Dean’s Report 2020

Photo of the new Annenberg building

This year we executed our academic mission with determination and creativity, reinventing the way we work to ensure our students get the education they deserve. 

We were inspired to think more expansively about ways to forge connections for intellectual growth, professional development, greater impact on our communities, and perhaps, most importantly, for our own sense of belonging.

As we confronted two pandemics — COVID-19 and racial injustice — USC Annenberg played a vital role in advancing dialogue and action while fostering an inclusive community of care. Our faculty — through their scholarship and practice — delivered insights, challenged assumptions and offered knowledge-based solutions that helped us lean in to this transformative moment. Inspired by our students’ desire to tackle big problems and drive positive change, we explored new ways to prepare them to live, learn and ultimately lead us through these tectonic shifts. Together, our faculty, staff and students demonstrated how USC Annenberg is uniquely equipped to listen across silos and respond with innovation that creates a more just and equitable future.

Willow Bay
Dean, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Walter H. Annenberg Chair in Communication

Classroom and Beyond

Manifesting dreams

Toni Hall named first recipient of GRoW @ Annenberg Scholarship.

Preparing the next generation

A new pipeline for podcasters created through summer internship program at Spotify.

Creating opportunities

Annenberg Agency provides micro-internships for students to do well by doing good.

The rush of going live

Annenberg Media student journalists deliver comprehensive, multiplatform coverage of Election 2020.

Annenberg Youth Academy builds bonds over Zoom

LAUSD high school student shares her summer AYA experience.

Meaning through mentorship

Students connect with faculty, staff and alumni mentors.


Book cover by Hector Amaya called Trafficking: Narcoculture in Mexico and the United States


Cover photo of book called The New Latin America by Fernando Calderon Manuel Castells

The New Latin America

Cover for book called "comics and stuff" by Henry Jenkins

Comics and Stuff

Book cover for book "the new News"

The New News

Title poster that reads "Bearing witness while Black"

Bearing Witness While Black

Critical Conversations

As we witnessed the profound disruption and innovation in media and communication this year, USC Annenberg continued to convene and amplify crucial discussions with experts to understand these complex changes in real-time. We launched Annenberg Intelligence, a series in which industry leaders explore the ways in which communication, journalism and public relations can be leveraged to tackle the impacts of COVID-19 and to address inequities and bias. We also hosted important dialogues among scholars and professionals reflecting on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy, the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium, and the centennial of the 19th Amendment. In addition, we adapted our career development programming, including Lunch with a Leader and Career Treks, to provide a rich array of opportunities for students and alumni to network, learn and connect in a virtual environment.


virtual events hosted by USC Annenberg

Research and Impact

Living through coronavirus

Center for the Digital Future’s study shows how attitudes have evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New era of activism

Center for Public Relations’ Global Communications Report explores why companies are struggling to engage with today’s activists.

The digital divide

Researchers investigate the distance-learning gap for Los Angeles County students created by COVID-19.

Counting on community

Annenberg Innovation Lab inspires Gen Z to be part of the 2020 census movement.

A neighborhood out of water

A grassroots hand-washing infrastructure helps the houseless fight COVID-19.

The power of storytelling

Lear Center study examines how TV portrayals of immigrants affect real-life actions and attitudes.

By the Numbers

Media Highlights

Good Morning America
“If [celebrities] are out there, truly on the front line with tear gas flying and National Guard on the march, that’s a profound statement of solidarity and risk-taking.”
June 4, 2020

Clinical Professor of Communication Christopher H. Smith in an interview with ABC News correspondent and journalism alumna Adrienne Bankert on whether celebrity statements about ongoing civil unrest actually make a difference.

“There are currently gaps in access and opportunity for people of color, especially Black executives, in the music business. […] We must illuminate how the lack of people of color in key roles thwarts inclusion throughout the industry.”
June 26, 2020

Clinical Associate Professor of Communication Carmen Lee explains why Universal Music Group and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, founded by Associate Professor of Communication Stacy Smith, are expanding their collaboration to study systemic racial inequality in the music business.

The Atlantic
“America no longer needs visual proof that its citizens continue to be brutalized and killed. Instead it needs fuller pictures of the victims as human beings.”
August 30, 2020

Assistant Professor of Journalism and Communication Allissa Richardson explores the issues around filming and sharing videos of police brutality against Black victims.

“My biggest concern now is, what are we doing with these platforms? Are we okay with them being incubators of misinformation?”
October 28, 2020

Associate Professor of Communication Emilio Ferrara explains how fake social media accounts promoted conspiracy theories leading up to the 2020 election.