One of the first questions I am asked by someone on campus that I just met is, “What are you majoring in?”
When I tell them communication studies, I usually see confusion on their face.
They often reply, “What is that? What are you going to do with that?”
It never ceases to amaze me that I have to explain what communication is to students at a liberal arts college.
But how could they understand? The University of Virginia’s College at Wise does not require their students to have any formal communication training in order to graduate.
According to the 2017-2018 college catalog, UVa-Wise students must take the following courses in order to fulfill the liberal arts portion of their degree:
Six credit hours of English composition, three hours of literature, six hours of mathematics, six hours of foreign language, six hours of western heritage, eight hours of natural science, three hours of arts, three hours of humanities, nine hours of social sciences, one hour of physical education, one to two hours of freshman seminar and eight cultural activity credits.
One might argue that communications falls under humanities or a social science. But this argument stumbles when one sees that communication courses are not even mentioned as an option for students who are choosing classes as liberal arts requirements.
The UVa-Wise catalog states that, in order to fulfill the humanities requirements, “courses are to be selected from history, philosophy, religion, visual and performing arts or literature.”
To fulfill social science requirements, students can select “courses in economics, political science, psychology, sociology, anthropology or GEO 2020.”
Ironically, directly above the list of general education requirements, it is stated that the number one goal of the liberal arts core is “to promote proficiency in all forms of communication.”
Then why aren’t students required to take at least three credit hours in communications?
The UVa-Wise communications department offers a wide variety of courses that students across all disciplines could benefit from in their academic and professional careers.
For instance, public speaking, which teaches students how properly develop and deliver an oral presentation. According to the catalog, one of the main liberal arts competencies that students should gain at UVa-Wise is oral communication!
In addition, the catalog states that a main goal of the college is, “to encourage critical thinking among our students.” The primary objective of COM 2050, which is Introduction to Rhetorical Studies, is to begin training students to become critical thinkers.
Students could also take the introductory courses to journalism and interpersonal communication
If these points are not enough, think about this: the website opportunityjobnetwork.com cites communication skills as the number one employability factor for job candidates.
“Employers want people who can accurately interpret what others are saying and organize and express their thoughts clearly,” the website states.
Given these factors, it might be fair to ask if UVa-Wise as an institution is giving communication studies its due as a vital skill for graduates.
But hey, what’s the big deal? Communication is only the basic foundation of everyday life.