Course Descriptions

The School of Professional Communication offers a wide array of courses ranging in topic from introductory written and oral communication to more specialized themes such as corporate, intercultural, interpersonal, and visual communication.  Our courses give students an essential education that will enhance their communication proficiency in an increasingly communication-driven workplace.

Course Descriptions

First Year

First Year Required Courses

CMN210 Text, Image, and Sound
We are surrounded by artifacts, such as advertisements, that attempt to persuade us to buy, believe or behave in certain ways. This course provides students with the analytical tools to understand the ways that text, image and sound work together to create persuasive objects.  Using concepts from rhetoric and linguistics, this course focuses on elements of design and shows how to identify the ways that text, image, and sound interact to create persuasive messages.

CMN279 Introduction to Professional Communication
This case-based, interactive course introduces students to contemporary strategies of successful communication in professional contexts.  Students learn how to analyze audience, situation, and medium to create messages that respond to practical challenges and build productive relationships.  Students develop sensitivity to language and tone, learn to organize and convey ideas and information, and select the best means to accomplish their intended purposes.

First Year ProCom Elective Courses (Not all courses will be offered every year)

CMN211 Language and Power
Powerful texts such as influential news stories, government policies and legal decisions help shape our lives. Using concepts from critical discourse analysis, this course focuses on providing students with the basic analytical vocabulary and tools to understand the ways that powerful texts work.  Students will be provided with opportunities to identify the linguistic techniques that characterize the important documents that affect our social worlds and also with opportunities to respond to those texts with counter arguments.

CMN 225 Communication In Place

Where does communication happen? This course will examine how place and environment shape the communicative practice. Using concepts from rhetoric, cultural studies and various communication theories, students will develop an understanding of the “communication environment,” and how to consider environmental constraints and factors when constructing meaningful messages for audiences. The course will use examples from popular culture, economics, politics, architecture, science, and technology to help students understand the importance of place and time in the process of communication.

CMN288 Promotional Communication and Social Media

Social media provides new opportunities for organizations to build relationships and to engage audiences as co-creators through the strategic use of tools such as blogs, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and Pinterest to achieve a range of social and persuasive communication goals. Students will study communication theory, promotional genres and new media to understand the principles, benefits and ethics of these interactive, mobile and immediate communication forms. This course aims to integrate theory and practice, and students will demonstrate their understanding of course content through their engagement with social media.

Second Year Required Courses

CMN314 Professional Presentations
Successful professionals achieve their objectives by consistently delivering meaningful presentations to diverse, demanding audiences.  High expectations and extensive technology often complicate rather than improve the presenter’s ability to communicate effectively.  In this essential course, students learn to cope with fear, structure content coherently, develop poise and confidence, and employ technology in a sophisticated way to connect with their listeners.

CMN216 Communication Revolutions
How have communication revolutions—from the invention of writing, the printing press, and the telegraph to the Internet—developed?  What do these transformative technologies, through their common ancestry, share with today’s new media and digital communication developments? How are these new digital formations transforming and challenging the ways in which we communicate and relate to each other in everyday life? This course explores the origins, reception and use of new forms of communication in their historical contexts with attention to their social, political, cognitive, and technological aspects and impacts and the challenges they pose to traditional rhetorical theories.

CMN215 Messages, Modalities, and Media
The massive amounts of information that confront a professional in today’s multimodal, multi-media workplace present unprecedented message-processing challenges. The ability to interpret messages across modalities and media critically is fundamental to the transformation of information into meaningful knowledge. Using principles of discourse analysis and incorporating a range of examples and exercises, students will learn to identify, select, evaluate, and synthesize written and oral messages in ways that recognize the embeddedness of the interpretive process within its larger ethical, social, political and technological dimensions.

CMN222 Digital Discourse and Design
Through a combination of writing and design assignments, lectures and discussions, this course explores the practical and theoretical consequences of the creation, delivery, and reception of texts in digital spaces and discusses effective digital writing principles and techniques. The implications of visual and interaction design are examined as they affect digital communication. Students will have the opportunity to work with digital technologies and to critique a range of online texts.

CMN448 Introduction to Visual Communication
This challenging course introduces students to the study of Visual Communication. Students explore how visual images persuade us to act and think in certain ways. They learn a vocabulary of visual meaning-making (i.e., a visual language). Building upon the vocabulary, they learn how images can be rhetorical and persuasive within a professional communication context. Further, they learn how visual images manipulate and become manipulated by a surrounding visual culture.

Second Year ProCom Elective Courses (Not all courses will be offered every year)

CMN213 Texts in Social Contexts
All texts occur in social contexts. They emerge from and affect their communities of practice. This course provides students with the conceptual tools needed to investigate both the textual (written, oral, visual) and social practices associated with professional communication. Using concepts from genre theory, rhetoric, linguistics and semiotics together with concepts from social theories such as activity system theory and actor-network theory, students will explore issues related to power, agency and ethics in professional communication.

CMN214 Communication and Language
Language functions as both a conveyor of information and a purveyor of social and professional identity. Using English as our language of inquiry, we will study the meaning-making process and consider how different interpretations of meaning are mediated by different linguistic practices shaped by media. Students will be introduced to a range of theoretical perspectives and challenged to apply them to practices that generate discourse communities and consider how those communities comprise organizational cultures and distinctive worldviews. 

CMN413 Corporate Communications
How does a company communicate its reputation and image and manage these intangible features when damaged? Through examining high-level communication strategies and products, students develop sensitivity to the language, formats, and images organizations use to manage their concerns. Students also practice skills corporate communication professionals employ to communicate with a variety of audiences.

CMN414 Interpersonal Communication in Management
In this workshop course, students participate in a variety of group and individual exercises designed to develop the interpersonal skills necessary for effective management. Emphasis is placed on understanding how varied backgrounds, personalities, and cultural perspectives affect group processes such as problem solving, decision making, resolving conflict, and negotiating. Some sessions may be videotaped.

CMN443 Contemporary Intercultural Communication
In today’s global environment, success or failure of almost any venture requires a clear understanding of intercultural issues. In this course, various communication strategies and theoretical frameworks are analyzed in cultural context.

CMN448 Introduction to Visual Communication
This challenging course introduces students to the study of Visual Communication. Students explore how visual images persuade us to act and think in certain ways. They learn a vocabulary of visual meaning-making (i.e., a visual language). Building upon the vocabulary, they learn how images can be rhetorical and persuasive within a professional communication context. Further, they learn how visual images manipulate and become manipulated by a surrounding visual culture.

CMN450 Participatory Media and Communication
Emerging communication delivery channels such as podcasting, blogging, and social network applications facilitate individuals’ ability to consume, create and distribute content to diverse audiences. This course examines the theoretical implications of new communication media and offers hands-on practice using various participatory media platforms to deliver content for effective professional communication. Students will learn how to use participatory media, such as podcasting and other select applications like WordPress and Twitter, to deliver social media content from concept to implementation.

Third Year

Third Year Required Courses

CMN315 Issues in Communication and the Workplace
Effective communication has always been an essential component of business. It is particularly important today, when business people communicate in increasingly complex and diverse workplaces. They must deal with ethical dilemmas, intensifying organizational change, global and multicultural partners, increased specialization, and constant technological developments. Using practical examples and case studies, this course both explores communication challenges that business professionals face today and helps them develop strategies and practices designed for the contemporary workplace.

CMN323 Introduction to Professional Practice
Grounded in professional practice, this course introduces students to the creation and delivery of communication products. Working with local clients, student teams will design a creative artifact and communicate their rationale to both primary and secondary audiences.  Activities include consulting with clients, developing client deliverables, and producing a formal report and presentation justifying their final product.

CMN324 Strategic Storytelling in Industry
In an organizational setting, stories are vibrant forms of expression that can enhance personal and professional success as they engage others, promote values, encourage creativity, and inspire action. In this course, students will learn the power and the craft of storytelling as a professional communication strategy. Students will be introduced to basic concepts of narratology, examine case studies that illustrate a range of storytelling principles and practices, master a set of techniques for successful storytelling, and consider how new technologies suggest new ways of telling stories.

CMN325 New Media in the Workplace
To be successful in today’s workplace requires an understanding of how to leverage the new media landscape for effective communication. This course provides students with an opportunity to explore the effects of changing business communication through an examination of how new media are changing organizational and social structures. Students will learn to apply the fundamentals of oral, visual and written communication within the new media environment of text, graphics, audio, video and virtual worlds.

Third Year ProCom Elective Courses (Not all courses will be offered every year)

CMN305 Strategic Public Relations in Professional Communication Contexts
This course examines the principles and application of effective public relations. Students will study the concepts underlying public relations, and how to employ them in strategic planning, image management, advocacy, and media interaction.  Pedagogy will be case-based and include simulation activities.

CMN306 Risk and Crisis Communication
All organizations must manage risk and crisis in order to avoid damage or ruin.  This course investigates the components of risk and crisis management and the channels and media available to communicate related messages to an organization’s audiences.  Using case studies and practical applications, students will understand and analyze the process of perceiving, handling, and communicating about risk and crisis and gain experience in these areas through simulation.

CMN317 Governance in the Information Society
The shift from industrial to information society is characterized by the integration of information and information technologies into the political process, the economy, health, and other areas. While information technologies open up possibilities for citizens to engage in public life, they also offer regulatory institutions modes of monitoring and controlling citizens. This course examines the relationship between information technologies and governance, and develops students’ capacity to engage critically with competing notions of the information society.

CMN321 Technical Comm as Knowledge Translation
Technical communicators are often involved in the practice of knowledge translation.  Working with other subject matter specialists technical communicators are charged with assisting in developing new knowledge (digital, medical, scientific etc.) but also with sharing that knowledge with other often non-technical audiences.  Using rhetorical (text and image) and linguistic perspectives, this advanced course offers students the opportunity to investigate, practice and critique the genres and practices associated with technical communication.

CMN447 Communication and Law
Communication practitioners must be sensitive to the legal risks and implications of their messages. They must consider ethical responsibilities to clients, employees, and themselves. Clear and accessible documents, in language and design, help the company manage internal and external relations. In this essential course, students study such communications as contracts, briefs, client letters and proposals, to gain a firm understanding of the legal dimensions of organizational communication and to contribute that knowledge to the company’s enterprise and obligations.

CMN600 Science, Communication and Society
In today’s world, science is a dominant and complex industry that fundamentally affects everyone. This course examines how critical scientific issues are communicated to science’s major stakeholders, the public and government, and within the scientific community itself. What works, what doesn’t, and why? In today’s multi-channel, electronic and media-dominated society, which communication strategies work best to ensure that large, complex issues of vital importance are communicated clearly and concisely? Significant cases will be examined in a Canadian context, challenging students to theorize how science is – and should be – communicated in its real social context.

Fourth Year

Fourth Year Required Courses

CMN480 Research Methods in ProCom I

As part of their careers, graduates in Professional Communication will be asked to conduct research projects in their workplaces. The objective of this capstone course is to provide students with the experience of designing such projects. The course will focus on research design and on data gathering techniques such as interviewing, document collection, observation, and surveys.   Students in groups of 3 or 4 will develop research projects related to a specific organization or workplace. Lab: 3 hours.Prerequisite: CMN3XX Introduction to Professional Practice.  Limited to Professional Communication degree students

CMN490 Research Methods in ProCom II
In this course, students in groups will conduct and complete their research projects proposed in RPC 1.  Attention will be devoted to data analysis techniques.  The course will build on students’ previous course work in terms of theoretical perspectives and identification of issues related to professional communication.  The course will conclude with students presenting the results of their research to the School and to their industry partners. Lab: 3 hours. Prerequisite: CMN4XX Research Methods in Professional Communication (Part 1).  Limited to Professional Communication degree students.

CMN402 Theorizing Communication
This course introduces students to the main schools of thought that comprise communication theory as they are rooted within the historical formation of the semiotic, phenomenological, cybernetic, sociopsychological, sociocultural, and critical traditions that give rise to these theories. The objectives of this foundational course are:  to understand the interdisciplinary complexity that constitutes communication studies, to appreciate how theories allow scholars to build a body of knowledge by conceptualizing a subject in an organized and synthesized way, to develop a mastery of the language common to the field, and to explore how the theories presented have implications and applications in our own lives as communicators.

Fourth Year ProCom Elective Courses (Not all courses will be offered every year)

CMN316 Questioning Numbers
The course examines how political and professional agendas shape the collection and reporting of statistical data and the techniques for assessing the validity of statistical research.  Students will learn to think critically about the use of numbers in both professional settings and daily life and to develop skills necessary to understand and craft messages that communicate the results of numerically based research to public and professional audiences.

CMN403 Visual Semiotics
Everyday, we are bombarded by an array of visual messages in the world around us.  We meet these images with an equally remarkable number of responses.  This course focuses on this very phenomenon.  It addresses how images are meaningful, manipulative, and connected with the communicative discourses that govern them. It explores visual semiotics and discourse through the work of many writers including Charles Sanders Peirce, Roland Barthes and many contemporary writers. Prerequisite: CMN 448

CMN411 Special Topics in ProCom
This special topics course examines subjects or issues that are of current concern to business or industries. The course looks in greater depth at themes surveyed more generally in previous communication courses.  Students will produce a research paper and will also present their findings and analysis in presentations.

CMN405 Oral Advocacy
Throughout their careers professionals are required to speak persuasively to a variety of audiences—customers, investors, employees, local communities, and government agencies—to gain approval and, typically, funding for a project or plan.  This course focuses on the use of effective argumentation, audience analysis, platform manner, and visual support for persuasive presentations.  In addition, students will learn strategies for the question/answer segment and effective team presentations in a persuasive context. Prerequisite: CMN314 Professional Presentations

CMN406 Communication in an Indigenous Context
Communication has played a central role in the lives of Indigenous peoples.  This course studies the nature and function of communication by, for, and about Indigenous peoples in both historical and contemporary settings.  Students will take an expansive view of both text and textual analysis as they explore cultural artifacts (rock art, birchbark scrolls, wampum belts), historical documents and narratives (oral histories), policies and legal documents (treaties, statutes), and popular media representations.  Indigenous theory will be the guiding framework for the course, but students will also be exposed to a range of other theoretical perspectives.

CMN408 Proposal and Grant Writing
This course provides an introduction to the multidimensional processes of grant-seeking and the strategic principles of writing proposals for venture support. From the perspective of both grant seekers and multidisciplinary peer-review audiences, students will learn how to identify and target funding sources/opportunities, translate project goals and problem statements into clear objectives and hypotheses, and coordinate activities in the planning, developing, structuring, and articulating of feasible and conceptually innovative proposals.