Communication Studies

COM Response to Covid-19

Message from the Department


The recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and the on going protests remind us there is tremendous work to be done.  The protests are about the loss of lives, and they are also about the systemic oppression, bias and outright violence against people of color. It is not acceptable to simply help people manage their ongoing marginalization. Black Lives Matter. We must demand

more of our leaders who vowed to be public servants. The many forms of injustice—from police violence to gerrymandering—are unacceptable and wrong and must stop. While we grieve, despair and protest together, we acknowledge that our colleagues, friends and classmates of color feel these wounds much deeper.

We may feel overwhelmed. We may feel rightfully angry. We may feel we don’t know where to start. We cannot fix government. We cannot fix systemic oppression and bias. Right now we hurt. We hurt for the loss of life. We hurt for the loss of trust. We hurt for the loss of community. We hurt even for the loss of hope. The loss of the idea that we were making progress, that the past tragedies and patterns of abuse that had become so clear to many of us were going to make a difference in the hearts and minds of others. And now it seems like they did not.

But we can make a difference. We can “start with me.”

When institutions fail us, we still have community and we still have personal agency. We still have, family, friends, neighbors and roommates. We still have student organizations, community organizations, teammates and classmates. And we still have personal choices to speak out, reach out, and seek to make the world better within our sphere of influence. As a department we are committed to standing (and kneeling) with our students, community partners and one another to pursue equity, dignity and social justice.

We become faculty because we want to help people. We want to empower people. We want to elevate people and society through a truly transformative education. That can seem simplistic and naïve at a time like this. But that is our part to play in moving things forward. We will continue to embrace and support our students of color and the changes needed so that they can feel safe and affirmed not only in our classrooms but in the neighborhoods and communities and country they live in.

As part of the larger discipline of communication studies and the larger institution of UNCW, we commit to teach, research and serve in ways that address the challenges and aspirations articulated in the formal position statements below.

National Communication Association Statement

UNCW Chancellor’s Statement 

UNCW Statement

With hope and solidarity,

Rick Olsen, Ph.D.


The Department of Communication Studies is operating in an electronic format at this time and until further notice. Please see our Response and Updates page for more department level information.

If you have questions concerning COVID-19 in relation to UNCW, please visit for updates and answers to your questions. The site is a work in progress and information is added as it is received.

Greetings from the Chair

Richard Olsen

Richard K. Olsen
Professor and Department Chair

What do entrepreneur, lawyer, minister, social media manager, pharmaceutical regulations liaison, corporate trainer, videographer and client services all have in common?  These are just a few of the many career paths our graduates have chosen.  Choice is a wonderful thing.  But, choice requires power.  So where does the power of a communication studies degree come from?

First, it comes from a fundamental need for great communication in everyday life.  The ancient Greeks figured this out very early in their efforts to create democratic rule.  Thus, arête, or the power to manage oneself well in public settings became a hallmark of a well-educated citizen.  We embrace that goal today.

Second, the power of a COM degree comes from the versatility we build into our curriculum.  Our students learn to think strategically about communication.  They become aware of the power of symbols to shape reality and grow in their ability to make effective and ethical arguments through whatever communication choices are available to them.  This foundation is great for folks who know exactly what they want to do next... and is equally appropriate for those that have no idea what’s next!

Finally, our curriculum embraces personal development as well as professional readiness.  If you are going to become a powerful communicator it is also best if you become a good person.  We are proud that many of our students engage in projects that make positive differences in the community and in their own lives.  In those projects we see the power of connecting timeless truths with cutting edge application.

If you are interested in exploring how mastering communication can foster your personal growth and professional readiness, explore our website and I think you’ll find that choosing to major in communication studies can provide you with many great choices in the years ahead.