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Thurgood Marshall College
Communication Building, Room 122A
(858) 534-4410

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

The Graduate Program

The Department of Communication offers a program of study leading to the doctor of philosophy degree. Communication at UC San Diego seeks to combine modes of analysis from the humanities and social sciences to explore the history, structure, and process of communication. The graduate program is conceived as a blending of the theoretical tradition of critical communication research with the empirical tradition of ethnographic and multimodel scholarship. Historically, the department grew out of an interdisciplinary program jointly sponsored by the Departments of Drama (currently, Theatre and Dance), Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology.

The study of communication at UC San Diego places major emphasis on historical, comparative, and ethnographic approaches to mediated human communication. Study is organized around the following three analytic perspectives: communication as a social force, communication and culture, and communication and human information processing. In addition, the department believes that investigation into communication requires a blending of theory and practice.

Communication as a Social Force examines the relation of communication institutions to structures of power in society. In this part of the curriculum, we examine institutional arrangements and structural characteristics regarding

Faculty research includes the following topics:

Communication and Culture examines the cultural artifacts and discourses through which we experience our everyday lives, including popular music, films and television shows, advertisements, museum displays, landscape and urban design, and health and identity documentation systems. How can we understand the histories and changing practices associated with these forms of representation? What is the role of media (print, visual, electronic, material) in forming ideas about social identity and in shaping subjectivity? This part of the curriculum draws on the humanities, anthropology, history, political theory, cultural studies, and the sociology of culture to offer students a range of methods and theoretical frameworks for interpreting the production and circulation of artifacts, discourses, and meanings in a range of local, national, transnational, and diasporic cultural contexts.

Faculty research includes the following topics:

Communication and The Person examines the ways in which our experience as human beings is created by the communicative practices of the societies in which we live and the cultural practices of our families and communities with which we interact from the earliest days of life. With a sociocultural lens, we study the role of communication through language and other organized symbolic media. Because both individuals and their environments are constantly changing, the study of culture and the person pays special attention to the cultural and historical contexts of personal experience and the practices that constitute the proximal environments of individual development. This part of the curriculum draws particularly on the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, and education to examine such processes as learning and cognition, language structure and language use, the construction and negotiation of meaning, and the organization of mental worlds.

Faculty research includes the following topics:

Communication and Media Practice faculty work in video, film, and interactive media production as well as in research scholarship. Graduate students as well as undergraduates are offered the opportunity to integrate creative practice in media production into their program of study.

Some communication faculty production interests include

PhD Requirements

  1. 200A-B-C (Introduction to the Theory of Communication as a Social Force, Communication and Culture, and Communication and the Individual).
  2. 294, The History of Communication Research.
  3. At least three methods courses from the 201 methodology sequence (see course listings).
  4. Four courses in communication history and theory (see course listings).
  5. 280, Advanced Workshop in Communication Media.
  6. 296, Communication Research as an Interdisciplinary Activity.
  7. First-Year Exam and Evaluation: At the end of the spring quarter of the student’s first year, the student must pass a comprehensive written examination based on course work completed during the first year.
  8. Language Requirement: All students are required to demonstrate proficiency in one language other than their native language.
  9. Qualifying Examinations: Before the end of the fourth year the student must take and pass an oral qualifying examination. The exam will be based on two papers concerning two of the subfields covered in the program. The student will also present a separate dissertation proposal at the examination. At this time, the faculty will examine the proposal for appropriateness and feasibility.
  10. Teaching Requirement: In order to acquire teaching experience, all students are required to participate in the teaching activities of the department in two courses from the Department of Communication curriculum prior to completion of their PhD as follows:
  11. Dissertation: Acceptance of the dissertation by the university librarian represents the final step in completing all requirements for a PhD. The dissertation committee must be approved by the department chair and the dean of Graduate Studies.

Departmental PhD Time Limit Policies

Students must be advanced to candidacy by the end of four years. Total university support cannot exceed seven years. Total registered time at UC San Diego cannot exceed eight years.

Specialization in Critical Gender Studies

Critical Gender Studies (CGS) is an interdisciplinary program at UC San Diego specializing in the study of gender and sexuality. The program’s core curriculum builds upon feminist scholarship and queer studies, incorporating the interdisciplinary agendas, intellectual debates, changing methodological practices, and major scholarly shifts that have reshaped the fields of gender and sexuality studies over the last decade.

Doctoral students in communication may apply for a specialization in Critical Gender Studies to complement their course work and research in communication. The specialization operates in partnership with eight departments in the Division of Social Sciences and the Division of Arts and Humanities, with admitted students representing each of these departments, creating a lively, interdisciplinary cohort. Admitted students are required to complete five courses in addition to their home department’s core requirements; admitted students must also include at least one member of their dissertation committee from the list of CGS core or affiliate faculty.

Course work for the specialization consists of two core courses and three electives. The core courses are CGS 200. Advanced Studies in Critical Gender Studies, to be taken shortly after admission to the specialization, and CGS 299. Practicum in Critical Gender Studies, to be taken in the student’s final year of dissertation writing. Electives may be chosen from a list of preapproved seminars in participating departments (students may petition for other courses with significant gender and sexuality studies content), and may be taken at any time during the student’s tenure at UC San Diego.

For more information about the graduate specialization in Critical Gender Studies, please visit: