The School of Communication Studies traces its roots to the founding of Ohio University, where the first curriculum emphasized persuasion, logic, and rhetoric. As Ohio University has grown and developed, so has our PhD program.

In 2003 the School of Interpersonal Communication changed its name to the School of Communication Studies (COMS). Reflecting the wide variety of specialties represented in the department, COMS emphasizes three primary research areas for the PhD: relating and organizing, rhetoric and public culture, and health communication. These areas combine existing research areas while adjusting to the contemporary trends in the communication discipline.

We believe that strong doctoral students should have a broad understanding of the discipline in addition to specialized coursework. This is why we embrace a modified cohort system for the first year of our program. Core classes are explicitly designed as first-year courses, and they provide foundation for the other courses in the School. As students progress through the first year classes, they develop a sense of community that will exist far after completion of our program. At the same time, students will take courses in their primary area of study to become initiated in the expectations of their sub-field. We feel strongly that our first year sequence of courses is both innovative and meaningful in the way that it “jump-starts” our students’ growth as thinkers, teachers, and scholars.

Interpersonal and Organizational Communication

Interpersonal and Organizational Comm Flyer

Students in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication blend theory from both organizational communication and interpersonal communication to ask provocative questions about communication contexts ranging from traditional organizational settings to the classroom and more traditional interpersonal relationships. Although students and faculty in this track perform conventional focuses like Organizational, Interpersonal and Instructional Communication (to name a few), many also select coursework and research projects that blend across one or more of those traditional areas.

Interpersonal and Organizational Communication Faculty

Although our faculty cross multiple areas, the following scholar-mentors specialize in topics related to Interpersonal and Organizational Communication Faculty:

Health Communication

Health Comm Flyer

Our Health Communication track is broad in its orientation, with students and faculty addressing topics ranging from narrative approaches to understanding health to health message effects. Faculty scholars in this area have developed meaningful connections with the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, the College of Health Sciences and Professions, as well as several health related community advocacy organizations. Our courses and research projects build on these relationships.

Health Communication Faculty

Although our faculty cross multiple areas, the following scholar-mentors specialize in topics related to Health Communication:

Rhetoric and Culture

Rhetoric and Culture Flyer

Students and faculty in the Rhetoric and Culture track tend to specialize in the study of contemporary discourses on issues ranging from politics to sports. Students and faculty in this track are exposed to a wide range of rhetorical theorists including Burke, Bakhtin, Foucault, Fisher, as well as many other interdisciplinary theorists. Courses and research projects in this area seek to help us understand how we participate as advocates in society and enable us to become better advocates.

Rhetoric and Culture Faculty

Although our faculty cross multiple areas, the following scholar-mentors specialize in topics related to Rhetoric and Culture:

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Student Achievements

Publication News

Miller, J. L., Sandburg, S., & Kay, C. S. (Forthcoming). Diamonds in the rough: Claims, evidence, and reasoning in Facebook comments. 
American Behavioral Scientist.
Lippert, A., & Kay, C. S. (Forthcoming). Click for Dixie: Virtual plantation tours’ use of White nostalgia and directed narrative experience. Chapter proposal accepted for the edited collection, Subjectivities of Interactive Nostalgia

2017 Excellence in Service Award recipient, The National Society of Leadership and Success: Ohio University Chapter. Nominated by former students. Carson Kay was the only graduate student and the only humanities scholar awarded by the society.


Kay, C. S. (2018, January 29). Graduate school and you: Insight from a Viking alum. Invited Skype presenter to discuss the graduate school experience with Dr. Sam Nazione’s senior seminar communication course at Berry College.
Kay, C. S. (2017, November 16-19). The young judge’s dilemma: Examining the tension between established team friendship and objectivity in judging ‘cousin’ teams.” Paper presented at the 2017 National Communication Association Annual Convention, Austin, Texas.
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