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Since the East Stroudsburg State Normal School opened its doors in 1893, courses in oral communication were an important part of the curriculum. The overall purpose of these courses was to help teachers to develop poise and confidence in the various communicative constructs they will find themselves in during their teaching careers. Recitation, or the art of performing literature out loud, was taught under the auspices of the English department. By the 1920s, coursework in oral expression, dramatic arts, and orations (such as Cicero) were taught by professors Ellene Sullivan, Leah Roberts and Grace Bigler. Course offerings would soon grow with the addition of courses in Speech Problem Diagnosis and Storytelling.

In 1937, East Stroudsburg’s curriculum was revised to include a Speech emphasis for students in the Secondary Education program. The coursework, which was taught by Elizabeth Dawson, included studies in play production, phonetics, and interpretive reading. Professor Roberta Barnett, who was a graduate of Columbia University, would expand this repertoire in 1940 with courses in Community Dramatics, Costuming, Debate, and Speech Pathology. The year 1940 would also mark the installment of the college’s first Debate Team. These courses began to increase in popularity, and as a result, advanced coursework in public speaking and oral interpretation would appear in the 1950s.

The Department grew significantly in the 1960s with the addition of several new faculty members. J.J. Brennan, Robert Howell, and Warren Gasink would serve as pivotal forces in the growth and shaping of this department. By 1969, the department offered a full spectrum of theatre courses, such as acting, scenic design, and directing; multiple courses in speech communication, including voice and diction, group dynamics, and parliamentary procedure; and several courses in speech correction. Columbia University graduate Dale Snow, who was hired in 1968, introduced coursework in Mass Media and the department’s first film analysis course, “Art and History of the Film.”

Courses in mediated communication would continue to sprout during the 1970s. A multi-disciplinary degree program, titled “The Institute for Communication Studies,” would blend coursework in speech with the departments of English and Educational Communications and Technology. Dean Reeder, who was a graduate of the Ohio State University, would introduce courses in Broadcast Management and Voice for Broadcasting; while Dale Snow introduced a series of upper-level film genre courses. In 1977, University of Iowa graduate Steven Lipkin replaced Professor Snow and would implement the Introduction to Film Study course. Another faculty member, Richard Leland, would add coursework in argumentation, rhetorical criticism, and small group communication. Leland, who was a graduate of the University of Minnesota, would continue to develop courses in this area throughout his tenure at East Stroudsburg.

In the summer of 1979, the department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts moved to its new home in the Fine and Performing Arts Center. Acting courses were moved into the newly constructed Smith-McFarland theatre, while speech courses were moved to room 323 of Stroud Hall. One year later, as a response to rapid student growth and the dissolving of the Institute of Communication Studies, SCTA was divided into two separate departments. The Department of Speech Communication Studies was established with four faculty members: Warren Gasink, Richard Leland, Steven Lipkin, and Dean Reeder.

In 1981, Steven Lipkin left East Stroudsburg to teach at Western Michigan University, and was replaced by media writer Richard Bartone. Bartone, a New York University graduate, would introduce Media Criticism into the curriculum, in addition to teaching courses in film and broadcasting. In 1984, Upward Bound instructor Joseph Ashcroft transferred to the Speech department and would be the first to teach Senior Seminar. One year later, Bartone resigned and was replaced by Paul Lippert, who came to ESU from New York University. Lippert would play a key role in the expansion of the department to include a track in Media Studies, which he initiated through a series of experimental seminars offered at Stony Acres. One of these seminars, “Advertising and Propaganda,” would later become a required course. The faculty would continue to grow with the addition of Rebecca Ray and Marcia Godich, who would be responsible for introducing courses in gender studies and advanced rhetoric.

In 1991, Warren Gasink retired after 26 years on the faculty, and was replaced by Charles Warner. Having focused on the area of popular culture at the doctoral level at Bowling Green State University, Warner would soon integrate this sub-discipline into the curriculum by developing coursework in popular culture and popular music. Later that year, Dean Reeder retired and was replaced by Rob McKenzie, a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University. Within a few months, the campus radio station (90.3 FM) would come under the advisement of the Department of Speech Communication Studies, with Rob McKenzie designated as the University Advisor to WESS-FM. McKenzie, who was hired in 1992, was also charged with developing the broadcasting concentration. Wenjie Yan joined the department one year later, and in 1994, Glenn Geiser-Getz was hired. Geiser-Getz, who graduated from the University of Iowa, would expand the department’s offerings in rhetorical studies, while Yan would develop additional coursework in organizational communication. In 1996, the department was re-named “The Department of Communication Studies” to reflect the rapid expansions in this field. The 1990s saw additional growth of the program with the addition of coursework in rhetoric, television genre study, and radio practicum.

In 2003, Richard Leland retired and was replaced by Ohio University graduate Andi McClanahan who developed courses in communication theory. Two years later, Patricia Kennedy, who graduated from Syracuse University, joined the faculty and would expand course offerings in communication law. In 2006, Duquesne University graduate Cem Zeytinoglu was hired and given the task of developing a new curriculum focus: public relations. The department began offering courses in public relations in 2009 and one year later established ESU’s student chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Around the same time, Glenn Geiser-Getz would develop an online version of “Introduction to Mass Media,” marking the department’s first distance education course.

In August of 2012, the Department of Communication Studies would move into its current home in the newly renovated Monroe Hall. Around the same time, Julian Costa founded a chapter of the National Broadcasting Society that would serve students majoring in both the Digital Media Technologies and Communication Studies programs. By 2015, the department launched courses in social media analysis and a newly designed track, titled “Public Communication and Advocacy.” In March 2016, department's name officially become the Department of Communication in order to reflect the changes and expansion in department's four concentrations. 

Written by Julian Costa & Edited by Cem Zeytinoglu