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Immersion in CMST


Beginning with the class of 2022, all Vanderbilt undergraduate students are required to complete an immersion experience. Full details about Vanderbilt Immersion can be found here. 

As the guidelines state, your immersion experience needs to follow at least one of four pathways: Civic & Professional, Creative Expression, International, or Research. Because the immersion experience is self-designed, you can create the immersion experience you want, combining courses, projects, and initiatives from around the university.


Nevertheless, you might want some direction in the planning process. This page is for those of you who are interested in combining an interest in communication with your immersion experience.

Why communication? Media, politics, law, business, medicine, technology, gender, sexuality, race, and more—communication intersects with many areas of inquiry that can make for exciting immersion experiences. Below are just some possibilities for linking immersion with communication studies at Vanderbilt.

If you still have questions after reading over the information below, contact Paul Stob (Department Chair), Jeffrey Bennett (Director of Undergraduate Studies), or any CMST faculty member.


Components of Immersion

The experiential phase of immersion should be the equivalent of 9 credit hours of work (about 80 hours of time) and may be fulfilled with a combination of Vanderbilt course credits and/or approved immersion activities. This process can occur over the course of more than one semester and can include summer and paid work.

The requirement that immersion be the equivalent of 9 credit hours affords a host of possible frameworks, but it is especially suited to a sequence of two courses and a larger experience or project. In this incarnation, immersion will involve Course A, Course B, and some kind of Immersion Project. That project can be an internship, leadership in events or organizations on campus, the creation of a documentary film, work on a political campaign, and much more. 

Take, for example, a student interested in communication and civic engagement. That student could take CMST 2800: Rhetoric and Civic Life (Course A) and CMST 3100: The Rhetoric of Social Movements (Course B), followed by work with a local nonprofit organization that serves disadvantaged communities and a presentation about this experience (Immersion Project).

Or take a student interested in digital storytelling. That student could take CMST 3710: Cultural Rhetorics of Film (Course A) and CMST 3800: Communication & Media Studio (Course B), followed by the creation of a digital video and public screening (Immersion Project).

These are just some possible examples that involve two courses and a project. Yet there are many other frameworks for immersion and communication studies. The Vanderbilt Debate Team, for instance, offers immersive experiences through travel, research, collaboration, and public speaking. Participation in debate for an extended period of time could serve as an immersion experience even without Course A and Course B preceding it. In addition, some students might wish to take a three-course sequence and write a substantive research paper on themes and ideas that unite those three courses. That could constitute an immersion experience as well.

Below are additional ways students interested in communication could choose to complete their immersion experience. The list is far from exhaustive, and you are encouraged to come up with your own immersion plan. But the information below might help spark your creativity.



Are you interested in broadcast journalism? Advertising? Marketing? Corporate consulting? Start-ups? An internship might be an excellent opportunity for you to develop these interests. 

Over the years the Department of Communication Studies has overseen countless internships in fields related directly or indirectly to communication. Public relations, sports communication, brand marketing, graphic design, media production, and publishing are just a handful of examples. Internships are a great way to pursue your passions, discover possible careers, and gain hands-on professional experience outside the university. 

In addition, internships are a great way to fulfill your immersion experience. For example, you could take CMST 1500: Fundamentals of Public Speaking, CMST 2120: Business Communication, then participate in an internship over the summer. You could also substitute those two courses with courses related to the area of communication that intersects with your internship (media, law, health, etc.). 

For more on internships and how they might intersect with immersion, contact Courtney Travers, Director of Internships for the Department of Communication Studies.


Media, Film, & Digital Technology

If you’re interested in journalism, film and television production, social media, and similar areas, the Department of Communication Studies can offer valuable resources.

In addition to participating in an internship, students interested in media can participate in any number of Vanderbilt-sponsored programs. Vanderbilt Student Media, which is responsible for the Vanderbilt Hustler, Vanderbilt Television, and much more, offers students a range of hands-on experiences related to production and content creation. If you combined work at Vanderbilt Student Media with such courses as CMST 2950: Rhetoric of Mass Media, CMST 3730: Communication, Culture, and Consciousness, and/or CMST 3800: Communication & Media Studio, you could have a robust, media-focused immersion experience.

Another option is to participate in the Vandy-in-Hollywood summer internship program. If you’re interested in a career in the entertainment industry, or even if you just want to spend a summer in Hollywood, this is an excellent opportunity. What’s more, participation in Vandy-in-Hollywood can be combined with Communication Studies courses related to film, television, and media production to constitute an immersion experience.

Students interested in media, culture, and creation are strongly encourage to consider including CMST 3800: Communication & Media Studio in their immersion plan. This course allows students to reflect on core concepts in communication studies while creating their own public-facing communicative artifacts. In addition to reading key texts in communication theory, students will have an opportunity to immerse themselves in research related to their own interests and to produce multimedia projects related to this research. From digital films to social-media presences to websites, interactive maps, 3D-printed objects, and more, student-designed projects will put into practice theories of communication and, in turn, reflect back on our collective understanding of communication.



Participation in debate has long been an immersive activity, with debaters becoming deeply involved in constructing arguments, researching evidence to support those arguments, and organizing those arguments into persuasive positions.

Students with no prior experience in this area could start with CMST 1500: Fundamentals of Public Speaking and CMST 2100: Argumentation and Debate to learn the basics, and then participate in intercollegiate debate competitions or on-campus debates for a year or more to develop and solidify their skills. 

Students with prior debate experience might dive directly into practice and competition, rather than starting with CMST 2100, and might spend more time on the research, travel, and competition components of immersion. Alternatively, experienced students may want to turn to coaching instead of competing, helping area elementary, middle, and high schools with their debate programs over the course of one or more debate seasons.

For more information, contact Vanderbilt Debate Faculty Members.


Professional Communication

If you’re hoping to pursue a career in any kind of corporate or professional setting, communication will be essential to your success. The Department of Communication offers several courses that can give you the tools to be a better communicator in whatever industry you work.

Possible courses for this kind of immersion experience include CMST 1500: Fundamentals of Public Speaking, CMST 2110: Persuasion, and CMST 2120: Business Communication. These courses combine productively with internships and other experiences related to business, civic and professional organizations, nonprofits, consulting, finance, and more.


Public Speaking & Oratory

Even with the tools of digital communication at our fingertips, the art of oratory remains as important as ever. You can practice becoming an orator with such classes as CMST 1500: Fundamentals of Public Speaking and CMST 2110: Persuasion. But you can also study great orators of the past with such classes as CMST 3000, 3001, and 3002, which cover the Rhetoric of the American Experience in different time periods of U.S. history. These courses will give you the chance to understand why the words of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, Franklin Roosevelt, and many others continue to inspire to the present day.

In addition to taking courses related to the art of oratory, you can complete an immersion project by participating in public-speaking events around campus. One such event is the Frank K. Houston Public Speaking Contest. Another is the Vanderbilt chapter of Toastmasters International. There’s also TEDx Vandy, which is a great way for students with a passion for public speaking and big ideas to influence their fellow Vanderbilt students. 


Civic Engagement & Advocacy

Politics, public engagement, and community organizing are fundamentally communicative endeavors. The Department of Communication Studies offers a wide range of courses for students who want to fulfill their immersion requirement by engaging fellow citizens on issues that affect us all.

Those courses include, but are not limited to, CMST 2800: Rhetoric and Civic Life; CMST 3100: Rhetoric of Social Movements; CMST 3110; Women, Rhetoric, and Social Change; CMST 3140: Communication and the First Amendment; CMST 3700: Politics and Mass Media; CMST 3720: Communication Gender; and CMST 3750: Rhetoric of the Body.

For your internship experience, you could combine two of these courses with volunteering in a political campaign, working with a local nonprofit, interning in the public defender’s office, or leading a Vanderbilt student organization devoted to advocacy and engagement.


Study Abroad & Intercultural Communication

Study abroad is a great way for students to create a novel, exciting immersion experience. If you study abroad and are interested in communication, you can enroll in courses related to the media, language, and culture of your host country. You can also take a course on Intercultural Communication, which provides a revealing perspective on the problems and possibilities of communicating across cultural divides.

Completing some kind of immersion project on top of studying abroad allows you to pair the study of communication with the international pathway of the immersion requirement.


Interdisciplinary Immersion

Law, politics, medicine, health, media, social movements, business, history—Communication Studies teaches courses related to all of these areas. But so do other department on campus. With Immersion Vanderbilt, students are not only able but encouraged to experiment with interdisciplinary immersion experiences.

For instance, if you’re thinking of becoming a lawyer, you might take one course in Communication Studies (e.g., CMST 3140: Communication and the First Amendment or 3150: Law, Media, and Society) and one course in History (e.g., HIST 2238: Crime and Criminal Law in Western Antiquity) or in Political Science (e.g., PSCI 1103: Justice). You then might work at a law firm over the summer.

Similarly, if you’re thinking of going into medicine, you could take CMST 3740: Rhetoric of Medicine and Health and MHS 3450: Mental Illness Narratives, combined with research in a laboratory at the VU Medical Center.


These are just some of the options for linking your immersion experience with the study of communication. If you’d like to learn more, contact Paul Stob (Department Chair), Jeffrey Bennett (Director of Undergraduate Studies), or any CMST faculty member.