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USC Annenberg and USC Viterbi launch unique partnership to build a new generation of integrated media professionals

USC Annenberg and USC Viterbi, two University of Southern California schools recognized as leaders in their disciplines, are teaming up in a transformative, interdisciplinary partnership to launch programs that will shape new kinds of communication and technology professionals for the 21st century – equipped with education and training that combines the strengths of their fields.   

The first two initiatives of this unique new partnership are:  

  • A new Master of Communication Informatics degree, a joint degree from USC Annenberg and USC Viterbi that explores the most interesting technological phenomena impacting communication of the future, including Big Data and data analytics, virtual and augmented reality, data mining, crowdsourcing, online communities, social media and the use of technology in journalism. Graduates will emerge with fluencies in data, communication and media technologies and with a focus on applications that address real-world problems.
  • The creation of Innovation Teams, as part of the new Annenberg Leadership Initiative, to leverage technologies to pioneer new digital storytelling tools and methods of delivering news. Led by a unique partnership between Viterbi and Annenberg faculty, these teams of student engineers and journalists will work side-by-side in the new cutting-edge Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center of Wallis Annenberg Hall. The innovations teams and the Leadership Initiative are funded by a portion of a $5 million gift from the Annenberg Foundation.

Archimedes Plaza at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
USC / Gus Ruelas

The USC Annenberg-USC Viterbi partnership embodies the two institutions’ shared commitment to harnessing technology to drive change for the good of society – and their passion for contributing to a diverse, dynamic talent pool for the industries they serve.

“We celebrate this new, powerhouse partnership and everything it will bring to both schools and our graduates,” said USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III. The new degree and the new innovation teams are emblematic of the philosophies of his Third Space initiative – especially 360-degree thinking. “We’re building in the space where these fields naturally converge. Engineers and communicators who can work in both worlds will be uniquely qualified to solve real-world problems of the 21st century.”

Yannis C. Yortsos, Dean of USC Viterbi, said, “We look at engineering and computer science as the empowering disciplines of our times, driving convergence between the sciences, the professions and the arts. In our rapidly changing world, professionals in both engineering and communications need skills from both sides; they need to learn each other’s languages. And the moment you have graduates with a command of both areas, you are creating some incredibly powerful individuals who know how to solve real-world challenges. This is another manifestation of our guiding concept of Engineering+.”

Master of Communication Informatics Degree

The goal of the new Master of Communication Informatics degree is to create communication professionals who are familiar with technical applications, mining data and parsing data sets – professionals who can use technical resources to investigate and find solutions. They will understand the engineering of communication, including the design and construction of mobile apps, online networks and social media tools.

The program will also build engineering professionals who have a more in-depth understanding of how technologies interact with and engage the public, as well as support communications.

No matter their specialty, graduates will understand how the fields of communication and technology inform each other and contribute to each other’s successes.

Annenberg Leadership Initiative’s Innovation Teams

Supported by the Annenberg Foundation, the new Leadership Initiative will give journalism and communication students the opportunity to work alongside student engineers. Led by expert faculty, the students will join forces on Innovation Teams in the Media Center to leverage digital technologies, broaden the reach of contemporary journalism and deepen engagement with a diverse range of audiences.

As technologies drive rapid and powerful changes in media, young journalists and technologists will work together to improve access to news and information, said Willow Bay, Director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. “More than the new tools they may create or new audiences they will reach, the students themselves will model the kind of inter-disciplinary communication and collaboration that is imperative to success in the 21st century,” Bay said.

The Innovation Teams will have full access to the leading-edge technology of USC Annenberg’s new Media Center, a 20,000-square-foot facility with multipurpose television, radio and direct-to-Web video broadcast studios that allow students to seamlessly stream professional-quality programming to any medium. The unique environment – a newsroom, classroom and incubator – will serve as the ideal workspace for the development of tools and products that will help power the journalism of the future, Bay said.

The Annenberg Leadership Initiative is a comprehensive program designed to bring a diverse pool of talent to USC Annenberg while driving the technological innovation, training and thought leadership that is needed throughout the media industry. Besides funding the teams of USC Annenberg/USC Viterbi students and faculty experts, the program offers scholarships and fellowships to young journalists from underrepresented communities.

The Annenberg Foundation’s gift supports the Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multi-year effort that seeks to raise $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand its positive impact on the community and world. Four years after its launch, the campaign has raised more than $4.7 billion.