AU’s Department of Communication Studies aims to prepare students for success

Madison Graver

Ashland University prides itself on having a wide variety of majors for students of many different interests and backgrounds. From nursing to education to business to the arts, AU offers over 70 undergraduate majors for students to explore and lead themselves down a path to their future. 

With such a large pool of majors to pick from, some programs tend to get looked over in favor of some of the larger, more widely known programs. One of those in particular is the Department of Communication Studies. 

Currently, the department offers three undergraduate majors: public relations & strategic communication, sport communication, and applied communication. Additionally, they offer a minor in public relations & strategic communication and a master’s degree in corporate and strategic communication. 

Students who enroll in any of the programs within the department can expect to develop a strong foundation of writing, planning, leadership, critical thinking, conflict negotiation, and creative skills they can apply to a variety of organizational contexts. The curriculum offerings evolve to keep up with the latest trends and practices in the modern communications landscape.

Rachel Miller, senior public relations and digital media production double major, has had nothing but positive experiences in the department and believes the opportunities it allows for students is part of what makes it so special.

“We have unique opportunities that you can’t really find at other bigger places,” Miller said. “Being in such a small department with close connections with nearly everyone, you get those unique opportunities to join clubs and be a part of, for example, the Bateman Case Study team — a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) initiative. Your professors and advisors are constantly reaching out to you with job opportunities and internships and I think all of those opportunities that you can’t find other places makes our Comm. department stand out.”

Changing majors is something that many college students may experience throughout their school career. Junior public relations major Jályn Allen initially came into AU with a declared major in social work, but within her first week of classes she knew it wasn’t the right fit for her. Then after discovering the Communication Studies Department, she knew that’s the place she needed to be.

“If you’re looking for something different or you’re undecided I definitely recommend at least trying out the communication department,” Allen said. “I didn’t start off as a communication major and I fell in love with the department as soon as I took my COM 101 class and I just fell in love with it ever since. I’ve grown so much and it can literally help you in any field you go into.”

Similarly, senior sport communication major Cam Ridenour started his time at AU as a marketing major but, just like Allen, felt that it wasn’t something he was passionate about. After having meetings and discussions with Shawn Orr, professional instructor of communication studies, Ridenour made the switch to join the Department of Communication Studies.

Ridenour said being a part of the department has opened his eyes to where exactly his passions lie for his future career.

“I think I’ve really been able to find a lot more of what I’m passionate about through communications, that’s not necessarily related to communications,” Ridenour said. “I think all the experiences that I’ve had, going back earlier to what I said about working with agencies and different people across Ashland County I think I’ve really been able to find out more about what I’m passionate about and how I can best apply that going forward in my career.”

When it comes to what their favorite part of the department is, both Ridenour and Miller agree that it’s the people involved that truly elevate the overall experience. 

With its class sizes being relatively small and five professors in the department, it becomes easy to create close relationships with those students and professors that you might not get being a part of a larger program.

“My favorite part about being part of the Comm. department is just the people,” Miller said. “From the professors, advisors, down to all the students in the department, it really is just a fun little tight knit community of people all pursuing the same thing. So I really have enjoyed the people and the professors that I have been surrounded with in my time here.”

After being a part of the department, the communication professors all hope their students are able to walk away from the program having learned valuable lessons and practices for their future careers. For Allen, one lesson she’s taken thus far is that going the extra mile can be difficult, but worth it.

“Something that I’m gonna take away from our COM department is just knowing that sometimes going the extra mile is needed and it will help in so many situations in life,” Allen said. “Sometimes it’s extra work but it really does make a difference at the end of the day and really helps grow this communication relationship, which are the most important things I’ve learned here.”

Whether your interest lies in the medical field or sports or any other professional field, there is almost always an opportunity to work in communication. The vast variety of potential jobs in a number of fields makes a degree in communication just that much more valuable.

Miller emphasizes the amount of opportunity this department offers and encourages future AU students to take a chance on this program just like she did.

“There really is a need for communication everywhere in the world,” Miller said. “With COM you kind of have the opportunity to find your niche in any area that you might be interested in through communication. I absolutely would encourage anybody who is at all interested in communication to check out our department and see what opportunities you might have in your future through this program.”

For more information about the Department of Communication Studies and its majors, visit or follow @AUCommStudies on Twitter and Facebook.