Department History

Brief History of the Department of Communicology

The teaching of Speech at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (originally named “the College of Hawaii”) began during the 1910-1911 school year through the English Department. Two courses, Public Speaking and Argumentation and Debate, were taught by Prof. Arthur L. Andrews. The English Department additionally offered courses in English composition and theatre (Fujimoto, 1949).

In 1919, Olive Day, head of the English Department of the Territorial Normal School, began a push for Speech and Speech correction in the public school system. This evolved into the English Department at the University, and in 1925, a course labeled Practical Phonetics was added. In 1936, a division of Speech was established within the English Department. In 1937, a graduate studies program in Speech was added. The English Department continued to offer additional courses in Speech through 1946. One of the main goals of Speech courses was the “correction” of oral English use in Hawai‘i. In fact, the 1939-1940 catalogue states that “Permission to enter the junior year as a candidate for a Bachelor’s degree is dependent not only upon academic standing but also upon proficiency in oral and written English.” Courses such as Voice and Diction, Speech Correction, and Sounds of English were added to the curriculum. Also, in 1943, courses in media broadcasting were added (i.e., Radio Broadcasting, Radio Speech). Due, in part, to the greater weight placed on oral English proficiency for admission to the University in 1944, an argument was made to detach the Speech courses from the Department of English.

The Department of Speech, chaired by Dr. Bower Aly with seventeen staff members, was formally established in December, 1946. The 1947-1948 academic school year was the first full year that Speech professors and instructors, instead of English instructors, taught in the classroom. The University of Hawai‘i was for the first time represented at the annual Speech Association of America convention in Salt Lake City, UT, in 1947. By this time, the Department of Speech offered a total of thirty-six courses (100 – 300 levels) that covered the areas of Speech Production, Speech Pathology, Rhetoric, Speech Forensics, Radio Broadcasting, and Theatre/Drama, and employed 1 Professor of Speech, 8 Assistant Professors, 9 Instructors, 2 Visiting Professors, 2 Assistants, and 7 Graduate Assistants.

By 1967, Theatre courses had been moved to a Drama Department, the Speech Pathology and Audiology courses had moved to their own department in a new college, and linguistics was being offered in the department. During the 1966-1967 school year, the department discussed changing its name from the Department of Speech to the Speech-Communication Department (Rider, 1967). Rider argued that the field of Speech had changed over the years and moved beyond the study of public speaking, debate, oral interpretation, phonetics, and related subjects. The field now was also interested in human communication (i.e., interpersonal, face-to-face interactions) and alternative research methodologies that were being used in the social sciences. This led to the development of two undergraduate degree programs: a Communication program with a social science emphasis and a Speech program with a humanistic, practical arts emphasis (1977 Departmental Review). The M.A. program in Speech-Communication was consequently dissolved in 1975.

In 1975, the UH Board of Regents established the two programs as separate departments. Over the years, the Communication Department moved toward instruction and research on human communication and communication technology and media while the Speech Department focused primarily on communication skills (i.e., personal, public, and aesthetic speech) (1977 Departmental Review). The Communication Department applied for and received approval for their M.A. program by 1977 (1977 Departmental Review); the Department of Speech did not have an M.A. for another 11 years. The department still, however, offered “courses for the benefit of those students who wish[ed] to continue the study of speech after obtaining the baccalaureate degree” (p. 4, Program Review Report, 1984).

An M.A. in Speech program was approved by the Board of Regents in 1988, and the Speech Department began offering M.A. classes in Fall 1989 (1989-1990 Academic Program Review). The birth of the new M.A. program coincided with the Department’s evolution from a performance/skill program to a social scientific-based program of Communication or, more appropriately, Communicology.