Communication at NDSU
Communication study began soon after the establishment of the university in 1890. Forensic activities began in 1896, the same year the student newspaper, the Spectrum, was established. Soon becoming a weekly, its first editions clearly appealed to those who hoped to promote the land-grant vision of the university. As its mission, editors declared, was "increasing college spirit and patriotism among the students and increasing the interest of North Dakota farmers and tradesmen in experimental work."
More formal communication study opportunities appeared on campus shortly after the turn of the last century. A.G. Arvold arrived in 1907 to offer speech coursework, and a Department of Public Discussion was formed in 1921 as part of the School of Science and Literature. In 1952 the Department of Speech and Drama was created under the direction of Fred Walsh, and in 1984 Robert Littlefield took direction of the Department of Mass Communication, Speech communication and Theatre. Theatre joined the fine arts college in 1992, when the department of communication was established, merging mass communication and speech communication.
In the 1970s the Spectrum began publishing twice a week, while the forensics team gained national prominence. KDSU radio offered students the opportunity to work at a station affiliated with National Public Radio, a radio tradition dating to the 1920s. Today KDSU has become part of the Prairie Public radio network, and students now learn radio broadcast at a new station established six years ago, KNDS. The Spectrum, now a broadsheet, continues to publish twice weekly in addition to maintaining a web site.
In the area of mass communication study, a minor was offered beginning in the 1950s. The first extensive mass communication program was established by Don Schwartz in 1969. This professional minor, as it was called, required nearly as many credits as a major, so students effectively double-majored in communication and another field, melding two fields of study into a job-enhancing specialized degree. In the 1970s the mass communication program established majors jointly administered with the colleges of agriculture and home economics. By the end of that decade the professional minor was given major status.
The department has grown to be one of the university's largest. Today students may choose from five majors and minors at the undergraduate level, and graduate-level study at both the master's and doctoral levels. About 375 undergraduates major in communication at NDSU, joining 50 master's students and 20 doctoral students.
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