Prof gets tuned in to communication initiative

Rebecca Curnalia

Rebecca Curnalia

It’s not often that you get the chance to help define a whole discipline, but that’s what Rebecca Curnalia will be doing as part of a new initiative by the National Communication Association.

Curnalia, YSU associate professor of Communication, is one of 24 faculty leaders from across the nation who have been invited to participate in NCA’s Student Learning Outcomes in Communication – the Tuning Project. The initiative is a faculty-driven, student learning outcome analysis for the communication discipline, funded by a grant from the Lumina Foundation.

“What is the communications discipline? What should students in the communication discipline know? What should they be able to do? And, ultimately, what careers should majors in communication lead to?” said Curnalia. “Those are some of the questions before us.

“It’s a very diverse field, because we’re interdisciplinary, and we draw on work from sociology and psychology, media, journalism and we use different research methods, too. We have critical methods, qualitative and quantitative, and so it’s an opportunity for us to see how we can bring that all together into one cohesive well-defined discipline.”

Curnalia, who joined YSU’s faculty in 2006, said NCA was looking for representation from diverse types of universities. “Because Youngstown State is unique in that we are in an economically and racially diverse region, we serve a very diverse student population, and we’re a regional university, I thought it’d be good for us to be represented,” she said.


She added, “I see it as us having a seat at the table as the discipline discusses learning objectives and what we want our graduates to learn, so it’s an opportunity for us to have a voice in those important decisions that they’re making at the level of the discipline.”

Adam Earnheardt, Communication chair, said Curnalia will be working alongside some of the field’s leading scholars, examining core courses and identifying pathways to careers in communication.

“Dr. Curnalia’s selection to the Tuning Project propels Youngstown State and our program into the national communication spotlight,” he said. “This is an exciting time for the communication discipline. Communication is ranked as one of the top degree programs leading to employment, probably because our degree leaves the door open to so many options for graduates.”

Curnalia said YSU’s Communication department is constantly looking at changes in the workplace to change and add programs.

“One of my goals is to see us update the view of communication, especially in the new media environment,” said Curnalia, whose research interests include persuasion theory in political campaigns. “There are so many opportunities for advancement for our discipline, and for our students in terms of career pathways. One of the things I would really like to see come out of this is for our discipline to take advantage of that opportunity for us as scholars and also for our students as prospective employees.”


Story by Harry Evans