contemporary Media3
Radio–TV–Film Core
COM ARTS 350 Introduction to Film3
COM ARTS 351 Television Industries3
COM ARTS 355 Introduction to Media Production4
Advanced production courses (count as Electives for the Major):
Editing and Post-production for Video and Film
Writing for Television and Film
Cinematography and Sound Recording
Producing for Internet TV and Video
Special Topics in Production
Advanced Motion Picture Production Workshop
Select three of the following:9
COM ARTS 300 Film Comedy3
Topics in Film and Media Studies
Critical Internet Studies
Race, Ethnicity, and Media
Film History to 1960
Film Styles and Genres
History of the Animated Film
History of Documentary Film
Sports Media
Ethics of Entertainment Media
Topics in Digital Studies (Radio, Television, & Film)
The Films of Alfred Hitchcock
Gender, Sexuality, and the Media
Latino/as and Media
Asian Americans and Media
Media and National Identity
Sound Cultures: Podcasting and Music
Cultural History of Broadcasting
Television Criticism
Critical Film Analysis
French Film
Russian and Soviet Film
Global Media Cultures
New Media and Society
Italian Film
Global Art Cinema
American Independent Cinema
Avant-Garde Film
Television Genres
Digital Game Cultures
Contemporary Hollywood Cinema
The American Film Industry in the Era of the Studio System
Contemporary Media Industries
Public, Community, and Alternative Media
Special Topics in Media and Cultural Studies
Special Topics in Film
German Film
Media and Cultural Theory I
Media and Cultural Theory II
Classical Film Theory
Contemporary Film Theory
Communication Science and Rhetorical Studies
Select any course from the Communication Science and Rhetorical Studies Option3
Select any two COM ARTS courses numbered 200 and above 16
Total Credits34

Excluding COM ARTS 605, COM ARTS 614 and  COM ARTS 615.

Residence and quality of work

2.000 GPA in all COM ARTS and major courses
2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence: intermediate- or advanced-level COM ARTS or major courses
15 credits in COM ARTS, taken on campus

Distinction in the Major in communication arts

Students not enrolled in the honors program who have earned a 3.750 or higher GPA within their COM ARTS and major courses are eligible for distinction in the major.

Honors in the Major in Communication Arts

Students may apply to pursue Honors in the Communication Arts Major in consultation with the Communication Arts undergraduate advisor. To be accepted students must have:

  • Completed the fundamentals course and the two core courses for their declared Option and
  • Earned a 3.500 GPA in all COM ARTS courses

Honors in the Communication Arts Major Requirements

To earn a B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Major in Communication Arts students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  • Earn a 3.500 GPA for all COM ARTS courses
  • Complete the requirements for the declared major Option, to include:
    • All theory, history, criticism courses taken to meet the regular major requirements within the declared Option must be 400-level or higher, for Honors
    • One additional theory, history, criticism course at the 400 level or higher, for Honors
    • Three Theory, History and Criticism courses must be completed on campus.1
    • A two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in COM ARTS 681 Senior Honors Thesis and COM ARTS 682 Senior Honors Thesis, for a total of 6 credits2

Online courses taken through the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Communication Arts are considered on-campus for this purpose


 Submission and approval of a Senior Honors Thesis Proposal is required prior to the term in which students enroll for COM ARTS 681 Senior Honors Thesis. See the Communication Arts Undergraduate Advisor for current process. Approval of the completed thesis by the thesis advisor and a second Communication Arts faculty member is required.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

learning outcomes

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of core content in either of the two tracks: Communication Science and Rhetorical Studies or Radio-TV-Film.
  2. Students will be able to conduct theoretical, historical, and critical analyses of communication.
  3. Students will demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively in writing, orally, or via the creation of media content (e.g., digital, film).

Communication Arts Academic Advising

Communication arts academic advisors assist students throughout their undergraduate studies. They offer individual appointments, drop-in advising, and group advising.

Contact Information:

Steffie Halverson, 6070 Vilas Hall, 608-262-2285,
Mary Rossa, 6068 Vilas Hall, 608-262-0992,

Career advising

The communication and media career advisor assists students with career preparation, such as exploring career options, learning internship and job search strategies, and writing resumes and cover letters.

Contact Information:

Pam Garcia-Rivera, 5114 Vilas Hall, 608-890-1046,

career Exploration and preparation

Gain Experience

The Department of Communication Arts encourages students to apply the knowledge and skills they attain through coursework to professional settings. Internships and part-time jobs at television networks, nonprofit organizations, talent agencies, magazines, radio stations, advertising agencies, production companies, government agencies, and other communication-related businesses help students gain work-related experience and explore career options. Advising emails, tweets, and postings provide communication arts majors with information on opportunities across the country.

Declared majors may earn one credit for their internship experience through COM ARTS 614 Field Experience in Communication and COM ARTS 615 Second Field Experience in Communication .

attend events

Throughout the academic year, students have the opportunity to participate in several communication-focused, career-related events, such as guest speakers, career panels, and the advertising and communications career fair.

communication arts alumni careers at a glance

After completing a liberal arts education with a communication arts major, communication arts alumni pursue a variety of careers. In a recent survey, communication arts alumni were asked to provide and categorize their occupation. The results are available on the Department of Communication Arts website:

Additional career resources

Please see the People section of the Department of Communication Arts website for additional information.


Communication Science and Rhetorical Studies

Robert Asen, Professor; Robert Glenn Howard, Professor; Jenell Johnson, Associate Professor; Stephen Lucas, Professor; Marie-Louise Mares, Professor; Sara McKinnon, Associate Professor; Zhongdang Pan, Professor; Catalina Toma, Associate Professor; Lyn Van Swol, Professor; Michael Xenos, Department Chair and Professor; Susan Zaeske, Associate Dean and Professor


Maria Belodubrovskaya, Assistant Professor; Kelley Conway, Professor; Jonathan Gray, Professor; Eric Hoyt, Assistant Professor; Lea Jacobs, Associate Vice Chancellor for Arts & Humanities and Professor; Derek Johnson, Associate Professor; Lori Lopez, Assistant Professor; Jeremy Morris, Assistant Professor; J.J. Murphy, Professor; Ben Singer, Associate Professor; Jeff Smith, Professor

Instructional Staff

Aaron Granat, Lecturer; Erik Gunneson, Faculty Associate; Jason Lopez, Lecturer; Sarah Jedd, Associate Faculty Associate; Mary McCoy, Assistant Faculty Associate

Academic Advising

Steffie Halverson, Academic Advisor
Mary Rossa, Senior Student Services Coordinator

Career Advising

Pam Garcia-Rivera, Senior Student Services Coordinator

Wisconsin Experience

student organizations

UW–Madison offers many opportunities to get involved. Communication arts majors join student organizations across their areas of interest.

Department-Affiliated Organizations:

  • Communication Arts Student Association (CASA)
  • Hollywood Badgers
  • Production at Wisconsin (PAW)

See the Department of Communication Arts website for a sampling of other UW student organizations that may be of interest to communication-focused students.

Studying Abroad

Communications arts majors are encouraged to look at study abroad programs and opportunities across the globe. Our students have studied in cities such as London, Rome, Tel Aviv, Prague, Galway, Sydney, Madrid, Bologna, Cape Town, Paris, Copenhagen, and Buenos Aires. When planning for their semester abroad, students should think beyond courses required for their major. Students are encouraged to take courses from a variety of subjects to satisfy elective credits for their degree.

research opportunities

Communication science research team members gain hands-on research experience. Undergraduate research assistants may learn to code and enter data, interview participants, gather and prepare research materials, run experiments, and perform other activities required to complete a research study. Reading and writing assignments related to the research activities are assigned throughout the semester. Opportunities to participate in a research team vary from semester to semester.


Students apply for scholarships online through My Scholarships. The Department of Communication Arts offers the following scholarships:

  • Christopher Neal Heinlein Memorial Scholarships
  • Charline M. Wackman Awards for Summer Session
  • Charline M. Wackman Awards (Fall Term)
  • Keith Harris Wyche Memorial Scholarships

See the scholarship section of the department website for additional details.