Santa Clara University

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Department History

Since its founding, Santa Clara has responded to student interest in communication. In 1869, just 18 years after the University opened its doors, students began publishing a quarterly magazine, The Owl, using our own printing equipment. The editor wrote at the time, "Some of us have been suddenly seized by a mania ... for typesetting!" (Today, The Owl, recently renamed The Santa Clara Review, is the oldest college literary magazine in the West.)

redwood55_mIn 1903, the University started The Redwood as a monthly magazine, began the annual Ryland Debate to honor Santa Clara's best speakers, and instituted classes in the brand new medium of radio. Four years later, students had the chance to take journalism classes and Santa Clara became the first Catholic college in the country to offer such classes. In 1922, the first issue of the weekly school newspaper, The Santa Clara, appeared. That same year, The Redwood became the yearbook.

The immediate origins of today's communication department began in 1975 when Father John Privett, S.J., offered a single TV production course in the Theatre and Dance Department. By 1978, that department had enough students and courses to offer a BA in Theatre Arts, with an emphasis in television. Students also took courses in speech, print and magazine journalism, and other communication courses in a variety of departments. By 1985 it was clear to everyone that the University needed a separate Communication Department.

Student interest was only one reason the Board of Trustees approved the creation of this new department in May, 1985. Communication, as a field of academic study, flourished in universities nationwide. The University also recognized that communication study is an essential part of Jesuit education.

As a recent International Conference of Jesuits in Communication stated: "Modern media have formed a new kind of human being, a new society: both have a new mentality. This mentality affects human beings in their totality--including their consciences, freedom, and faith. We cannot afford to ignore this fact. It is so pervasive and profound in its cause and effects that it must be seriously studied if we are to understand life today...."

The department began to accept majors in September, 1985, and grew rapidly from 11 majors in 1985 to over 400 today. Our first students graduated in 1987 with a BA in Communication, emphasizing television production or print journalism.

The original emphasis areas have given way to a curriculum that allows more student choice of courses. The number of faculty and staff has also continued to increase--from three full-time faculty and two staff in 1985, to more than 20 faculty and four staff today.