Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative

Meet the Team

Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D.
Director, Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative
Associate Professor

Dr. Stacy L. Smith (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1999) is the Director of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at USC Annenberg's School for Communication & Journalism.  As the Director, Dr. Smith oversees all of the MDSC Initiative's research activities, and routinely presents her research findings to academic, industry, and advocacy groups.


Dr. Smith has written more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, reports, and conference papers on content patterns and effects of the media. She has received multiple "top paper" awards for her research from the Instructional Developmental Division of the International Communication Association. In terms of the popular press, Dr. Smith’s research has been written about in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times,, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety,,, The Boston Globe, and USA Today, to name a few. She also has a co-edited essay in Maria Shriver’s book, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything (2009). Her work has been funded by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Sundance Institute, Women in Film Los Angeles, The Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation, the Harnisch Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 


Since 2005, Dr. Smith has been working with a team of undergraduate and graduate students to assess portrayals of males and females in popular media. Dozens of projects have been completed assessing gender in films (e.g., 1000+ top-grossing movies from 1990 to 2013, 180 Academy Award® Best Picture nominations from 1977 to 2010), TV shows (e.g., 1,034 children’s programs, 275 prime time shows from Spring of 2012), video games (e.g., 60 best selling), and point-of-purchase advertising (e.g., jacket covers of DVDs, video games).

In addition to research, Dr. Smith is passionate about teaching. She currently teaches the undergraduate COMM 203 – Introduction to Mass Communication course at USC Annenberg. Dr. Smith has been recognized for her outstanding teaching. She has received the Outstanding Professor Award from the Annenberg Students Communication Association three times, the Greek Professor of the Semester Award, the Golden Apple Award from Kappa Alpha Theta twice, the Professor of the Year Award from Gamma Alpha Sigma, and was recognized as an Honorary Member of Lambda Pi Eta. In 2009, Dr. Smith received the Outstanding Teacher and Mentor Award from the Parents’ Council at USC. Mortar Board at USC has also tapped her. In 2012, Dr. Smith received the Trojan League of Southern California 2012 Outstanding Service Award and the LA Woman recognition by Los Angeles Magazine.


Learn more about Dr. Smith's research by visiting her USC Annenberg faculty page.



Marc Choueiti

Project Administrator

Marc Choueiti received his M.A. and B.A. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. His research interests include the role of gender and racial and ethnic diversity in media content as well as behind the camera in production. Mr. Choueiti has published numerous research reports with Dr. Stacy Smith on the topic of female representation in media. With Dr. Smith, his work has been featured in popular press outlets including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Slate.

Alongside his research work, Mr. Choueiti has served as the Project Administrator for the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative, handling day-to-day administration and project development. He has worked with over 400 undergraduate research assistants as a teacher and trainer. Apart from research on gender, Mr. Choueiti is also interested in the role of video games and other media in the socialization of youth.



Katherine Pieper, Ph.D.

Research Scientist 

Dr. Katherine Pieper received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her research interests include employment patterns in film and television, with a particular focus on diversity in key production roles. She has worked with Dr. Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti at the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism since 2012. In addition to research on diversity, Dr. Pieper has assisted with several content and effects studies related to frightening and prosocial media portrayals.

Dr. Pieper graduated with a B.A. in Communication from Michigan State University (2003). Dr. Pieper’s dissertation focused on the role of social support in a three-year maternal and child health intervention in Cambodia. Between 2007 and 2011, she worked in communication and resource development, including proposal writing, reporting, and design of monitoring and evaluation activities for a non-governmental organization based in Phnom Penh.



Ariana Case

Project Assistant


Ariana Case received her B.A. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California in 2013. Since her days as an undergraduate, Ariana has contributed to Dr. Stacy Smith's research on gender and racial diversity in film and television. During her time working at the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative, Ariana has worked closely with the team in the completion of several projects, including their 2015 study that was conducted in partnership with Women in Film Los Angeles and the Sundance Institute and cited in the ACLU's recent call to action regarding female directors. Between 2012 and 2013, she also acquired experience in the cable television and non-profit industries as a Production Assistant and Communications Coordinator, respectively. In addition to her work with Dr. Smith on diversity and representation in the media, Ariana has an avid interest in American pop culture and its interaction with society at large.




Affiliated Faculty


Carmen Lee, Ph.D.

Clinical Associate Professor of Communication

 Carmen M. Lee (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara) is a Clinical Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  Her research focuses on factors that contribute to the establishment and maintenance of interpersonal and intergroup (intercultural/interethnic) relationships. Moreover, she is interested in media portrayals of marginalized group members.  Dr. Lee's publications appear in journals such as Human Communication Research, International Journal of Intercultural Relationships, Howard Journal of Communications, Communication Research Reports, and edited books such as Handbook of international and intercultural communication, The dark side of interpersonal communication, and The Routledge Handbook of Family Communication.  She has received multiple “top paper” awards for her research from the Western States Communication Association, National Communication Association, and International Communication Association.






Jess Weiner

Adjunct Professor, USC Annenberg

Considered this generation’s “Go to Authority” on women, girls and confidence, Jess Weiner believes that if we want to change culture, we have to work with the media makers, marketers, and influencers who create the messaging. She is a social entrepreneur and the CEO of Talk to Jess, a consulting and strategy firm that advises global brands on the issues facing today’s women and girls. Her business acumen and expertise have given her an unprecedented seat at the table among key decision makers- not only to advocate meaningfully on behalf of women and girls but to drive an actual shift in the way media and entertainment engage with them. With over 20 years of experience working in the field as a speaker, writer and educator, she’s authored two best selling books and has proudly served as Dove’s Global Self-Esteem Ambassador for nearly a decade. She’s also an adjunct professor at USC's Annenberg School of Journalism where she teaches personal branding and entrepreneurship. Jess was named by Forbes as one of the "14 Power Women to Follow" on Twitter.


The Harnisch Foundation/MDSC Interns

In 2014, the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative launched an inaugural internship program for students interested in diversity and media.  With generous support from the Harnisch Foundation, 17 interns, ranging from high school to post-graduate joined the team for eight weeks in June and July.  The group included students majoring or minoring in film, gender studies, public policy, and communication.  Interns learned to analyze media content and will help release two studies on gender and race/ethnicity in top-grossing films.  The group also interfaced with leading activists, media executives, and content creators to learn more about production, distribution, and diversity in film and television.  The 2014 interns are: Jeeyun Baik, Allison Begalman, Amanda Brooker, Ashley (Tse-Ya) Chao, Nick Cuccia, Emerald Douglas, Teddy Fogelman, Katie Jagodka, Christine Kim, Bryn McFadden, Katherine Neff, Monica Ramsy, Anna Solow-Collins, Sameer Suri,  Vanessa Villanueva, Catherine Wang, and Rachel Zacuto.



Student Research Assistants

Each year, the MDSC Initiative works with over 100 students.  These students analyze media content, research behind-the-scenes employment, and provide MDSC with the ability to conduct in-depth and cutting edge research.  Since 2007, over 500 undergraduate and graduate students have worked with the MDSC Initiative.  Many go on to create content or work within the very industry they previously studied.  The MDSC Initiative believes that true change will come through educating future leaders and media creators on issues of diversity and representation.