Research Legacy

Over the last 50 years, our school has been at the forefront of inquiry into the nature of communication and how changing media technologies and practices affect our lives as citizens in a democracy, as human beings with health needs and as consumers in a competitive marketplace.

            During the 1960s and 1970s, our researchers originated the concept of the agenda-setting function of the press, which would become one of the most influential models in the history of the field. Our forward-looking faculty taught generations of students to incorporate social science methods and computation into news reporting in the 1980s, anticipating the shift to data-driven journalism by 30 years. Our school was also at the forefront of scholarship on media history and the legal institutions required for robust democracy, as well as in the study of the effects of media exposure on our attitudes, emotions and behaviors. Also in the 1980s, our researchers helped mold the field of health communication, spurring a national movement to study the power of the media to help people live longer and healthier lives.

            Today, faculty and graduate student researchers are carrying this legacy into a future marked by rapid technological change. Together, we are helping to reinvent the theoretical and methodological tools that communication scholars use for understanding the world. We analyze digital flows of social influence, the impact of Internet architecture in health communication and ways that social media shape our understanding of self and society. We work to understand the conditions under which media businesses succeed. Our guidance has helped to enable businesses to thrive, whether serving communities of 400 people or countries of a billion people. We work on global issues, such as human trafficking, climate change and disease prevention, by helping journalists and scientists communicate effectively with audiences. We examine national issues such as Internet privacy by mapping the state of media and American democracy. We are at the forefront of psychological and behavioral research involving digital media, and we translate our findings into applications that serve the industry and society as a whole.

Dean Norval Neil Luxon started the school's doctoral program in the 1960s.