2014 PhD Cohort Tackles Variety of Topics

With dissertation topics ranging from birthing practices and sex education to source credibility and online crowdfunding, USC Annenberg’s 2014 doctoral graduates exemplify the school’s vast scope of academic interests. This year, USC Annenberg congratulates 19 doctoral students on their hard work and success.

Amanda Beacom

Beacom earned a Bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University, as well as a Master’s degree in public policy from John Hopkins University. Beacom’s dissertation, “Communication Organizational Knowledge in a Sociomaterial Network,” chaired by Patricia Riley, explores how knowledge regarding health is communicated in organizational networks. During her time at USC Annenberg, she was also a research consultant on organizational effectiveness to numerous organizations.

Beth Lynn Boser

Boser earned a Bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, as well as, a Master’s degree from California State University, Long Beach, in Communication Studies. Her dissertation, “Miracles of Birth and Action: Natality and the Rhetoric of Birth Advocacy,” chaired by Randall Lake, looks at birth practices, as well as attempts to legitimize natural home birth. At USC Annenberg, Boser has worked on projects related to conservative appropriations of feminist discourse, rhetorics of women in politics, conservative social movements, campaign rhetoric and political speech in South Africa.

Kevin Edward Driscoll

Driscoll earned a Bachelor’s degree from Assumption College and a Master’s degree in Comparative Media Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His dissertation, “Hobbyist Inter-networking and the Popular Internet Imaginary: Forgotten Histories of Networked Personal Computing, 1977-1997,” chaired by Henry Jenkins, examines popular technical culture in the United States, hobbyist telecommunication networks and personal computing history.

Sandra Evans

Evans earned a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, double –majoring in Radio, Television and Film, and International Studies. She also earned a Master’s degree in Global Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her dissertation, “Staying Ahead of the Digital Tsunami: Strategy, Innovation, and Change in Public Media Organizations,” chaired by Patricia Riley, examines organizational change within public media institutions and how communication networks affect innovation and performance.

Laura A. Farmer

Farmer earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from New Mexico State University. Her dissertation, “Hurricane Katrina: Framing Leadership through Communication,” was chaired by Patricia Riley.

Laurel Jeanne Felt

Felt earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University and a Master’s degree in Child Development from Tufts University. Her dissertation, “Head, Heart, Hands,” is chaired by Henry Jenkins and her research deals with the youth development. She is also an Instructional Design Specialist and Research Assistant with the USC Dornsife Joint Educational Project.

Young Ji Kim

Kim earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Yonsei University in Korea and a Master’s degree in Human Communication from Arizona State University. Her dissertation, “Unpacking Source Credibility in the Digital Age,” chaired by Andrea Hollingshead, examines online source credibility and how people assess information online. This year, Kim was also one of three people to receive the University Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.

Zhan Li

Li earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and a Master’s degree in Comparative Media Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His dissertation, “New Directions in Scenario Planning: Narrative, Sensemaking and New Media,” chaired by Patricia Riley, examines scenario planning as a strategic foresight method and how it’s affected by transmedia storytelling concepts. He is also an Annenberg Innovation Lab Research Fellow.

Li Lu

Lu earned a Bachelor’s degree from Peking University, double-majoring in Publishing Science and World History. She also earned a Master’s degree from the Communication Department at Cornell University. Her dissertation, “An Isolated or Connected Crowd: Effects of Social Capital and Crowd Interactions on Crowdfunding Project Success,” chaired by Janet Fulk, explores the role of technology in group management and organization.

Melissa Brough Marshall

Marshall earned a Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies and Modern Culture & Media from Brown University. Her dissertation, “Participatory Public Culture and Youth Citizenship in the Digital Age:  The Medellin Model,” co-chaired by Sarah Banet-Weiser and Manuel Castells, is based on a study of Colombian youth political and cultural engagement. She is also an Annenberg Fellow.

William Thomas McClain

McClain earned a Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies from the University of Kansas and a Master’s degree in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. His dissertation, “Interpreting Digitally: Hermeneutics as Social Practice in Digital Media,” chaired by G. Thomas Goodnight, applies his hermeneutic model to online spaces, such as social media.

Jingbo Meng

Meng earned a Bachelor’s degree from Peking University and a Master’s degree from Ohio State University. Her dissertation, “The Formation and Influence of Online Health Social Networks,” chaired by Margaret McLaughlin, examines behavior and health in groups and social networks online.

Yujung Nam

Nam earned a Bachelor’s degree from Yonsei University and a Master’s degree in Communication and Culture from Indiana University at Bloomington. Her dissertation, “Social Networking with Chronic Conditions: Understanding Mutual Support and Recovery on Social Media,” was chaired by Margaret McLaughlin. She is also an Annenberg Fellow.

Katrina Louise Pariera

Pariera earned a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Linguistics from Portland State University and a Master’s degree in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University. Her dissertation, “The Influences of a Humorous Intervention on Parent-Child Sexual Communication,” was chaired by Sheila Murphy.

Michael Kyung Park

Park earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California, double-majoring in Communications and Cinema-Television. He also earned his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. His dissertation, “Race and Masculinity Post-2008: A Critical Inquiry into Asian American Masculinity in a ‘Post-Racial’ Media Landscape,” was chaired by G. Thomas Goodnight.

Benjamin Abbott Stokes

Stokes earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Haverford College.  His dissertation, “When Civic Games have ‘Local Fit’: Impact on Real-World Neighborhoods and Place-Based Networks,” chaired by Henry Jenkins and François Bar, analyzes how bridging the gap between online and offline participation in mobile media and videogames can incite social change. He also co-founded Games for Change, which is a gaming movement focused on social issues and nonprofit organizations.

Laurance Paul Strait

Strait earned a Bachelor’s degree from the Catholic University of America and a Master’s degree from George Mason University. His dissertation, “DSM-5 in Distress? The Rhetoric, Science, and Political Economy of Psychiatric Nosology,” chaired by G. Thomas Goodnight, examines the development of the next edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the controversies surrounding it. He is also an assistant coach of the Trojan Debate Society.

George Villanueva

Villanueva earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, double-majoring in Black Studies and History. He also earned a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. His dissertation, “The Impact of Engaged Communication Scholarship on the Re-imagination of Space and Place in South L.A.,” was chaired by Sandra Ball-Rokeach. He has also worked as a Community Organizer and Field Deputy for Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Elisheva Weiss

Weiss earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Columbia University. Her dissertation, The New News: Born-Online Journalism and Its Struggle,” chaired by Patricia Riley, examines news organizations that are online-only. At USC Annenberg, she has also studied newsroom leadership and how management affects newsroom staff and, in the digital age, web-based product.

Learn more about USC Annenberg Doctoral Students.  

I've been a student writer at USC Annenberg for the past three years. I am a senior at USC, majoring in Print and Digital Journalism and minoring in Cinematic Arts. I have written for Neon Tommy, The Wrap, Los Angeles magazine, TakePart and others.