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Dean's Welcome

For more than 40 years, the School of Communication has delivered a strong professional education for undergraduate and graduate students, with a focus on public affairs and public service using the resources of Washington, DC.


Our recent alumni are finding jobs with USA Today, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Discovery Channel, HBO, NBC News, Ogilvy Mather, Kaiser Family Foundation and PBS--organizations in which they are shaping the future of journalism, public communication, and film and media arts.

SOC Mission Statement

            The School of Communication educates students to master a rapidly changing media and communication environment; one that reflects an increasingly complex global, interactive and diverse society. Through teaching, writing, scholarship, and partnerships, the School of Communication and its faculty empower our graduates with the knowledge, skills, and insights to become responsible, ethical professionals in all areas of the communication field and to make a difference in our economy, politics, culture and society. With our strategic blend of professional expertise and intellectual exploration, and our deep connection with the world’s communication center of Washington, D.C., we create a community of knowledge, practice and impact that keeps our students, alumni, and faculty at the leading edge of a society increasingly defined by media and communication

Intellectual capital--our greatest asset

Our professors practice what they teach. As filmmakers, they have won Oscars and Emmys; as journalists they have worked for USA Today, and CBS News; and, as strategists, they have shaped policy on Capitol Hill and mobilized constituencies for social change.

Our faculty members know how to use all the resources of Washington, DC -- the communication capital of the world and one of the largest media production centers in the country. Their classes draw on the region's rich professional expertise and feature, as guest lecturers, working professionals in the broadcast, cable, and online media, as well as government agencies, high tech firms and non-profit organizations.

The right size and place for hands-on learning

With more than 900 undergraduate students and 300 graduate students, SOC is large enough to provide a wealth of experience from the professions we represent, yet intimate enough to allow students, faculty, and alumni to meet one-on-one -- in the classroom, in the work place, and in unique mentoring relationships.

Our classes are small -- an average of 20 students -- and promote hands-on, experiential learning. Our students work in state-of-the-art labs, then leave the campus for demanding internships and class assignments in the nation's capital.

Unique professional mentoring

Alumni are active members of our community, serving frequently as guest speakers, teachers and advisors on our curriculum. Our senior alumni have become leaders in their fields: Susan Zirinsky, Executive Producer of CBS News 48 Hours Investigates; David Drobis, Chairman Emeritus of Ketchum Worldwide; Barry Levinson, director of Rain Man and Wag the Dog; and Nancy Myers, director of Something's Gotta Give and What Women Want. Alumni and students are paired for a whole semester, in our unique mentoring program. In 2008, 84 seniors and graduate students received individualized career guidance from alumni mentors who included executives at Showtime, The New York Times, the MWW Group and The American Red Cross.

Now more than ever the professions of communication have a calling—to provide the evidence and testimony that frame public debate, to speak up and speak back to the powers that be, whether defending human rights abroad and civil liberties at home, exposing the gap between economic haves and have-nots, explaining the science of global warming, or denying a call to war.  --Dean Larry Kirkman 2008 Commencement Address

SOC students, faculty and alumni are committed to serious social issues and public service.  The School of Communication's Center for Social Media, Center for Environmental Filmmaking and J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism are the leading academic organizations in heir fields. And our international focus prepares students to work and think globally, illustrated by SOC's Foreign Correspondence Network and new MA in International Media.


The School of Communication has a wide-range of corporate, government and nonprofit partners that contribute to the academic life of the school, including USA Today/Gannett, The Washington Post, the Newseum, Center for Public Integrity, American Film Institute, Sony Corporation, Maryland Public Television, National Park Service, The Smithsonian and the embassies of France, Spain and Czech Republic.

The School of Communication is a place where students can learn the skills and values, history and future of communication. You will come to appreciate what it means to be supported in a community of learners, where there is genuine reciprocity, where people listen to and learn from each other, and where they share ideas and ideals.

Office of the Dean: Staff
Larry Kirkman Dean
Kristi Plahn-Gjersvold Chief of Staff
Laura Murray Assistant Dean, Budget & Technology
Rose Ann Robertson Associate Dean, Student & Academic Affairs
Alexandra Salama
Associate Director, Development & Alumni Relations
Rodger Streitmatter Senior Associate Dean & Professor
Tia Sumler Manager, Marketing and Web Communications
McKinley Tolliver            Faculty Coordinator
Miguel Vieira Assistant to the Dean
Jane Wilson Director of Media & Marketing
Commencement 2008

School of Communication undergrads, graduate students and their families assembled Sunday, May 11, in Bender Arena for American University's 122st Commencement Ceremony.


The event featured remarks from School of Communication Dean, Larry Kirkman, Ken Paulson, editor and Vice President/News of USA Today and, and School of Communication graduate, Katharine Jarmul.


Past Commencement Addresses