Communication Studies Department
Welcome to Communication Studies
Communication is a vital part of today's world, whether a skill used professionally, socially or in your personal life. We welcome you to explore one of the many areas of Communication Studies by taking a class at Gavilan College. The Communication Studies faculty at Gavilan is dedicated to providing students with the knowledge and skill about human communication that can be applied to various contexts in your life. Whether it be improving on your public speaking skills, working with a culturally diverse group at work or developing skills to better communicate your wants and needs to family and friends, our curriculum is academically structured to meet your needs based on the specific course that you choose. This one of the fastest growing degrees offered at Gavilan College, demonstrating the importance of communication skills in our world today.
Welcome to the Department of Communication Studies!
We invite you to become a part of one of the fastest growing majors on campus!
In 2018/2019, the current number of students declaring Communication Studies as
a major or minor according to statistics obtained through DegreeWorks:
- Declared Major of ADT in Communication Studies – 112
- Declared Major of AA in Communication Studies – 14
- Declared Minor of Certificate of Achievement in Communication Studies - 36
The number of graduates that obtained degrees and certificates in 2017/2018 year were:
- ADT in Communication Studies – 33
- AA in Communication Studies – 6
- Certificate of Achievement in Communication Studies – 38
Don’t hesitate, Communicate your interest in pursuing a degree or certificate in Communication Studies. Ask your counselor or contact Denise Besson at email@example.com for more information!
2019 Annual Alumni Speakers Panel
Communication Studies Instructors Kelly Glass (far left) and Denise Besson (far right) flank
the alumni panelists: (l-r) Carrie Mansmith Gutierrez, Marcos Vizcaino, Heather Fogelstrom,
Amy Hollis, Priscilla DeAnda and Ron Colman.
The classroom venue was packed, standing room only, as six alumni returned to campus with their unique stories of success. For eight years, communications studies graduates from Gavilan College have returned to share with current students the value of their degrees.
Each alumnus delivered a brief presentation, followed by audience Q&A. At the conclusion of the program, students spoke individually with the panelists.
“Once again I am in awe of our Communication Studies alumni,” said Denise Besson, Department Chair for the Communications Studies program, “who returned to speak and mentor our future majors and minors in the discipline.”
Gavilan alum Heather Fogelstrom talked to a packed room of students about her career path
and the value of communications studies in the work world.
Carrie Mansmith Gutierrez
AA Communication Studies 2015; BA Communication Studies FSU; CEO Mansmith Enterprises, Inc.
Encouraged to take communications classes by her grandmother, Gutierrez took one class, expecting to remain on the sidelines.
“Instead, I found a culture and a real community in the classes. I took everything, convinced this is for me. You couldn’t shut me up!”
Loving her time at Gavilan, Gutierrez extolled the value of the program, instructors and her degree. She played on the women’s basketball as well. After her transfer to Fresno State, she took with her all the study skills she learned in the program, applied it to all her classes.
“I was so spoiled here at Gav, compared to FSU,” she said. “These teachers know how to teach.” While at Fresno, she was offered employment working with after school students and said she uses her conflict management skills every day.
“You learn how to manage different, difficult situations,” she said. “My colleagues would send difficult management cases to me, and I knew how to hand them.”
She expressed confidence in her skills because of the communications classes she took, even though, at the time, people questioned how she could possibly have a career or make money.
“The time you put in now, in your education, can never be taken from you,” she said. “Employers like to see your certificate or degree in communications. They know you can talk to employees, customers, vendors.”
AA Interpersonal Communication 2008; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Parks Interpreter San Juan Bautista State Park
Denise Besson turned on the news one evening, was busy with other tasks, then stopped. “I know that voice.” Sure enough, in a local news spot about San Juan Bautista State Park, her former communications student was on television.
While taking classes at Gavilan, Vizcaino was required to participate in service learning. How to associate service learning with a history class? He visited San Juan Bautista State Park, met with the commissioner, and in the course of a month fulfilled his hours and learned about the park.
“I was able to utilize my love of history and communication,” he said. “The interpreter at the time offered me a position as a park aide. Ten years later I am still there, now as a full time, permanent employee. Fate has a way of working things out.”
He describes each day as an opportunity to use his small group communications skills. Each year he speaks to 15,000 school kids.
“My audience is nine year olds with candy on their minds,” he said, “and a little spending money in their pockets. Eye contact is incredibly important. Look those kids in the eye and you will never lose them.”
Vizcaino said his communications classes also taught him the ability to read people, using that knowledge to understand their needs and wants.
“I make the presentations relatable to the audiences I speak to,” he said. “The interpretation helps people understand the historic significance of the buildings.”
By the end of the tour, every visitor knows the park’s importance.
General Ed 2005; BA Communication Studies, Santa Clara University; Change Manager, CBRE
Fogelstrom talked with the students about current and former instructors and their tools to help improve communications. One had a clicker tucked away for use during assigned speeches.
“They taught us to learn to pause instead of using filler language,” she said. Every filler word or phrase was met with a click, and with some speeches it sounded as though the room was filled with crickets. “We also learned that speeches are much more about the message than they are about you.”
She has worked at SAP, Cisco and joined Toastmasters groups. “If you don’t use it, you can lose it,” she said. “I still work, every day, to improve my public speaking skills. I am happy to utilize the degree in my professional career.”
She agreed with Gutierrez that communications applies to many different careers in the private, public and nonprofit worlds.
AA Communication Studies 2018; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Manager J Winston Winery
She will walk in graduation exercises this month. This, from a person who always said school wasn’t for her.
“Then I took courses with Denise Besson and Kelly Glass,” said Hollis. “I learned it wasn’t school, but what I was studying. If you have a passion for communication studies, stick with it.”
She also told the students to find their preferred area in communication studies, then stick with it and master it.
“Find your niche,” she said. “It can still be used in everything else.”
Certificate of Achievement Communication Studies 2014; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Instructional Program Specialist, Accessible Education Center, Gavilan College
DeAnda enrolled at Gavilan straight out of high school, only to drop out. Twice. Then, as a communications student, she saw Kelly Glass on an alumni panel.
“My first love was interpersonal communications,” she said. Fast forward to 2019, she is working toward earning an MS in intercultural communications at SJSU.
“I have been able to apply my skills to my personal and my professional life,” said DeAnda. “While at Gavilan I was part of the college staff.” She worked in the Welcome Center, where she learned about all the student services at Gavilan.
“Future career opportunities could be in counseling, business, public relations or marketing,” she said.
AA Criminal Justice & Business Administration 2011; certificate of achievement Communication Studies; Vice President Capital One Commercial Card Sales
Colman arrived at Gavilan College to play basketball, had a great coach and great experiences. “All I wanted to do was play basketball and make money. I knew I wanted to be in the business world.” His family owns the local Jiffy Lube, plus others in California and Ohio. Asked by his family if he wanted to take over, he decided the answer was no.
“Denise Besson probably put me on the knucklehead list,” Colman said, “because I didn’t always take classes as seriously as I should have.”
“I came back to school for the certificate program,” he said, expecting to go into law enforcement and become a police officer. A hiring freeze redirected his energies to retail sales. He now works in commercial credit card sales. Knowing how to assess body language and learning how to really listen to people are critical skills.
“I deal with CFOs, CEOs, finance people who tell me ‘you have 15 minutes to impress me,’” he said. “I use a lot of the communications skills I learned, every day, even though I didn’t know I would at the time.”
- Communication Studies major Michele Castro is on an educational journey that makes us proud to have her as one of our alumni.
The Fast Track Series - Earn your Certificate in Communication Studies in one semester.
WSCA Model Communication Program Award - The Communication Studies program at Gavilan Community College was awarded the 2013 Model Communication Program Award from the Western States Communication Association. Our faculty presented the four main areas to their success:
Being a Model in Teaching
Being a Model in Service
Being a Model in Creative Works and Research
Being a Model in Utilizing Resources and Marketing the Program.
The faculty emphasized a student-centered pedagogy and the importance of shared leadership between full time and part time faculty alike. Service Learning and CommClub were also noted as being important components to the success of the department. Presently the 5th largest major on campus, it's no wonder the department is successful as they model what they teach amongst themselves everyday as a team of colleagues devoted to the teaching of the discipline Communication.
Pictured from left to right : Award Presenter Mary Claire Morr Serewicz, University of Denver, Award Recipients: Denise Besson, Shelley Giacalone, Christina Avila, Adrian Andrade, Michelle Zajac, Ellen Waddell, and Donna Cowan.
Background of Communication Studies:
The Communication Studies Program at Gavilan Community College has built a reputation for offering academically challenging and engaging courses while not compromising pedagogical passion for the discipline. Just ten years ago, this program offered only two types of communication courses taught by one full time faculty member. As enrollment increased, so did the demand for additional coursework within the discipline as well as a degree. Within a 10- year period, there are now two full time tenured faculty members and six to eight adjunct faculty teaching at all three sites. Nine different types of Communication courses are offered with an option of pursuing an AA degree in Communication Studies as well as two Certificate of Achievements recognized by the State Chancellor’s Office.
Most recently, Communication Studies was the first on campus to offer the AA-T degree that guarantees transfer into a 4-year university. In a recent report to the Community, Communication Studies was recognized as was one of the fastest growing majors on campus placing sixth in 2010 and fifth in 2012. Institutional research identified that in 2009-2010 there were 48 declared majors and within one year that number increased to 119 declared majors. These numbers were most impressive, since it was only in 2005 that the first Communication Studies major was declared.
Don't hesitate to enroll in one of our many courses and empower yourself. With offerings every semester in Gilroy, Hollister and Morgan Hill, we are available in your area to educate you about Communication Studies. Please take your time to explore our department homepage links. You will find information about the courses taught, the Certificate of Achievement in Communication Studies, and about the faculty teaching for Gavilan College.
Denise Besson, M.A.