2024-2025 Undergraduate Course Catalog 
    Jul 24, 2024  
2024-2025 Undergraduate Course Catalog

Visual Communications, BS

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Renée Stevens, Chair
Department of Visual Communications
318 Newhouse 3, 315-443-3367


Rafael Concepcion, Seth Gitner, MaryAnne Golon, Ken Harper, Gregory Heisler, Paula Nelson, Milton Santiago, Hal Silverman, Michael Snyder, Renée Stevens, Bruce Strong, Claudia Strong, Jason Webb 

The Visual Communications program offers four tracks: Cinematography, Commercial & Advertising Photography, Design, and Editorial Photography & Photojournalism. Students are encouraged to let their passions drive their focus and academic path, and the program is created to support and foster the individuality of its students and their unique voices and vision. Collaboration with students from various programs across departments is highly encouraged. Students also study entrepreneurship, business, communications law and ethics, as well as develop relevant skills in writing, and presentation.


The Cinematography track focuses on lighting, lensing, composition, movement, crew management, color science, and photochemistry. Cinematic storytelling expands beyond motion picture and television production allowing the same skills associated with narrative cinematography to cross pollinate with other forms of visual storytelling such as documentary, branded content, industrial films, commercial advertising, music video, journalism, animation, social media, augmented reality, virtual reality, game design, and livestreaming. 

Commercial & Advertising Photography

The Commercial & Advertising Photography track covers the areas of advertising, commercial, fashion, portraiture, and illustration photography for print and digital publications. Courses cover lighting, concept, editing and sequencing as well as project management, critique and communication using visual language. 


The design track emphasizes problem-solving, storytelling, design thinking, and a human-centered approach to design. This focus allows students to create smart, compelling, innovative solutions in print and pixels, including UI/UX, augmented reality, virtual reality, brand systems, product design, 2D and 3D design, and motion design.

Editorial Photography & Photojournalism

The Editorial Photography & Photojournalism track focuses on documentary storytelling and visual journalism across all genres and focuses on building foundational technical and creative skill sets. Additional courses include lighting; editing and sequencing; project management, building visual narratives; and critique and communication using visual language.

Student Learning Outcomes

In addition to the comprehensive Newhouse School learning outcomes listed in the school’s Educational Mission  students in the Visual Communications major are expected to achieve the following learning outcome:

  • Produce professional quality visual communication by synthesizing the best practices and current theories of traditional still, motion, interactive, and emerging media.


A portfolio is not required for admission into the Visual Communications program; however, an optional portfolio submission is allowed and will be reviewed as part of the application. This optional portfolio should be sent separately to Associate Professor Renée Stevens, Chair, Visual Communications Department. Images should be presented on a personal website, a shared cloud folder, or through social media channels.
Please send relevant URLs to Professor Stevens at rcsteven@syr.edu

Major Requirements

Visual Communications majors must complete 42 credits within the Newhouse School of Public Communications and other requirements as outlined below.

Visual Communications Core (12 credits)

Tracks (18 credits)

Students will choose one of the tracks listed below.



Visual Communications majors completing the Commercial & Advertising Photography track may also fulfill their capstone requirement with VIS 484 Commercial & Advertising Photo Capstone depending on which course is offered the spring of their senior year.


Visual Communications majors completing the Editorial Photography & Photojournalism track may also fulfill their capstone requirement with VIS 485 Multimedia and Photojournalism Capstone, depending on which course is offered the spring of their senior year.

Additional Requirements

Global Experience Requirement

The Global Experience requirement may be fulfilled by studying abroad or taking an approved class. A list of courses that fulfill this requirement can be found in the Newhouse Guide Book. If a student chooses to take a Newhouse class to fulfill this requirement, the additional Newhouse hours will be added to the 122 credits needed for graduation if the student has reached the Newhouse credit maximum.

Grammar Competency Requirement

Students must complete a grammar competency as part of their degree requirements. There will be two ways students can satisfy this competency:

  • First, by passing a grammar competency exam during their first semester on campus. The exam will be given twice - once before the end of the first week of classes and a second time prior to registration the next semester. A passing grade on the exam will fulfill the competency requirement.
  • Secondly, by passing COM 101, a 0-credit grammar course which will be mandatory for students who fail the grammar competency exam. This course can be repeated until a passing grade is earned and the competency is met.

Students must meet the grammar competency to receive a degree.

Non-Newhouse Course Requirements

Total: 42 Newhouse credits required

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