Communication Studies Offering Two New Courses in Spring 2011

By Nicole Gennarelli

Family Communication and Social Support are offered to students both in the School of Communication Studies and other schools as well. Neither of these classes have prerequisites for registration.

Family Communication is offered this spring and summer as an online course. It will be a permanent course within the Interpersonal Communication concentration for Communication Studies Majors in the fall 2011 catalog. Interested students across the university may take it as well. This course examines families and the roles, rules, and functions that they fulfill from an interaction perspective.

“Effective communication is the most important job consideration factor desired by people making hiring decisions in organizations today,” said COMM Assistant Professor Jeffrey T. Child, Ph.D.

Child notes that in discussing the importance of studying family communication, parental communication defines and shapes how children see the world and their expectations for interaction with others throughout life.

“This course allows students to be able to understand how family communication impacts individual and group identity, the basic ideas developed about the role of family communication and dialogue in resolving stress and conflict, and how societal roles are defined and reinforced within the family unit through interaction,” said Child.

Child said this course shows the different roles and rules that provide meaning, and shape the family throughout their interactions. The course considers the diverse ways families can be defined and how definitional issues impact family communication patterns, norms, and experiences both internally and externally to the family unit.

“The course will develop an understanding about how family communication is portrayed on television and how such differentiated portrayals shape expectations and experiences communicating within families,” Child said. “Finally, the course explores cultural influences on family communication, such as how multi-ethnic families reinforce diverse values from mainstream cultural norms through storytelling, communication, and active identity shaping within the family.”

The other new course offered for students this spring is Social Support. Social Support will teach students “helping communication,” which is an important tool to help others deal with everyday problems such as personal, family crises and stress.

COMM Professor Rebecca Cline, Ph.D., said this course teaches undergraduate students one-on-one interpersonal supportive communication processes. Students will learn about both helpful and harmful messages, the barriers to giving and getting social support, and the negative as well as the many positive consequences of giving and receiving social support.

“Social support helps people’s psychological well-being when they have every-day crises,” Cline said. “Being able to be supportive of other people, in addition to being important in our personal lives, is important in our professional lives. Far too often what people intuitively think is helpful may actually be perceived as hurtful or harmful by the other person.”

Cline said that social support is an important issue in burn-out situations when people are overworked and overstressed, including university students. This course will prepare students to provide effective social support to others they care about and how to get social support when needed.

“Students who are in communication studies or considering working in a health or helping professions, will find these skills to be especially valuable,” Cline said.

Registration for these courses is open now to all students.

Nicole Gennarelli is a junior Public Relations major and marketing assistant in the Dean’s Office of the College of Communication and Information.

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