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From the School of Communication Studies Director

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Welcome to the School of Communication Studies  at James Madison University! Whether you are a current student, a prospective student, or a guest, we encourage you to consider all that we have to offer.

We are proud to play a central role in general education, with almost every student at the university taking one of our fundamentals of human communication courses during their first year.  Additionally, we offer a wide range of coursework grouped into a variety of concentrations for our undergraduate majors, including advocacy, cultural, health, interpersonal, organizational and public relations.  We also offer several minors that include health, cultural, and conflict analysis and intervention.  We also have a new master’s degree program in Communication and Advocacy, and we have recently taken over administration for the Sport Communication Minor.

Students are encouraged to participate in any of the large number of organizations and activities associated with the school.  Our debate and individual events teams are consistently among the best in the country, and both of these groups offer many opportunities for involvement beyond formally joining the team.  Majors and minors are welcome to join any of the student organizations within the School, including Lambda Pi Eta, our honor society (invitation based on GPA), the International Association of Business Communicators, the Shout Out feminist blog, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and more.

The faculty and students in our program are highly engaged with a wide range of groups in the community and around the country.  The School is the home for the Institute for Constructive Advocacy and Dialogue (ICAD), whose ongoing outreach efforts establish connections between the university and the broader community.  Many classes feature service learning projects, wherein students assist nonprofit organizations in the Harrisonburg community with their special events and communication efforts.  Our faculty members regularly present at a wide range of conferences and publish research in some of the top journals in the field, while our undergraduates are consistently successful in having their own research accepted at high-profile academic conferences.  When our alumni return for School events, they frequently discuss how the coursework and other experiences in the major have been very helpful in their wide range of chosen professions and accomplishments. 

You can find a great deal of information about us on the web site, while Facebook and Twitter are other good places to look for the latest news.  Don’t hesitate to contact me or Dr. Toni Whitfield, the assistant director of the School, if you have any questions.  Thanks for stopping by! 

Eric Fife

Professor and Director


I want to serve the school as best in a leadership role as I possibly can. To do that, I will make sure the school’s commitment to General Education remains strong. I also will help the school grow with its new graduate program that has been established recently. Lastly, I will make sure that our undergraduate program remains strong as well. I want to see our students be satisfied with their decision to commit to this school. - See more at: http://sites.jmu.edu/harrisonconnect/2014/05/12/the-changing-of-the-guard-part-ii/#more-969
I want to serve the school as best in a leadership role as I possibly can. To do that, I will make sure the school’s commitment to General Education remains strong. I also will help the school grow with its new graduate program that has been established recently. Lastly, I will make sure that our undergraduate program remains strong as well. I want to see our students be satisfied with their decision to commit to this school. - See more at: http://sites.jmu.edu/harrisonconnect/2014/05/12/the-changing-of-the-guard-part-ii/#more-969
I want to serve the school as best in a leadership role as I possibly can. To do that, I will make sure the school’s commitment to General Education remains strong. I also will help the school grow with its new graduate program that has been established recently. Lastly, I will make sure that our undergraduate program remains strong as well. I want to see our students be satisfied with their decision to commit to this school. - See more at: http://sites.jmu.edu/harrisonconnect/2014/05/12/the-changing-of-the-guard-part-ii/#more-969

Message from Our Director

Click on this link to access Dr. Eric Fife's personal message to the SCOM Community. 

A picture of Sharon Mazzarella, Academic Unit Head of Communication Studies

Dr. Eric Fife

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Former SCOM Alumn Steve James Lauded for Movie Life Itself

SCOM alumn Steve James

Steven James
(photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

By Sarah Teach, special contributor

Chicago-based documentarian Steve James, director of Nantucket Film Festival (NFF) selection Life Itself, will receive NFF’s fourth annual Special Achievement in Documentary Storytelling at this year’s festival.

Since Life Itself—the film based on Roger Ebert’s eponymous memoir—celebrated its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, everyone from the Boston Globe to Variety has been raving about it. (More)

In a Nutshell, SCOM Is...

...the School of Communication Studies; an academic environment in which students, faculty and staff develop innovative communication practices and facilitate constructive dialogue in the classroom and community to inspire responsible citizenship in a diverse world.

Harrison Connect