Prospective Students

Communication Studies at SUNY New Paltz

Communication is closely linked to the technological, social, and cultural changes that are rapidly changing our world, making communication an essential area of study within the liberal arts. The Department of Communication Studies has concentrations in Relational Communication, Organizational Communication, and Strategic Communication, offering students a variety of ways to pursue their interests and career goals.

The faculty in the Department of Communication are actively engaged in research and scholarship, innovative in our teaching, and strongly committed to the Mid-Hudson Valley region through our advocacy and outreach efforts. Housed in the largest college on campus, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department of Communication advances the mission of SUNY New Paltz and the SUNY System by working to deliver high-quality education, excel in discovery and innovation, model a culture of diversity and inclusion, and build pathways for the exchange of knowledge and opportunity between the state, the nation, and the world within our broad and important discipline while preparing our students for graduation.

Majoring in Communication Studies

Communication is at the heart of all human endeavors. Whether we are relating one-on-one, in small groups, or with large audiences, the effective exchange of ideas, information,

opinions, and emotions, as well as the cocreation of meaning, are central to our individual and community progress and well-being. The major in Communication Studies emphasizes an understanding of communication principles, social scientific and humanistic approaches to communication studies, and the development of skills in public, organizational, interpersonal and intercultural contexts. The major provides a foundation for graduate work, or for a career in any profession that deals with the public, such as politics, law, business, social work or teaching.

The Department of Communication offers a degree in Communication Studies with three concentrations: Relational Communication, Organizational Communication, and Strategic Communication.  Each of these is outlined below.

Learning Outcomes in Communication

What Does a Graduate with a Communication Degree Know, Understand, and Have the Ability to Do?[1]

Communication Graduates Can:

Create oral and written messages appropriate to the audience, purpose, and context
Communication graduates are able to adapt to different audiences and adjust messages appropriately using a variety of communication channels.

Critically analyze messages
Communication graduates are active listeners who effectively process and respond to all types of messages.

Identify and overcome impediments to successful communication
Communication graduates are keen observers of their environments, able to identify barriers to effective information exchange and adjust their communication practices when necessary.

Apply ethical communication principles and practices to their work
Communication graduates are prepared to communicate with ethical intention and to evaluate the ethical elements of any communication situation.

Utilize communication to embrace difference
Communication graduates recognize and respect diverse perspectives and are able to adapt their communication in diverse cultural contexts.

Influence public discourse
Communication graduates are able to frame and evaluate local, national, and/or global issues using a communication perspective to productively respond to those issues.

Concentration in Organizational Communication[2]

About the Field  Organizational communication refers to how people communicate in a variety of organizational contexts. Organizational communication is how organizations represent, present, and constitute their organizational climate and culture—the attitudes, values and goals that characterize the organization and its members. It focuses on building relationships and interacting with internal organizational members and interested external publics. 

What You Will Learn  Students of Organizational Communication examine:

  • how members of a workplace, a school, a professional corps, or any organization accomplish tasks relating to their specific roles and responsibilities
  • how they acclimate to changes through individual and organizational creativity and adaptation
  • how numerous organizational processes and communicative behaviors are central to organizing

Topics of study include interpersonal or group relations, informal and formal communication practices, elements of power within organizations, and interaction with computer technology.

Developing organizational communication awareness and effectiveness is more than just having know-how or knowledge. Efficient organizational communication involves knowing how to create and exchange information, work with diverse groups and individuals, communicate in complicated and changing circumstances, as well as having the aptitude or motivation to communicate with civility.

Concentration in Relational Communication

About the field: The area of relational communication delves into processes by which individuals interact and create meaning using verbal and nonverbal messages. The scholarship focuses on the processes of communication in terms of how people develop, manage, or regulate relationships. These communicative processes play an important role in building unique dynamics of interaction and the unique cultures of our relationships. What is interesting about this field is that students incorporate individual perspectives and experiences into the scientific and interpretive understanding of communication dynamics. For example, think about the ways you manage interactions and boundaries with your parents, your roommate, and your friends on social media. How you set boundaries will be shown through languages that you use, physical and psychological spaces you put into the relationship, and how much you feel and create emotional intimacy in the relationship. These everyday interpersonal interactions occur every moment, but the patterns and strategies of communication are different based on our unique relational cultures and the larger social and political cultures in which those relationships exist. By asking how and why they happen, we can better understand our interpersonal relationships, as well as shape our communication to meet our various relational goals.

What You Will Learn: Students in the relational concentration will learn about how our relationships are formed and maintained, how various cultural elements impact those relationships, and how we might better understand our relational experiences, as well as fundamental processes for managing different communicative goals including persuasion, relationship management, negotiation, engaging in conflict, or providing support. The curriculum begins with basic communication courses (e.g., Public speaking, Interpersonal communication) that allow students to start exploring connections between everyday communication processes and how those processes are understood and analyzed through data and theories that researchers have built. In the intermediate level, students will have flexibility in learning about more specialized topics in relational communication through various courses that focus on messages (e.g., Nonverbal Communication), culture (e.g., Communication Among Cultures), organization (e.g., Business & Professional Communication). Students will also learn the basics of communication research utilizing interpretive and/or social scientific methodology. Finally, in the capstone course, students will have the opportunity to engage their own scholarly research and exhibit their analytic abilities as communication scholars.

Concentration in Strategic Communication

About the field: Strategic Communication is the purposeful use of communication strategies and practices to set agendas and accomplish organizational and interorganizational goals. Strategic communicators:

  • Align and coordinate employees and volunteers
  • Connect organizations and communities in pursuit of a common goal
  • Plan and coordinate steps to facilitate interaction and to create and negotiate meaning
  • Reach external audiences such as consumers, voters, and community members
  • Advocate for change

Strategic communication is a series of communicative activities that can take place at the interpersonal, organizational, and interorganizational levels. It is composed of both formal and informal interaction and includes web and social media along with traditional media such as broadcast and cable TV, radio, and print- or web- based publications. However, strategic communication is much more and includes reports and plans, meetings and town halls, events and gatherings, and advocacy and political campaigns.

Strategic Communication is used by global multinational companies, public health agencies, social movements, small entrepreneurs, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, and politicians and political groups working to create or pass legislation or to support electoral campaigns.

Many students at New Paltz are interested in Public Relations, which is encompassed by Strategic Communication.  Public Relations is a process of strategic communication through which an organization’s mission, goals, and values are communicated to external audiences. Several of the core courses in the Strategic Communication curriculum are directly related to Public Relations history and current strategies.

What You Will Learn: At New Paltz, we prepare you for a wide variety of jobs as a strategic communicator and public relations professional. We are more than a skills-based major and concentration.

At New Paltz, you will learn how and why to create communication plans, analyze communication strategies, and understand the impact of broader social, economic, and political trends on strategic communication---all while taking courses on social media, communication campaigns, reputation, crisis and disaster, and corporate social responsibility.

Explore the Major and Minor in Communication

We invite you to explore the requirements in our major and minor programs, as well as our General Education courses at

Read a great article about 2011 graduate Grace McDermott and her thoughts about SUNY New Paltz and her education.


[1] Copyright © 2015 National Communication Association

[2] Adapted from: Survey of Communication Study, by Scott T Paynton and Linda K Hahn. Humboldt State University. License: CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike