Coronavirus Update: Washington College responds to coronavirus outbreak. More Info

Communication and Media Studies

The CMS Major

Crafted. Customized. Curated. 

The CMS major combines field-specific curriculum with student’s chosen focus to produce a customized major that prepares students to act as conscious citizens and exceptional professionals.

Upon graduation, CMS majors are trained both in their field and in critical career skills sets including:

  • critical thinking
  • persuasive and thorough writing
  • problem solving
  • project and time management
  • written and spoken interpersonal communication
  • public speaking 
  • ethical and conscious professionalism

The CMS field is roughly divided across two approaches: the humanities approach and the social scientific approach. The core classes in CMS use a combination of these two paths to impart onto students the breadth and depth of the field. 

Concentrations within the major also speak to the bifurcated nature of the field and the need for hybridity of approaches. While specific information on each concentration appears on their dedicated page, below is a breakdown of where they stand in relation to the broad-based CMS field:

  • Arts + Production (humanities based)
  • Business and Organizational Communication (social science based)
  • Identity & Culture (hybrid of humanities and social science)
  • Film Studies (humanities based)

Majors may not choose more than one concentration area.

General Major Requirements

The requirements for majors in Communication and Media Studies are as follows:

  • CMS classes (CMS 101 Introduction to Communication & Media Studies; CMS 250 Intermediate Communication & Media Theory; CMS 301 Research Methods in Communication & Media Studies)
  • Seven additional courses in the chosen concentration, at least four at the 300-400 level
  • Senior Capstone Experience

CMS majors may count twelve credits taken toward non-CMS major or minor requirements as hours earned toward their CMS major.

Ad created by CMS 101 students

 CMS FYS Horror Films and Society

 This course considers the social, cultural, historical, and political context   of the horror film and how horror films as cultural products reflect   collective social memories, traumas, and fears. Looking at both U.S. and   international horror films topics discussed include, but not not limited to:   war, terrorism, social and political movements, the commodification of   fear, and medical pandemics. In doing so we will consider horror film as   an industrial art form, examining their production, distribution, and   exhibition. Available for first year students only.

 CMS FYS Fake News: Media Literacy in the Digital Age

 Our contemporary digital media environment is rife with challenges. As   audiences and as citizens, we deal with privacy concerns, misleading   content, filter bubbles, fake news, false allegations of fake news, and terms and conditions that demand users agree to anything and everything to enter this media landscape. This course focuses on expanding media literacy in this environment — developing critical thinking, research, and writing skills to approach these issues. We will consider how to critically assess the quality of information we receive and the ways in which this relates to democratic practices. This class explores not just the explicit ways in which our notions of objectivity get challenged by media, but the more nuanced ways in which our media systems construct our sense of reality. Available for first year students only.

 CMS 101 Introduction to Communication & Media Studies  offered every semester 

 This course introduces core issues in communication and media studies,   ranging from theories and models of communication, the relationship between media and society, and history/technology/trends in newspapers, radio, television, film, electronic and digital technologies, & advertising. Key problems and paradigms are explored through materials drawn from academic scholarship, popular press, and multimedia.

CMS 150 Public Speaking offered every fall

Class presentations, job interviews, internships-pubic speaking is part of our everyday life. This course teaches students the main principles of public speaking; practice in composition, delivery, and criticism of informative, persuasive, and entertaining speeches. Particular attention is paid to speaking with media and public speaking in a digital world. Everyone needs to know how to do it and the sooner you learn the better!

CMS 194 Video Production I 2 credit practicum course 

An introduction to the fundamentals of equipment, lighting, sound, cinematography, and editing (Final Cut Pro and After Effects) for video production. Student will produce their own videographic work over the course of the semester. 

CMS 200 World Cinema I offered  fall of even years

Understanding contemporary moving image culture and media—from YouTube, to Snapchat, to IMAX—requires a working understanding visual analysis. The history of cinema provides the best way to comprehend and contextualize the moving image in popular culture. This course is a history of world cinema to from film dawn to post WWII cinema (roughly 1895-1960) which present the films of this era in a way that understands them as integral works within an historical visual landscape. This course emphasizes understanding filmmaking form (how to watch a movie), aesthetics, and filmmaking techniques, and analyzing content/narrative. Required lab is for film screenings.

CMS 201 Contemporary Popular Film & Television offered every other spring semester

This course teaches students to develop a critical understanding of the role of popular movies and television in their own lives and in U.S. culture. The course looks at issues of the relationship of media to social violence, gender identities, sexual identities, technology, minority cultures, and the role of the U.S. media globally. Required lab is for film and television screenings.

CMS 202 World Cinema II offered spring of odd years

A continuation of World Cinema I, this course looks at film history roughly from 1960-present, presenting various modes of international cinema production and its contemporary evolution as closely interconnected. Covering the US, the UK, Italy, Czech, Senegal, Algeria, Japan, India, and France, we place an emphasis on hybrids of all these ‘national’ styles, as well as challenging the politically charged notion of national cinema itself. Secondly, we will explore how changes in global contemporary filmmaking evolved the US film industry and helped to challenge Hollywood’s global dominance. Thirdly, we will trace how new industrial channels exposed regional and ‘minor’ film industries to global audiences. Required lab is for film screenings. Prerequisite of World Cinema I or permission of the instructor

CMS 250 Intermediate Communication & Media Theory offered every spring semester

Theory may seem like a scary word, but theory helps us to make sense of our world. Theories shape how we understand reality, relationships, and the media around us, and helps us to create media of our own. Theory tells us more about how we communicate, aids in holistic comprehension of our media landscape, and prepares us for lives consciously lived. This course exposes students to the major theories of communication and media studies, their application to the academic and professional inquiry in the field, and their importance in everyday life. The course also teaches students to write in and across the field, and prepares them for upper level critical, analytical, and theoretical based communication and media studies thinking and research. Students who take this class must have taken CMS 101 or have explicit permission from the professor to enroll. Not recommended for first year students. 

CMS 294-10 Persuasion: The User Experience
What makes a good app? How does Spotify communicate with you? What is a book cover trying to tell you? Why do you remember that one commercial? This course examines these questions and more by examining persuasion as a communicative strategy. Students will examine online, visual, oral, aural, and technological persuasive experiences. This class is appropriate for first year students

CMS 294-11 International Communication

This course examines the structures and impacts of international communication networks. We will consider the economic, cultural, political, technical, and environmental consequences of increasingly globalized media. We discuss early work in the field of international communications and continue through to contemporary discussions of global media networks. Throughout the semester, we  examine how different entities wield power and assert influence in this global media landscape and how digital technologies can be used to both challenge and reaffirm those existing hierarchies.

CMS 301 Research Methods in Communication & Media Studies  offered every fall semester

What do Buzzfeed quizzes and the U.S. Census have in common? They’re both surveys constructed through a specific methodological approach. Whether you are trying to help the Internet determine what Stranger Things character they are or counting the U.S. population, you need a method to build your project on. This course introduces students to the basic quantitative, qualitative, interpretive, rhetorical, and critical research methods used in communication and media studies. Students can expect a project-based class applicable to majors across the social sciences and humanities that uses popular culture, current events, and multimedia to become methodological experts. Students who take this class must have taken CMS 250 or have explicit permission from the professor to enroll.

CMS 394 Creative and Information Economies

This course introduces students to the political economic approach to communication and media studies and considers its application to specific media and entertainment industries. To understand media content, media technologies, and the economies built around them, we must look more deeply at the effects commercialization and corporate concentration have on these systems. In this course, we will consider issues like privacy, citizenship, globalization, labor, alternative media, digital media, and the ways in which we construct shared culture through media.

CMS 401 Film Theory offered fall of even years

This course engages with, uses, and challenges various theoretical ideas and approaches to film. We will address questions such as: What is cinema, and what are film studies? How do we relate to and interact with films? What are the relationships among film and the larger global society? We will discuss the historical and cultural context in which particular theories emerged and learn the language of idea-inflected film criticism. Recommended that students have taken at least one film class prior; sophomore or higher strongly recommended

CMS 494 CMS Senior Seminar

The CMS Senior Seminar fosters rigorous reflection on students’ CMS training while exposing them to new and cutting-edge developments in the field. Broadly constructed across the CMS major concentrations, the course trains students in higher-order intellectual production in anticipation of and preparation for embarking on their Senior Capstone Experience. Prereq: must be a CMS major with Senior standing

Senior Capstone Experience (SCE)

The Senior Capstone Experience is an intensive research project on a topic chosen by the student and guided by a faculty mentor. It hones research, analytic, and writing skills developed during four years of study. Students usually complete the Capstone in the spring of their senior year. However, planning for the SCE begins in the spring of their junior year with the submission of an SCE application during advising week. The Capstone receives a mark of Pass, Fail, or Honors.