Why Everyone Should Take at Least One Communication Class

I'm sure many different students from majors and minors across the board suggest it, but as a Communication major, I seriously recommend dabbling in at least one Communication (or "Comm") class during your time at UMass Amherst. Communication as an academic subject gets a lot of flak, seen perhaps as the "easy" or "social media" major. And while this is true, we do learn about how to navigate social media and the ins-and-outs of how it all works, Communication majors also learn the intricate and vital skills of how to effectively communicate - how to boil down, refine and package ideas into a certain format, to a particular audience, within a narrow frame, etc. The foundations for this skill, I would argue, is peering behind the scenes of the corporate world, the world of advertising and marketing and various types of messaging, to see how it is all really done.

As a Communication major myself, I must admit I was quite ignorant with regards to how to bestow a message on an audience. The first class that truly opened my eyes, and educated me in a subject in which I previously knew nothing, was Professor Sut Jhally's "Media, Public Relations and Propaganda." As part of the Comm. major requirements (upper 200+ level), I was initially eager to take the class because I knew that I wanted to go into Public Relations as a future career. What I did not know at that point, however, was how world-changing Professor Jhally's teachings would be.

From the music industry, to the roots of Public Relations, to current politics, to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Professor Jhally uncovers the secret language and messaging that for years, I (and, I assume most of the students in the class) had not realized was affecting us. Professor Jhally told us--and taught us--that "good P.R. was invisible P.R." 

Professor Jhally also taught our class that something we could not totally control was not something to necessarily be anxious or angry about, but rather to view it as a way in which we could take agency and autonomy back in our own lives: now that we knew and partially understood what was going on, we could, in a sense, partake in it.

Overall, as a Communications class, “Media, Public Relations and Propaganda” was the foundation and bedrock for what I would consider to be everything I now know about the field. While the introductory classes were like dipping my toe into the water, this was certainly more of a deep dive; a leap which I would strive to have everyone take. 

Thankfully, you do not need to be in the Communications major to take this course, so before your time at UMass is up, please consider enrolling for this class (it is an online course for this spring semester, but that might change next fall). If you are a potential Public Relations career gal, or simply curious as to how your life is influenced - and what you can do to have some agency in that regard--take this course. You will most definitely not regret it. 

Sources: 1, 2, 3