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Speech Communication Department

Rhetoric and Communication Studies

Rhetoric and Communication Studies at the University of La Verne uses theory and practice to help students explore how and why people communicate, and the influence of communication and rhetoric has on individuals, groups, organizations, and societies, and how individual and group behavior is reflected. In support of this mission, the department provides a curriculum that:

  • examines communication theory and research;
  • encourages practice and improvement of communication skills in a variety of contexts;
  • explores communication from a multicultural perspective; and
  • provides flexibility and choice to best suit your academic and professional aspirations.

Our faculty are highly qualified and committed to students, and our majors are dynamic students who engage in lively class discussions and critical thinking. Both strive to understand complex human communication behavior from liberal arts and social sciences perspectives.

La Verne Debate Team

Debate TeamThe La Verne Debate Team is one of the most visible and decorated student organizations on campus. It competes nationally and internationally against other heavyweight institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, and more, and has traveled to more than a dozen countries around the world in its quest to make their argument heard.

In the past 20 years, the Debate Team has been top ranked at two World Universities Debating Championships from this hemisphere, won the National Open, won the United States Universities National Championship, won the Americas’ Cup, and been the only American team qualifying  for the elimination rounds of the World Championships. And that’s just a small sampling of their achievements; learn more if you’re interested in becoming a member of the team..

The history of Rhetoric and Communication Studies

As an academic discipline, rhetoric and communication studies traces its origins to classical rhetoric, which evolved into a prominent component of the seven liberal arts of the medieval schools. “The ability to speak clearly, eloquently, and effectively has been recognized as the hallmark of an educated person since the beginning of recorded history . . . . In the United States, rhetorical training has been a part of formal education since Harvard’s founding in 1636.”1 During the nineteenth century, a reexamination of the rhetorical tradition began, inspired primarily by the interests of social scientists in human communication. This resulted in the formation of speech communication as a discipline incorporating the two related yet distinct areas of rhetoric and communication studies. Both areas investigate similar questions about human interaction, but they vary in the methods used to answer these questions. Rhetoric scholars utilize humanistic methods and communication studies scholars utilize social-scientific methods. Together, they pursue the study and practice of human communication.

Rhetoric and Communication Studies today

Rhetoric and Communication Studies scholars explore the creation of social realities, the nature of verbal and nonverbal signs and symbols, and the role of communicative behavior in a variety of social contexts (including personal relationships, organizations, intercultural encounters, political and legal debates, and beyond).

As specific areas of study, rhetoric and persuasion emphasize communication in the contexts of debate, public address and discourse, political and legal communication, and even social influence attempts in sales, personal relationships, and work relationships. Interpersonal and intercultural communication recognize the role of communication in the development, maintenance, and deterioration of relationships, including personal, work, and stranger relationships, and relationships across cultures. Organizational and group communication is the study of information flow within an organization, between the organization and the external environment, and among groups.

Most academic training in the area of speech communication takes the perspective that successful communication is partly a learned skill. Most people are born with the physical abilities to acquire necessary communication tools, but such potential does not guarantee that they will learn to communicate effectively. Language, rhetorical strategies, listening skills, and a lexicon of verbal and nonverbal meanings are developed in various ways. It is theorized that people gain their communication skills by having them modeled by persons in their environment, by being taught specific techniques through the educational process, and by practicing their abilities and having them evaluated. 2

Today, rhetoric and communication studies is very common major, with approximately 118,000 communication majors pursuing undergraduate degrees and 16,000 seeking graduate degrees in communication across the nation. 2


The Department of Rhetoric and Communication Studies fosters the study and practice of rhetoric to help students better understand the centrality of rhetoric and the effects of discourse on the development of individuals, groups, institutions, and cultures and to influence students to become effective, ethical, and reflective communicators in their academic, professional, personal and civic lives.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the Rhetoric and Communication Studies Department will:

  1. be able to critically examine communication theory and research;
  2. demonstrate oral communication skills in a variety of contexts;
  3. become knowledgeable about multicultural perspectives in communication; and
  4. experience individual growth and develop connections with other La Verne students.

  1. Friedrich, G. W. (1991). Essentials of speech communication. In Morreale S., Janusik, L., Randall, M., & Vogl, M. (Eds.), Communication Programs: Rationale and Review Kit. (1997). Annandale, VA: Speech Communication Association, p. 125.
  2. National Communication Association. (1998). Pathways to careers in communication (5th ed.) [Brochure]. Washington D.C.: Sherwyn P. Morreal and Matthew W. Vogl.