The Institute of Communications Research was founded in 1947 to address complex and urgent concerns about the growing dominance of media and mass communications in postwar public life.
Wilbur Schramm, an English professor and short-story writer who came to the University of Illinois from the University of Iowa (where he had founded the legendary Iowa Writers Workshop), created the Institute to explore this uncharted terrain. In doing so, he established communications studies as a new and worthy scholarly field.
Certain that only an intensive, multidisciplinary research program could effectively investigate this powerful and poorly understood social and technological force, Schramm set out to build something clearly distinct from a traditional academic department. Rather than seek to assemble a stable of established researchers in pre-designated disciplinary areas, Schramm envisioned the Institute as flexible and non-territorial. Driven by ambitious research questions, it would welcome serious intellectual work in the emerging field of communications from faculty with wide-ranging theoretical interests and disciplinary credentials.
At a time when many academic disciplines were aspiring to greater specialization and professional sovereignty, the Institute fostered organic, collaborative and integrative scholarship. The Institute led the nation in offering doctoral training in communications research, attracting students whose intellectual strength and curiosity matches that of their mentors. And, like the Institute, the doctoral program began as a small and selective one, evolving organically with the entire campus as an intellectual resource.
The Institute continues to be regarded as a leader and model for interdisciplinary communications programs.
ICR's place in the history of the communications field
The Institute of Communications Research has evolved within the larger history of communications and media in this country. The Institute pioneered and remains a leader in the interdisciplinary scholarly study of media and communications, focusing broadly on the domains of systems and institutions, policy and history, and cultural theory and practice. This concentrated interdisciplinary effort to understand and explain the history, role and operation of mediated communication in today's society offers significant educational opportunities to graduate students and provides a rich resource for the campus as a whole. The ICR doctoral program uniquely equips students to understand and actively shape the major media and communications issues in contemporary social and intellectual life.
The ICR's institutional positioning within the College of Media has clearly shaped its constellation of interests and directed its production of knowledge toward systemic concerns. Our doctoral students receive broad education in the major theoretical and methodological paradigms of the field and its cognate disciplines and learn to draw upon these resources in original ways to produce original knowledge and address cutting-edge problems in the field.