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Senior Thesis & Capstone

All Communication majors complete a senior thesis or capstone course in their senior year.

Thesis students complete substantial papers based on their original research.

Capstone students make films, write feature-length magazine articles, or create public relations materials for a real-world client. Students emerge from thesis or capstone with an example of their best work, suitable for including in applications for jobs and graduate school

Prerequisite Information

All students enrolled in any section of thesis/capstone must complete the following lower division required courses before taking thesis/capstone:

  • COMM 1 (Introduction to Interpersonal Communication)
  • COMM 2 (Media in a Global World) or 2GL (Introduction to Global Media Studies)
  • COMM 12 (Technology & Communication)
  • COMM 20 (Public Speaking)
  • COMM 30 (Introduction to Digital Filmmaking)
  • COMM 40 (Introduction to Journalism) or 40 EL (Introduction to Journalism- Experiential Learning)
  • There are additional prerequisites for each thesis/capstone section. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have completed them before the quarter in which you plan to take thesis/capstone. Enrolling in a prerequisite during the same quarter as thesis/capstone doesn’t count.
  • Acceptance into any thesis/capstone section is contingent upon the student successfully completing all prerequisites prior to the quarter in which the student is enrolled in thesis/capstone. A student who drops or fails a prerequisite will not be eligible to take thesis/capstone and will forfeit their slot in a thesis/capstone section.

Fall 2017

Professor Rohit Chopra


This senior thesis seminar will examine the relationship between food and communication from two different angles. We will look at food as communication, reflecting on what food tells us about society, culture, and identity. We will also look at communication about food, that is, representations of food in visual and textual media. The course will take a global approach, exploring food  and communication in different national and cultural contexts.


  • All lower division Communication requirements
  • COMM 111 or 111G
  • At least one upper division List A Comm class

Professor Katie Heintz


In this section, we will examine the research on children's understanding of reality and how this influences the ways they process information and learn.  We will complement this with an exploration of the capabilities of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology.  Based on careful reading of research and explorations of the capabilities of AR and VR technology, students will propose ways that these tools can be applied to educational purposes.


  • All lower division courses
  • COMM 110 and Comm 111
  • Comm 123A (offered in Spring 2017)

Winter 2018

Professor Justin P. Boren


In this course, students will explore advanced topics in social interaction, human relationships, interpersonal, and organizational communication. This class will focus heavily on discussion around interpersonal and organizational communication topics, which will extend conversations started in other advanced courses. Some possible topic areas include the following:

  • Organization Culture
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Gender, Sexuality, Ethnicity, and Nationality
  • Stress, Burnout, and Social Support
  • Work and Life Engagement/Interaction/Interface
  • Emotions
  • Bullying and Mobbing
  • Conflict and Conflict Management
  • Family Communication Patterns
  • Friendship and Roommate Communication
  • Health Communication and Doctor-Patient Communication
  • Teams, Groups, and Networks
  • Bargaining and Negotiation
  • Training and Development for Organizations
  • Stalking and Obsessive Relational Intrusion
  • The Dark Side of Interpersonal and Organizational Communication
  • Positive Organizational and Interpersonal Communication

As a class, we will engage in these topics and more through extensive discussion, reflection, and critique of academic research. The major assignment for the quarter will be an original research project to be completed in pairs. Students will start with their papers from COMM 110, refine the argument, collect and analyze data, and write up a discussion section. Findings will be presented in a creative poster session at the end of the quarter.

Prerequisites (all of the following are required before the start of class):

  • All COMM lower division requirement (1, 2, 12, 20, 30, 40/40EL)
  • COMM 110 (Quantitative Research Methods) [Note: please retain your final Building Block IV paper from COMM 110]
  • COMM 111 (Qualitative Research Methods) or COMM 11G (Feminist Research Methods)
  • At least one upper division course from the following list: COMM 100A, 101A, 102A, 104A, 106A, 107A, 108A, 109A, 119A, 151A, 153A, 172A, 176A, 177A

Professor Sreela Sarkar


In the last two decades, new media technologies have been celebrated for ushering in a ?global village.? This course focuses on how ?new media? such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, cell phones etc. produce and represent global cultures. Our readings and discussions will challenge ?culture? as a fixed, monolithic identity and understand new media technologies as embedded in constant processes of contestation and negotiation. Drawing from contemporary discussions, we will cover topics on new media and global cultures such as ?hybrid?/convergent cultures, immigration, social movements, changing conceptions of work and labor, and ?entrepreneurial culture.? Students will conduct original research that will culminate in a research paper and a poster presentation.


  • All lower division Communication requirements
  • COMM 111
  • At least one COMM A class

Spring 2018

Professor Sunwolf


When we get what we wanted, why doesn't that always make us happy? Our relationships are embedded in the pursuit of or loss of happiness. Topics include the transient nature of happiness, our brain?s biological happiness system, the effects of tragic or fortunate events, compassion, prosocial behavior, gratitude, flourishing, savoring and the pursuit of pleasure. We will look at how happiness is affected by winning or by losing, as well as why predicting our future happiness is flawed. Students will gain an understanding of what might (or might not) bring them and those they care about sustained happiness?for decisions they will make throughout their lives. 

This senior seminar will extend the interdisciplinary review of research and theories from COMM 100A. Students will select one interpersonal issue of interest to them in which to apply our new readings, synthesizing and extending what is known about happiness to explain the challenges and issues within that social issue. No partner is needed. Final projects involve individual work, but other assignments will involve working in small teams that will teach an outside class or group about research from the Science of Happiness and demonstrate how it explains specific issues in our relationships.


  • All COMM lower division requirements
  • COMM 100A (The Science of Happiness)
  • COMM 110 or 111/111G

Professor Michael Whalen​


Digital Filmmaking is a workshop designed to provide Seniors the context in which they produce their Capstone films and reflect on how the courses in history, theory, and criticism they have taken in the Communication Department have informed their work and filmmaking vision. Digital Filmmaking Capstone entails the production of a 10 to 15-minute film and the writing of an 8 to10-page reflection paper in which students discuss the relationship between theory and practice as it relates to their projects and who they are as filmmakers. Students will work in groups to pre-produce, shoot, and post-produce an original film, and to write an individual vision statement. The goal of Digital Filmmaking Capstone is to give students the chance to refine the technical and aesthetic skills they have learned in the film production sequence and to deepen their understanding of the relation between the practice of filmmaking and film/video theory and criticism.


  • All lower division Communication Requirements
  • ​Comm 110 or Comm 111/111G​
  • 130B (English Screenwriting is okay)
  • Two of the list B courses in film/TV production (131B, 132B, 133B, 134B, 135B, 144B) and at least one from the following list: COMM 187A, COMM 188A, COMM 139A, COMM 136A, COMM 137A, COMM 138A, COMM 171A
  • And at least one from the following list: COMM 187A, COMM 188A, COMM 139A, COMM 136A, COMM 137A, COMM 138A, COMM 171A

Professor Barbara Kelley


The goal of the journalism capstone project is to produce a 3500-word magazine piece of publishable quality on a significant community issue. Students are encouraged to view their final project as a portfolio piece when applying for graduate school, internships or media-related jobs that they can use as evidence of:

  • superior writing
  • sophisticated and comprehensive reporting
  • the ability to show initiative in working independently on an in-depth project of their own choosing.  


  • All COMM lower division requirements
  • COMM 141B
  • At least one additional journalism List B (Comm146 is recommended, but not required)
  • At least one A-list communication course related to journalism or the media (can be concurrent with Capstone)

Professor Chuck Byers


Public Relations Capstone focuses on the application of communication, business, and core academic concepts and theories to the practice of business communications, including the basic communication skills, planning/execution process, and functions that compose public relations within a corporate, business entity or agency.  Topics include integrated marketing communications, branding, marketing, mainstream media, and social/digital media.  Business ethics and social responsibility are heavily emphasized.

The Capstone Project is to develop a public relations plan for an actual organization in a real business situation or to implement an existing PR plan. Working as a PR agency, students will develop a complete PR plan book designed to achieve the client's corporate and marketing objectives, the PR tactics for outbound and inbound communication and a formal presentation of the plan to the client and his/her staff.  The focus is on research, creative problem solving, critical thinking, planning, project management, accountability and ethics.  (5 units)


  • All COMM lower division requirements
  • COMM 110 or 111/111G
  • COMM 150B (Public Relations Strategies and Practices)
  • COMM 152B (Public Relations Strategies and Practices)