Communication Studies engages in both social-scientific and humanistic approaches to the analysis, understanding and improvement of human communication. The discipline traces its roots to ancient Greek and Roman studies of the functions of public discourse in society, but in the twentieth century communication came to embrace the studies of interpersonal and small group interaction, human relations in organizations, media and society, and intercultural interaction. Although interdisciplinary in spirit, the discipline has a core of knowledge, theory, and concepts concentrating on such things as symbols, messages, interactions, networks, audiences, and persuasive campaigns. Uniting the field is the belief that the role of communication in human experience is basic to comprehending complex situations and problems in the modern world. The discipline has roles in both the broad traditions of liberal arts education and in the development and refinement of practical skills.
The Department of Communication Studies at the University of Montana-Missoula focuses on three broad areas of study: interpersonal interaction and human relationships, organizational communication, and rhetoric and public discourse. The knowledge and skills the student may acquire in each of these areas are important to functioning effectively in one's personal life, at work, and as a citizen of the larger society in a rapidly changing world.