A brief history of the Department of Communication

3rd floor of Switzler Hall, which remains the home of the Communication Department.  The department of Communication has a long and rich history with the University of Missouri dating back to 1940.  At that time, three faculty members of the English Department broke away to form a new program:  the Department of Speech and Dramatic Art.  They offered three degrees:  Bachelor of Arts, the Master of Arts, and the PhD.  These faculty were Bower Aly, Wilbur Gilman, and Donovan Rhynsburger.  Professor Aly taught courses in American public address, argumentation, and he directed the intercollegiate debating program; Professor Gilman taught public speaking and rhetoric, and Professor Rhynsburger taught courses in acting, directing, and theater history. There had been a fourth faculty member in the English department – Loren Reid --who joined the faculty in 1935 and also taught speech, but he left Missouri in 1939 to join the Speech faculty at Syracuse University.  Just 5 years later, he returned to Missouri as a Speech Professor and remained here for until his retirement.

Two years earlier, the entire speech section of the English Department faculty moved to the 3rd floor of Switzler Hall, which remains the home of the Communication Department. 

In 1940, the department offered 12 courses plus research seminars, including courses in public speaking, theatre, and speech improvement.  In 1941 the course catalog lists the new department with having 27 courses.  The new department included speech pathology, drama, rhetoric and public speaking, interpretation and radio.  Later on audiology, film and TV were added. 

The early faculty members of the department became giants in the field of speech communication.  Gilman, Aly, and Reid served as presidents of the National Association in the 1940s and ‘50s. 

3rd floor of Switzler Hall, which remains the home of the Communication Department.In 1945 the first floor of Switzler Hall became the headquarters of the National Association of Teachers of Speech (later Speech Communication Association, currently the National Communication Association).  Loren Reid served as the Executive Secretary of the Association from 1945 to 1951.

1985: Theatre broke away from the department to join the Music School and the Art department  to create a School of Fine Arts. 

A year later the Department of Communication was formed.  The Radio-TV-Film program moved from it’s space on the 2nd floor of Swallow Hall to join the Speech Communication faculty in Switzler Hall. It was at this time that the two “branches” of the department --Speech Communication and Radio-TV-Film --were asked to consider what was their common ground so they could continue to remain as a single department.  After much soul searching and faculty discussion, it was recognized that their common core was firmly rooted in the very act of communication – the creating of messages to persuade and inform the audience.  The department focuses on analyzing the effectiveness of messages and creating messages to persuade, inform, and entertain. 

Switzler at NightIn the ‘90s, as the faculty changed and the discipline of communication evolved at the national level, the department placed their focus on the following areas of communication scholarship:  Interpersonal Communication, Organizational Communication,  Political Communication, and Mass Media. 

Today the department of communication continues to offer three degrees:  BA, MA, PhD in Communication.  The department has a comparatively large graduate population of 30-40 graduate students, primarily doctoral candidates, and 200-300 undergraduate majors. 

The department offers 30 undergraduate courses and eighteen graduate level courses, which are taught by fourteen faculty members and over 30 graduate students.  The two required courses for all majors are:  Public Speaking and Survey of Communication.

Our B.A. graduates are employed in all areas of communication, including social media public relations, sales, event planning, human resources, media production, non-profit agencies, and government and corporate communication.  Our Ph.D. graduates are employed by private, regional and state universities throughout the country and are active scholars and devoted teaching faculty at their institutions.