Picture of Department Statistics


This is an abridged version of the department’s history that was researched and written by David Swanson (1997 in celebration of the Department’s 50th anniversary).  Sources consulted included department newsletters, faculty meeting minutes, and Timetables.  The Office of the Registrar provided the graduation data from 1980-present. 

Department of Communication History in celebration of its 75th Anniversary 2022-23 

Late 1800s 

1867- Illinois Industrial University is founded:  one of the original 37 public land grant institutions. 

1868- Illinois Industrial University is opened. 

1884- A Chair in Rhetoric and Oratory is established within the School of English and Modern Languages.  By 1886, a Department of Rhetoric and Oratory was providing instruction in two divisions:  a rhetoric division concerned with written composition, and an oratory division concerned with oral expression.  All seniors were required to prepare and deliver an original oration before the faculty and student body in the chapel, occurring throughout the academic year.   

1885- University renamed, University of Illinois. 

1890- The Department of Rhetoric and Oratory was detached from the College of Literature and Science and made an autonomous program outside of the University’s four colleges.  The department’s name was changed to Course in Rhetoric and Oratory. 

1893- The Course was reorganized as the Department of Oral Rhetoric within the new College of Literature.  At the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, bound volumes of Orations by the Class in Elective Oratory and Ten Junior Orations Delivered in the Chapel were exhibited. 

1898- The Department of Oral Rhetoric was reorganized as the Department of Rhetoric and Oratory once more.  Courses were offered in Written Composition, Argumentation, Oral Discussion, and Public Speaking.  By the end of the century, activities in discussion, debating, and interpretive reading were established. 


1903- Department of Rhetoric and Oratory became the Department of Public Speaking. Six new courses were added:  Public Speaking, The Art of Debate, Extempore Speaking, Dramatic Reading, Practical Debating, and Oratorical Composition and Delivery. 

1906-The Department of English Language and Literature was reorganized as the Department of English with a new, renamed Division of Public Speaking.  Students could participate in six oratorical and debating contests throughout the year.   

1908- New courses were added to the curriculum:  Argumentation, Extempore Speaking for Law Students, and Interpretive Reading. 

1913- The College of Literature and Arts and the College of Sciences merged to form the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Charles Henry Woolbert was hired as Associate in Public Speaking and English, signaling the beginning of a long period of growth and consolidation of the work in rhetoric and public speaking. Woolbert created a new course, Forms of Public Address. 

1914- Seventeen teachers of public speaking from around the country united to form a national association of public speaking teachers.  Three of the founders were Illinois faculty members-Charles Woolbert, Lew Sarrett, and J. Manley Phelps- the largest contingency from any university.  The new association originally named, National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking eventually became the Speech Association of America, then the Speech Communication Association, and most recently, the National Communication Association. 

1918- A course in Persuasion was added. 

1920- Dr Severina E. Nelson joins the faculty and eventually became the head of the Speech Clinic.  Charles Woolbert served as President of the National Association of Academic Teachers of Speech. 

1921- Courses were added: Dramatization and Play Producing. 

1922- A major in Public Speaking was authorized, as the first step toward Woolbert’s. long-held goal of creating a separate Department of Speech.  During the year, 25 sections of Oral Expression were taught, along with 19 sections of Extemporaneous Speaking, 10 sections of Interpretation, and additional sections of Dramatization and Play Producing. 

1923- Requirements for the major in Public Speaking were announced:  10 hours of Public Speaking, 10 hours of English and Rhetoric (written composition), and a minor of 20 hours selected from psychology, philosophy, foreign language, history, political science, economics and sociology. A new course was added, Correction of Speech Defects.  Two graduate courses are offered:  Seminar in Speech, and The Place of Speech in Human Behavior. 

1925- The University Senate approved the request of the Division of Public Speaking to offer the master’s degree in Public Speaking, beginning in 1926-27. 

1938- The Speech Clinic was established. 


“The decision to create a separate department was taken because of the unwieldiness of the Department of English with Speech in it. Both courses and staff had come to such proportions that the administration problems became burdensomely complicated.  In short, it was simpler to have a department than not to have one.”  Karl Wallace, 1956 

1947- The Division of Speech in the Department of English became the separate Department of Speech.  Karl R. Wallace became the first Head of the new department.  The new department was organized into five committees:  Interpretation and Radio; Rhetoric and Public Speaking; Speech Science, Phonetics, and Correction; Teacher Training and Speech Education; and Theatre.  The new department offered 19 advanced undergraduate courses, 16 graduate courses, and the degrees of B.A., M.A., M.S., and Ph.D.   

1948- The Speech Research Laboratory was established.  The Ph.D. program in Speech was initiated. 

1951- The first Ph.D. in speech was granted to George Washington Cartwright 

1953- The department introduced the University’s first film course, Appreciation and Criticism of the Cinema. Department faculty roster expanded to 30. 

1954- Professor Karl Wallace was President of the Speech Association of America. 

1958- Faculty consisted of 37 members. 

The 1960s 

“As you know, the ferment and turbulence in our country are considerable and they are reflected on a smaller scale on university campuses.  Here the activities have somewhat quieted down.  Most interesting, it seems to me, is the firm, persistent push by our students to secure representation on important committees and thus have some say in university government and education policy.”   Karl Wallace- 1968 

1960- The Department of Speech became the Department of Speech and Theatre. 

1961- Social Scientific teaching and research expanded to the point where the department was made a member of both the Division of Social Science and the Division of Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  

1963- Department published its first Alumni newsletter. 

1964- According to the 1964 newsletter, “Our space problems grow more pressing by the hour.  We are continuing to yell for new and better theatre space.  We hope soon to have much better and larger quarters for the Speech and Hearing Clinic and the Speech Research Laboratory”. – Karl Wallace  

New courses included: Speech 158, Stage Lighting and Sound Waves; Speech 177, Speech and Theatre I: The Arts of Public Discourse; Speech 178, Speech and Theatre II:  Interpretive Speech and the Arts of the Theatre; Speech 248, Speech  Correction Methods in the Public Schools; Speech 268, Design and Construction of Costumes for the Stage; Speech 351, Styles of Acting for Period Plays; Speech 399, Experimental Design in Speech Disorders and Audiology; Speech 466, The American Theatre Since 1900;  Speech  469, The Stage History of Classic English Plays.  

1963-64 Enrollment figures indicate 2, 190 students for the first semester, of whom 1, 968 were undergraduates and 222 were graduates.  The list for the second semester shows 2,065 undergraduates and 197 graduates for a total of 2,262. 

From the 1964 newsletter: “The academic year just ended and the one about to begin add up to a period of significant change.  The faculty will be depleted and augmented.  The retirement of Professors Lee Hultzen, Severina Nelson, and Wesley Swanson we shall feel keenly come September.  The coming of as many as nine new colleagues we look forward to with good expectations.  Two or three of them will be in Theatre, two or  three in Speech and Hearing Science (our new generic name for speech correction, pathology, and audiology),two in Rhetoric and Public Address, and one in Speech Education.  (Visit us soon or you won’t recognize us!)” —Karl Wallace 

1965- The department grows to 49 faculty.  New Courses Approved:  The faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has approved a new course to be offered on an experimental basis during the first semester of 1965-66.  Speech 199, Freshman Seminar, will be open only to James Scholars and other entering freshmen with honors student standing.  Under the direction of Professor Henry L. Mueller, the members of the seminar will survey the impact of current films and television programs on contemporary American Culture.  Speech 156, Makeup for the Theatre; Speech 481, Seminar in Neuropathologies of Speech and Language; Speech 482, Seminar in Stuttering. 

1966- Construction began on the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. “Target date for occupancy is September, 1968.  Our newest structure in prospect is a small building for the Speech and Hearing Science area.”—Karl Wallace    Department Census based on course enrollment:  Semester I:  2,139 Undergraduates, 274 Graduates, Total 2,413.  Semester II:  2,154 Undergraduates, 270 Graduates, Total 2,424. 

From the 1966 Newsletter: “The large number of alumni attending the Illinois Open House at the SAA convention in New York City last December was surprising and most gratifying. I have had the pleasure of seeing many other alumni at our other conventions, both national and regional.  Occasionally—but too infrequently—a former student wanders into my office.  One begins to realize that a number of things have happened in the nearly twenty years of the department’s history.”—Karl Wallace 

1967-    New position of Associate Head is created.  From the newsletter:  “The major event this year is the new Department of Theatre in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. The new unit will be a reality September 1.”—Karl Wallace   

Theatre history and theory courses remained in the reorganized Department of Speech. Verbal Communication previously offered through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was transferred to the Department of Speech.  The Department proposed to offer a PhD in Theatre Studies while the MA remained with the Department of Theatre. Several new courses were established: Persuasion and the Arts; Interpersonal Communication: Discussion and Interview; Theories of Persuasion and Rhetorical Practice; Communication Disorders in Children:  Habilitation and Rehabilitation. Professor John O’Neill was elected President for 1967 of the American Boards of Examiners in Speech Pathology and Audiology.  Department Census basked on course enrollment:  Semester I; 2,334 Undergraduates, 297 Graduates, Total 2,631. Semester II; 2,220 Undergraduates, 293 Graduates, Total 2,513.   

From the 1967 newsletter: “For those of you who remember being sandwiched into makeshift offices with two, three, or four sharing a desk it may be impressive to know that since last year the current crop of graduate teaching assistants has had almost plush quarters in the Armory.  In fact, with air conditioning, properly modern lighting, and all new metal furniture in the assistants’ suite, we hear an occasional bit of static from wistful faculty members.”  The Department of Speech and Theatre was one of seven LAS departments receiving funds for an orientation program for new teaching assistants.  The new TA’s were paid to come on campus the full week before fall term for the purpose of an intensive orientation to their duties as Speech 101 teachers.   “In Rhetoric and Public Address, we are pointing to a new undergraduate major and have altered the character of the colloquia and the preliminary examinations.  With the arrival from Cornell of Professor Ruth Anne Clark in psycholinguistics, we shall be appreciably strengthened in empirical studies.  The work in Oral Interpretation is growing constantly:  so is interest in Readers Theatre, under the direction of Professor Joanna Hawkins (later became Maclay).  In the area of Speech and Hearing Sciences, the speech behavior of the emotionally disturbed child is receiving special attention in the Children’s Research Center.”—Karl Wallace 

1968- Karl Wallace retired as the first Head of the department after 21 years.  He joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. John O’Neill was appointed Acting Head. There was reorganization to abandon the area structure and replace it with a general department governance structure consisting of: an Executive Committee, a Committee on Appointments, Promotions, Tenure, and Salaries; and other committees; Instructional areas of Oral Interpretation, Rhetoric and Public Address,  Speech and Hearing Science, Teaching of Speech, Theatre Arts, and Verbal Communication; and six “agencies”: Illini Forensic Association, Illini Readers, Speech Communication Laboratory, Speech Clinic, Hearing Clinic, Speech and Hearing Research Laboratory.  Department considers and rejects the proposal to change name to Department of Communicative Arts and Sciences.  Proposal is developed to reorganize the Speech Correction area as a separate department. The department has its first Ph.D. candidates in Oral Interpretation.  New Courses:  The Art of the Screen: Humor; Rhetorical Theory in English Renaissance; Style and Delivery; Criticism of the Oral Interpretation of Literature; Seminar in Oral Interpretation of the Individual Literary Styles.  

1969- Marie Nichols served as President of the Speech Association of America; John O’Neill served as the President of the American Speech and Hearing Association. It was determined that no other department of Speech had been honored, having two national presidents simultaneously. Roger Nebergall became second Head of the Department of Speech.  The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts was opened.  “Also, with the completion of the new Psychology Building, staff members who have been housed in the Armory will move into some of the space the Psychology Department will vacate in Gregory Hall.  We will now refer to them as ‘being across the way’ rather than ’down the street’.”—John O’Neill, Acting Head.  

The 1970s 

1970- Department numbers:  14 Professors, 12 Associate Professors, 18 Assistant Professors, 10 Instructors, and 68 Graduate Assistants.  New faculty included Jesse Delia- who became Director of Speech 101 (Public Speaking) course and volunteered to supervise new “closed circuit TV equipment”.  

1971- Except for the Speech and Hearing Science Division, department offices were consolidated in Lincoln Hall.  Faculty and Staff occupied the first and second floors.  Teaching assistants moved into Room 8, located in the basement of Lincoln Hall, that was vacated by its former Educational Psychology occupants. 

1972- The Theatre Department now housed in the Krannert Center began its fifth year on its own.  “Those of you who have made your way through Illinois snows between the various buildings which have provided homes for the department will be pleased to know all of the department except the Speech and Hearing Science division is now housed in Lincoln Hall.  The department office has moved upstairs to Room 244 and we look forward to your visiting us there. Also the last legislature funded the new Speech and Hearing Science building, so the inadequate and scattered quarters which have been our lot will soon be a thing of the past.”  Roger Nebergall, Head 

1973- The Speech and Hearing Science Division was reorganized as a Department of Speech and Hearing Science. Legislature appropriated funds for a building to house the new department. Department of Speech becomes Department of Speech Communication.   

1975-. “In spite of Ozark, Amtrak, and Interstates 57, 72, and 74, it is a source of regret that we do not get to see many of you in person, and this newsletter must serve as the best link between all of you and those of us in Urbana-Champaign.  We are all grateful to Stafford Thomas (armed with his new toy, an Olympus OM-1camera) for his efforts in bringing this newsletter to you.  The Department of Speech Communication is finishing its second year in its new ‘configuration,’ as a department separate from Speech & Hearing Science and as a member of the new School of Humanities.  It all seems to be working and the day-to-day business gets done.” Roger Nebergall, Head.   

Also from the 1975 newsletter: “The Department of Speech Communication has developed debate and forensics in a totally new direction after extensive discussion among the faculty concerning the nature of our forensic program.  Although we have not discontinued by any means tournament debate, we have restricted that activity to what will provide broadly based training for large numbers of students rather than to that which provides intensive activity for a few….. We have developed other types of speech activities on and off campus, such as speaker’s bureau and frequent audience debate activities. One of the contributions we believe a university may make to this wide audience is to furnish trained student speakers capable of providing provocative and critical analyses of current public questions.  To promote dialogue and public discussion, each year Illini debaters prepare half a dozen topics for presentation before community groups, service clubs, schools, and church members.  Interest in and appreciation of this rejuvenated speech activity has been high.” 

1976- Marie Hochmuth Nichols retired after 37 years of service on the faculty. “While we suffer the common problems of the seventies and struggle with everyone for scarce resources, we feel that as a department we are moving forward.  Our faculty is hardworking and productive, our graduate students are busily learning, and our undergraduate majors continue to grow in number. We think that things look good for us in the years to come.”—Roger Nebergall   

Also from the 1976 newsletter, “New faculty, John Patton teaches Renaissance and Modern Rhetorical Theory and Introduction to Speech Communication, a new non-performance course for undergraduates. 

1977- The LAS Excellence in Teaching Award honored Joseph Wenzel.   

1978- Jesse Delia became third Head of the department, replacing Roger Nebergall who returned to full-time teaching.  From the 1978 newsletter: “At the Speech Communication Association convention held in the Sheraton Hotel in Washington, D.C. this December, Kenneth Burke was a featured speaker on one of the programs.  Burke’s colorful spirit, as usual, spilled over beyond the three-hour panel and led him to the Illinois Open House in our suite. Conducted there by longtime associate and critic, Marie Nichols, Burke continued some unfinished lines of discourse begun but not completed in the panel.  His enthralled listeners, most of whom were present at the panel, were able to press him for insight and detail in the intimate encounter that they could not secure in the formal lecture.  Although not scheduled as a major alumni event of the season, Burke’s eighty years and irrepressible wit made him a welcome and vivacious attraction at the convention and our party.  For you old timers who’ve gotten rusty or were not in criticism, Burke is best known for his long series of books on philosophy and language.   Among those are Permanence and Change, A Grammar of Motives, A Rhetoric of Motives.” 

The 1980s 

1981-An internship program was established, creating opportunities for practical experience not only in the community, but also in the classroom under the supervision of senior teaching staff. Students could enroll for credit in a practicum course. 

1983- Ken Andersen was President of the Speech Communication Association.  The department boasts 300 Speech Communication majors.  Debate and Interpretation Programs continue to provide students with excellent forums to sharpen and develop their skills.  Continuing to maintain excellence in established areas of the discipline, the department expanded to keep pace with the developing changes in areas of study across the discipline, also addressing student needs and desires for a stronger, more comprehensive organizational thrust.  New courses included, Solving Communication Problems in Business, Communication and Conflict in Business and Social Relationships, and Communication and Public Information Management. 

From the 1983 newsletter, “In the area of public speaking, Ruth Anne Clark, Barbara O’Keefe and Susan Thomas have developed a new emphasis for our basic speech course.  The new format keeps the emphasis on informative and persuasive speaking, but further divides the content into specific sub-skills needed to organize and execute an effective presentation.  Each assignment is designed both to give students practice in the art of speaking and to develop some adjunct skill, such as the ability to use voice or gestures properly or the ability to use introductions effectively.  To help students gain the most from the course, each student is given a packet of materials at the beginning of the semester.  This packet includes detailed instructions on how to do each assignment and provides the critique sheets and grading criteria for each speech as well. This gives students a sense of security (they know exactly what to expect from the course) and helps ensure that students in all 50 or so sections of the course are receiving similar training. Additionally, the committee is developing a stronger training program for new teaching assistants.  The program will be longer than previous ones: it will begin this summer rather than just before classes start, and it will emphasize how to teach the course using the packet.  Additionally, teacher training meetings will be held regularly during the semester to give new TA’s support and direction.” 

1984- Department faculty voted to establish the Illinois Tradition Awards.  The awards were to be conferred annually to recognize distinguished achievements by undergraduate and graduate students and were named to honor former faculty members who played especially important roles in building the department’s tradition of excellence in teaching, research, and service.  

Department created an instructional video laboratory.   

1986- Responding to student interest, the department established the Mock Trial Team. 

1987- The Department hosted the first Midwest Organizational Communication “Mini Conference” (OCMC), which became an annual event that rotated among other colleges and universities and was to be planned by graduate students. The conference has returned to campus six times since 1987. 

1988- In response to growing student interest, department established a Speech Team to support intercollegiate competitive speech events.  The increase in numbers of undergraduate majors saw a real need for a full-time academic advisor.  Barbara I. Hall was hired to become the department’s first full-time undergraduate academic advisor.  

1989- Department established instructional computing laboratory. 

Degrees Awarded (1982-89): BA, 1,082; BAT, 17; MA, 77; PhD, 22 

The 1990s 

1991- Joanna (Hawkins) Maclay was the recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. 

1992- Barbara Hall was the recipient of the LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising. 

1993- Ruth Anne Clark was the recipient of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. 

1994- Jesse Delia was appointed Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; David Swanson became the fourth Head of the department. 

1995- Department discontinued sponsorship of the undergraduate intercollegiate debate team in response to fragmentation and declining importance of competitive debating nationally, and growing popularity of the department’s competitive Speech Team and Mock Trial. 

1997- Department celebrated 50th anniversary. After decades of a 5.0 grading system, the U of I changed to a traditional 4.0 scale, including pluses (+) and minuses (-).  Alumni graduating after 1982 (records were adjusted back that far only) and have requested a transcript recently, were likely shocked to see a change in GPA by a whole point.  Total number of undergraduate majors was 429. 

From the 1997 newsletter: “Visit our departmental website [http://www.spcomm.uiuc.edu]. You will find news and information of interest to alumni as well as present and prospective students.  We hope to establish soon within the website an area which links alums with each other and with current students.  Students like to know what Speech Communication graduates are doing and how they got there.  We hope our alums will be willing to share their experiences with those who are about to enter the work force and are giving consideration to life after college.   

The World Wide Web has become a quite important instructional and research tool in Speech Communication.  Many courses have dedicated websites offering syllabi, course calendars, readings, and other materials, and discussion groups where students and teachers can interact, exchange ideas, raise questions, and work collaboratively.  The web has become especially important in our new technology-focused courses, such as the freshman-level Introduction to Communication Technologies and Communication Technologies in the Workplace.  URLs and links to some of these course websites may be found at the general departmental website.”  David Swanson, Head 

1999- Daniel O’Keefe was the recipient of the LAS Humanities Award for Teaching Excellence.  NCA co-sponsored Doctoral Honors Seminar hosted in July on our campus.  With the decline in students in the Teaching of Speech program in addition to changes in language arts curriculum statewide, the department discontinued the teacher education major (BAT):  final 2 BAT students graduated in December 1999.   

Update from the 1999 newsletter: “There are 429 undergraduate majors and 61 graduate students in Speech Communication.  In 1997-98 we offered 332 courses and sections, enrolling nearly 8,000 students, taught by 22 faculty, 6 instructors, and 84 graduate teaching assistants.  Twenty-five per cent of our instruction was delivered to Speech Communication students, 37% to students in other departments within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and 36% to students in other colleges. 

Average class size in Speech Communication classes is 24.2.  Forty-five percent of Speech Communication faculty and 45% of assistants were named to the University’s “outstanding teacher list” based on students’ evaluations of their classes.  

Degrees Awarded throughout the 1990s:  BA, 1,864; BAT, 16; MA, 116; PhD, 56 

{no BAT’s awarded after 1999) 

O’ The Changes We’ve Seen:  Musings of the Past 20+ Years 

This final decades of the Department of Communication history are presented as a narrative assembled by Barbara I Hall, retired Undergraduate Advisor (1988-2018).  (There were no newsletters published from 2000-2005) 

As we prepared for the new century in anticipation of the year 2000, all attention was on Y2K and preparing our IT systems for the worst.  Little did we know as we prepared for that magic or fateful January 1, 2000 what was to come in the decade(s) ahead. 

In 1999, we had read about the unprecedented and horrific mass school shooting in Columbine, Colorado.  This event would be the beginning of too many such events that were simultaneously unimaginable and horrific:  kids shooting kids, or ANYONE targeting school children.  Schools were no longer the safe havens they had once been:  securing buildings and classrooms in ways never before necessary, in addition to new types of emergency drills beyond those in the event of a fire, tornado, etc., namely active shooter drills, were now part of the K-12 experience. All these events would impact students’ K-12 years, who we would meet in the years to come as rising college students. 

Then in 2001 we stood in shock on September 11, as several of us witnessed the events in NYC unfold from our media lab adjacent to the department office (244 Lincoln Hall), not sure exactly what we were seeing. It would be years to fully understand the long-term impact that horrible day had on us and our students. For freshmen who arrived in the Fall of 2001 their entire college experience would change. Many changes affected all of us as a result of that fateful day. Large events were cancelled, security was tightened as we entered various facilities, and we saw the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA which changed the challenges of travel for all of us.  

Changes in society and/or national/international events and their influence are not new to those of us who work on college campuses.  However, the gravity of these events seemed unthinkable and posed challenges we could never have anticipated or imagined.  For example, as the decade unfolded, we would see rapid changes in what we had known as Information Technologies (IT), including social media platforms.  

For instance, the University changed all its administrative data systems to Banner which would provide an interface to access all UI administrative data to process Human Resources, Finance, Admissions, Financial Aid, Payroll, Records, and Registration, and Recruiting Transactions.  We were now part of the UI system consisting of three campuses, Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.  Countless hours of planning and training for faculty and staff were part of this new system launch in the early 2000s.  Gone were the days of “advanced registration” where students would choose classes on a pencil/paper bubble sheet which was submitted in the weeks or months prior to the start of a new semester.  They would be notified by mail (snail) in the two weeks prior to the start of the semester what their class schedule actually was, based on various priorities for obtaining the scheduled classes.  Students would now be able to register in “real time” knowing immediately what classes would be part of their next semester.  We would also see the printed (paper) Timetables phased out, which are now only available online.   

We were challenged by the need for a “web presence” in the form of websites, along with the increased usage of the Internet and resources available to all via the World Wide Web.  It was clear that students, both current and future were paying attention to who we were and what we had to offer, and ultimately these sites became marketing tools, in addition to their purposes for information dissemination. Keeping this website up-to-date was a constant challenge which required webmaster skills to do so, and a frequent faculty meeting agenda item in the 2000s. Moreover, learning how to teach documenting/citing Internet sources, became an increased challenge for all of us.     

We also came to grips with the increased usage of cellphones.  More and more students were coming to college with one!  Faculty found themselves adding some sort of “rule or guidelines” in their syllabi about cellphone usage, or lack thereof, during class time.  Little did they anticipate that by 2010 students were likely to be equipped with laptops or tablets in class, in addition to a cellphone now replacing the rarely seen notebook.  All of these changes would impact how faculty and staff alike would do business and conduct classes to meet the needs of students.   

In 2006 the first group of Communication Leaders was selected from outstanding undergraduate Communication majors who became ambassadors for the department. Communication Leaders have worked closely with faculty on new initiatives designed to help the department offer a high-quality education to our students. They have assisted with the planning of academic and social events; helped publicize department events; offered feedback on department matters; and they served as hosts to visiting alumni who came to campus as guests of the department.  This initial class of students was supervised by Professors Ruth Anne Clark and Leanne Knobloch. In later years Professor John Lammers would serve as the group’s, sponsor. Communication Leaders has been a thriving group of students for nearly 20 years.   

Also in 2006, the Department established an Alumni Advisory Council that was formed to strengthen ties between the department and its accomplished alumni all over the United States. The overall mission of the Council is to support the research, instructional, and public engagement activities of the Department. Among its activities, the Council has:  provided advice and counsel at the request of the Department in matters relating to the preparation of students to enter the communication field and profession; served as a liaison for the Department's current students to the professional world; helped generate the human and material resources necessary to attain the goals and objectives of the department.  

The Department’s name was also a frequent faculty meeting agenda item which began in the early 2000s as the department grew in its scope of areas of research and study.  “Speech” Communication no longer captured all the areas of study within the department and often attracted or was a deterrent for students who didn’t really know what we studied.  The Department of Communication was the proposed name change which would take us into 2009 before it was approved at all levels. 

We also would see rapid changes in our discipline in the past 20 years, as new areas seemed ripe for study and research:  changes in media and where that has led our scholars, who at one time were captivated by radio and television.  Health Communication became another thriving area of research and study that seemed to take flight in the early 2000s. Communication and Health research has included, (but not limited to) campaigns to improve health behaviors, individuals and families coping with health issues, communication within and about health organizations and institutions, and uncertainty management 

Our faculty have conducted research in so many areas which have been timely and in keeping with changes in our world and society: technologies and their use in workplaces and how those teams work together across boundaries; organizational communication; organizational communication in health organizations; portrayals of race and ethnicity in our various forms of media;  photography and visual politics; political communication and rhetoric; communication and health equity;  interpersonal communication; family communication; public address; family communication between those reuniting after miliary deployment; and the list of timely and current issues being researched and studied continues.   

In 2010 the department launched an online MS program in Health Communication, one of the first online degree programs on campus at the time.  Since then, 155 students have graduated from this program.  In the years since, online programs have sprung up across campus, and helped prepare some departments for what was to come when 2020 arrived amidst a worldwide pandemic: again, another turn of events we never could have imagined.  Our new “friend,” the platform ZOOM, would be commonplace for conducting the department’s work, from the classroom to meetings, where colleagues would no longer meet in person and only see each other through the magic of our WIFI connections.   

The preparation and planning for the renovation of Lincoln Hall occupied much of our time and efforts from 2000-2013, and a frequent faculty meeting agenda item. In fact, each Department Head in the 2000s had some input and generally sat on some committee involving this massive undertaking. It took most of a year (2008-09) to pack up offices and store boxes as we prepared to be displaced for three years during the renovation.  Not only were offices vacated in 2009, no classes were held in the building for four years.  Faculty and staff were housed at 1207 W Oregon, Urbana and graduate students were close by at 1203 W Oregon. Renovations were completed on time and the move back began in Spring 2012.  The Department of Communication was now located on two thirds of the third floor (shared with the Department of Sociology) and all of the fourth floor which would accommodate most of the faculty and all of the graduate students (far above their previous basement home for many years, Room 8). Funny to think that the new, renovated building was outfitted with ethernet connections for students to use in classrooms and hallways, which would be obsolete by the time the building was ready for use.  And this would be the first time that the department would be in one location in 65 years!  

The Department of Communication became a Certified Green Office in 2016. This meant that our faculty and staff were participating in a university-wide program, committing to reduce our use of resources and improve overall sustainability in our day-to-day practices. Examples of these practices were setting the default on printers to print two-sided, using videoconferencing to avoid travel costs, recycling of materials in offices and break rooms, and purchasing Energy Star-certified appliances and electronics. An impressive 88% of our department’s faculty and staff completed individual self-assessments of current practices and pledged to engage in more “green” behaviors, indicating a high level of interest and commitment. The Green Office program is part of the 2015 Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) that spells out UIUC’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 or sooner. 

We continue to be a department that attracts and recruits some of the best scholars the discipline has to offer, in addition to those who want this to be their graduate school home.  Undergraduates may not find us initially as they start their college careers, but many do once they have been on campus for a few semesters and learn who we are and what we have to offer.   

The Illini Success Survey compares the experience and outcomes of our most recent graduating classes.  Ninety percent of our 2020-21 Communication undergraduates reported having secured First Destination after graduation within 6 months. This can include employment, continuing education, volunteer/services or seeking.  This is impressive given the final years of their college experience ended in pandemic mode and much of it virtually.  We are proud of our students’ successes each and every year, but particularly amidst this kind of adversity, with resilience.  

The 2000s in the Department of Communication have experienced much change: a new name, relocation and renovation, innovation in research, growth in numbers of faculty and students, changes in our use of and adaptation to information technologies, five Department Heads and sadly, the loss of five faculty (David Swanson, 2004; Dale Brashers, 2010; Ken Andersen, 2020; Tom Costello, 2020; Joseph Wenzel, 2021).  

We are a strong department that thrives on excellence.  It is our students who challenge us every day, keeping us apprised of what is current and important. Student welfare and success is at the core of what we do and continue to strive for with each passing year and decade.  It is our alumni base (11,000+ strong) that continues to make us proud and carry our legacy ahead into future generations. 

Outstanding Teaching Awards in the 2000s: 21 Campus Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and/or Advising (Faculty, Instructional Staff, and Graduate Assistants), 23 LAS Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and/or Advising (Faculty, Instructional Staff, and Graduate Assistants).  4 University Scholars.   

Degrees Awarded 2000-2010:  BA, 2,356; MA, 133; PhD, 61 

          2011-2022:  BA, 3,663; MA, 108; MS, 155; PhD,74