When I told people that I wanted to study communication in college, usually they tried to talk me out of it. Or encourage me to double-major with something “practical.” I can appreciate their concern. Communication is pretty broad and rarely a prerequisite for graduate or professional school. And I do want to get an advanced degree and have a job, so I get it.
But after four years, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to study communication anyways.
I was originally interested in doing so because I participated in speech and debate in middle school and high school. That experience made me recognize the importance of communicating effectively, and I was eager to learn more about the strategies that would make me a better speaker and writer.
And I’ve learned that and more from our Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication program at Transylvania. As you can tell from the major’s name, I study more than “just” communication. When I started college, I really had no idea what rhetoric was. I thought the same thing you’re probably thinking, that rhetoric is what politicians do when they “just talk,” but don’t actually say anything. In my first rhetoric class, I learned a much better definition. Aristotle defines rhetoric as “an ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion” — basically, it’s the strategies you use to effectively make your case. I think of rhetoric as the “behind the scenes” work of communication.
When you analyze any “rhetorical artifact” (a speech, movie, advertisement, website, song, anything), you learn why they are effective or why they’re not. Sometimes you get to prove why something you like is awesome. Other times, you think you’re going to do that, and you end up realizing that it’s not so great after all. These kinds of projects make you more observant and more aware of everything we “consume,” like advertisements and social media content.
Plus, I get to write a lot, which I love (surprise, surprise).
But here’s the best part — studying communication and rhetoric, and becoming a much stronger writer, has prepared me for everything the post-Transy world could throw at me. I’ve had so many experiences that I can attribute to my WRC expertise — from working in our campus Writing Center, to landing two awesome internships, to having my senior seminar project accepted to a national conference.
This may all sound terribly boring to you. And I guess that’s okay. But I hope that whatever you’re fascinated by, whatever you’re passionate about, you let yourself study no matter what anyone else tells you — because you never know where it will lead you.