Dean Wilson and Overholser discuss the Annenberg Advantage during 2012 Trojan Family Weekend

By Krista Daly
Student Writer

Dean Ernest J. Wilson III answered questions about the future of USC Annenberg on Friday afternoon as one of the highlights of Trojan Family Weekend (view photos).

Trojan Family Weekend at USC Annenberg also included classroom sit-ins, the Sports and Social Change Speakers Series program about the impact of violence and injury in sports (photos here), and project demonstrations at the Annenberg Innovation Lab.

Geneva Overholser , director of USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism, hosted the Q-and-A with Dean Wilson.

“We want to give families, especially the parents who don't really know what's going on at this school, a sense of where we're headed and help create with them a sense of excitement about what's going on in journalism and what's going on in the field of communication and in public relations,” Overholser said.

The big buzz about the future is the new USC Annenberg building, which is set to have its groundbreaking on Nov. 8. Families received a “fly through” of the building to get a sense of what it will look like and how it will be used.

“First of all, the new building is going to be really, really cool. I want to start there,” Dean Wilson said with a laugh. “As important as the building will be, it's there to inspire students, it's there to inspire your kids, and there will be spaces for collaboration. We will have a converged newsroom, which will be absolutely cutting edge: print, broadcast, online all in one room.”

Because the journalism industry is constantly changing, no one is going to know what it will look like in five or 10 years.

“We decided we didn't want to build containers of knowledge, we wanted to build connectors of knowledge and so instead of having fixed walls, half of the spaces will have moveable walls. They'll have collaborative spaces - we call them huddle spaces,” Dean Wilson said. “It's going to be really exciting on the inside.”

Overholser also asked Dean Wilson about the “Annenberg Advantage,” referring to what USC Annenberg offers compared to other communication, journalism and public relations schools.

Dean Wilson said there are some wonderful journalism and communication schools in the country, but their offerings aren’t as extensive as USC Annenberg’s. At this school, students have the option of taking classes in journalism, communication, public relations, strategic communications and public diplomacy.

“We believe that the advantage is that as the world becomes more converged, our school is already there,” Dean Wilson said. “We have a converged school, and we'll be able to provide as no one else will. The advantage is that these students lead a changed world.”

Overholser described USC Annenberg as being “an unusually innovative place,” something that helps give the school its advantage.

Dean Wilson holds to a philosophy regarding innovation that says, “We either innovate or we die. We either innovate or we’re left behind.”

“Everything we do here at the USC Annenberg school is driven by the imperative to innovate,” he said.

One example is the “bootcamp” that Overholser leads that brings together USC Annenberg students with students from both the business and engineering schoosl to work on one collaborative project.

Another example is the Annenberg Innovation Lab, an imaginative lab space working to create and design new projects for the future of journalism and communication.

Dean Wilson said community engagement is an especially important aspect of USC Annenberg.

“At the heart of this school is the desire to communicate across cultures, across communities and to understand that if we do not communicate effectively with one another, we will never understand one another,” he said. “We're at the heart of Los Angeles, and that's an important part of who we are.”

USC Annenberg has several different programs that really engage the community. One is a trilingual news site surrounding the community of Alhambra.

“It has been widely beneficial to the community and it has also been beneficial to the university,” Dean Wilson said. “The new technology allows us to do hyperlocal reporting, neighborhood by neighborhood, not just city by city.”

Students are engaged in the community through the Annenberg Innovation Lab as well as other publications on campus such as Neon Tommy.

“The school is no longer a school. We are publishers, we are broadcasters. You are watching the reinvention,” Dean Wilson said. “We are making it and this is a great place to do it.”

Overholser also talked about the “equally exciting things going on” for public relations students, which are housed under the School of Journalism.

“Our research on best practices in public relations was recently named best paper in a major international conference,” Overholser said. “Our students are able to go to corporations all around the world, to non-profits all around the world. We have faculty among the best in the world, and a Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center where students can get even more real-world experience.”