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National Communication Association

Program, Organization and Funding, History

The National Communication Association (NCA) is the oldest and largest nonprofit, scholarly society dedicated to the field of communication, with a special emphasis on public speaking and other forms of speech communication. Its mission is to promote excellence in the research, teaching, and application of the "artistic, humanistic, and scientific principles of communication." It has a membership of more than 7,100, representing all fifty states and twenty foreign countries.


The NCA serves as an informational center and network for individuals working in the broadly defined field of communication. Its primary goal is to organize and disseminate information of relevance to its membership, and it accomplishes this goal through a variety of venues. Each year an annual convention is held, attracting some 4,000 attendees who participate in workshops, seminars, and panel discussions. Also offered are films and presentations on advances in the field of speech communication, employment placement services, and other special-interest activities. The annual convention is also the occasion for the NCA's various business and planning committees to meet. In addition to the annual convention, the NCA sponsors smaller conferences throughout the year.

In addition to meetings, the NCA disseminates information through a wide range of publications. The first NCA journal, founded in 1915 as the Quarterly Journal of Public Speaking, is now published asthe Quarterly Journal of Speech. Since the inaugural issue of this journal, the NCA has added six others, each with a special focus (education, criticism, text, performance, and so on). The NCA also produces two annuals and an online index, as well as numerous books, monographs, brochures, and pamphlets. The monthly newsletter, Spectra, has an electronic counterpart available on the organization's website.

To encourage excellence in the field of communication, the NCA also sponsors numerous awards, conferred annually at the NCA convention. These awards, many of which carry significant cash grants, recognize achievement in a variety of communication applications, from teaching to "best dissertation." In addition, the organization sponsors exchange programs, which bring international debate and public speaking teams together for competitions. The official NCA collegiate honor societies are Lambda Pi Eta (for four-year institutions) and Sigma Pi Eta (for community colleges), in addition to which the organization encourages the formation of student clubs on university campuses throughout the country.

The NCA is also actively involved in outreach programs with public and private agencies. Through these programs, the NCA promotes its positions on such issues as communication education, freedom of speech, and presidential debates. The NCA also prepares position papers on legislation relevant to its areas of interest and makes these available to lawmakers at the federal and state level when appropriate.

Organization and Funding

The NCA is governed by a sixty-member legislative council, which meets annually at the NCA convention, and a ten-member administrative committee, which meets periodically throughout the year. Policy positions are determined by the legislative council, then disseminated throughout the organization in the form of resolutions. When deemed necessary, the legislative council may call for the formation of special committees to do research on special-interest topics, with the purpose of publishing the results of the research. Past examples of such projects include a brochure on careers in the field of speech communication and a book on the rhetoric of the antislavery movement. More recently, the NCA has published brochures on finding grant support for individual research and a volume on Mexican-American rhetoric and the activism of Cesar Chavez.

The NCA is an independent, not-for-profit organization, relying primarily on membership dues, conference and convention fees, and revenues from the sale of its publications to support the majority of its programs. Individual members and special projects receive support from private sponsors as well as from federal granting agencies. Although many of the NCA annual awards are supported by organization funds, it also solicits endowed awards, and as of 2002 there are ten such awards granted through the organization. In addition to individual memberships, the NCA recruits memberships from institutions and libraries. Undergraduate students receive a reduced membership rate.


The National Communication Association was founded on November 28, 1914, in Chicago, Illinois. The impetus for its founding arose from a dispute within the ranks of the National Council of Teachers of English, in which seventeen members broke away from the parent organization to form the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking. Within a year, the new organization had inaugurated its first publication, The Quarterly Journal of Public Speaking. Interest in the new organization was lively, and by 1916 it boasted 160 members.

Within ten years, membership grew to 910, and the organization underwent its first name change, to the National Association of Teachers of Speech (NATS). New services were added to the organizational profile, including job-placement service. In 1934 the organization began publication of Speech Monographs (now titled Communication Monographs), and membership had topped 2,000. In 1945 the group changed its name, once again, to the Speech Association of America (SAA), under which, five years later, the organization was officially incorporated. In 1953 the association launched its third quarterly publication, Speech Teacher (now Communication Educator). In 1963 the SAA established its headquarters in New York City and for the first time created full-time administrative positions to facilitate the running of the organization. In 1970 the organization adopted a new constitution and bylaws and once again chose a new name: the Speech Communication Association (SCA).

With professional offices and a national headquarters, the SCA grew rapidly over the next two decades, and its services expanded markedly. New publications were founded to address changes in the field, including Journal of Applied Communication (founded 1973), Critical Studies in Media Communications (1984), and Text and Performance Quarterly (1989). The conference and awards programs were expanded as well. In 1997 the organization underwent yet another name change to become the National Communication Association, and in 2001 the association launched its most recent publication, Review of Communication. In the 1990s the NCA outgrew its Manhattan-based headquarters and relocated to Washington, D.C.




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