Managing Complexity in Diverse Organizations

Collage of Managing Complexity in Diverse Organization creators and collaborators
Managing Complexity in Diverse Organization creators and collaborators. A full list can be found near the bottom of this page.

About the program 

Managing Complexity in Diverse Organizations (MCDO) is a professional skills-building program for master’s students that will address a critical competency for 21st-century professionals — the ability to create, sustain and thrive within diverse work environments.

Beginning in Fall 2022, the program is a core and mandatory experience for all incoming USC Annenberg graduate students in the School of Communication, which includes Communication Data Science (MS), Communication Management (MCG), Communication Management (Online) (MCG), Digital Media Management (Online) (MS), Digital Social Media (MS), Global Communication (MA) and Public Diplomacy (MPD), as well as the Public Relations and Advertising (MA) program in the School of Journalism.

This immersive and highly engaging, nine-week, learner-centered program was designed to equip students with the skills to collaborate with, manage and lead across teams with diverse backgrounds and expertise. Students learn how to create and support inclusive environments and how to help advance equity and representation in global academic and professional contexts. 

USC Annenberg faculty designed the program — which is experienced in 90-minute, synchronous online sessions — in collaboration with Minerva Project, and it will be delivered on Minerva’s synchronous virtual-learning platform, Forum. 

Program modules focus on topics such as fostering connection and inclusive cultures; managing implicit biases and power; understanding the impact of technology on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA); creating representative and inclusive content; and developing habits and strategies to effect lasting change.

Working in small, cross-program cohorts, students engage with case studies, simulations and problem-solving activities that provided opportunities to apply the learned skills in the context of contemporary DEIA issues.

Upon completion of the program, students receive professional skills certification in Managing Complexity in Diverse Organizations from USC Annenberg.

For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions section below or contact us at

Register for Summer 2023

MCDO is a free online professional training for master’s students enrolled at USC Annenberg beginning in Fall 2022. Upon completion, learners will receive a USC Annenberg Certificate of Completion and will have met graduation requirements.

The 9-week certificate program is offered each semester. You will be able to select from multiple weekly section options offered Monday through Friday. Each section is capped at 25 participants from across USC Annenberg programs, so register early to secure your preferred day and time. You must be logged in to Google with your USC email address to access the registration form.

Register here

MCDO is offered year-round, in Fall, Spring and Summer semesters. Students are encouraged to complete the training in their first year at USC Annenberg.

Student testimonials

View a playlist of student experiences below.

Forum Learning Platform

You will participate in MCDO on a new learning management platform called Forum, a synchronous virtual classroom environment that facilitates active learning. Forum provides numerous advantages over traditional classrooms and other digital learning tools. In each session, your instructors act as facilitators — not lecturers — moving learners through an assortment of activities that vary from session to session. An effective active learning experience will depend on strong, live engagement from you and your peers.

Upon registration, our partners at Minerva will set you up with a free Forum account. There is nothing to download and no cost associated with participating. Simply activate your account and use your laptop to join. Tablets and smartphones are not compatible with the MCDO experience on Forum. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why is USC Annenberg offering the Managing Complexity in Diverse Organizations (MCDO) program?

We are living through a moment of reckoning around racial justice in the United States and in communities around the globe. Our industries of practice acknowledge the urgent need to forge anti-racist and inclusive practices and build teams that represent the racial reality of America. A February 2021 McKinsey study on Black representation in film and TV found that “inequity persists and is deeply entrenched across the film and TV ecosystem.” USC Annenberg’s own Inclusion Initiative tracks the persistent lag in equality in media across multiple spectrums: Gender, race, LGBTQ+, disability and age. 

The case for increasing diversity, inclusion, equity and access across media industries is clear. Globally, many say the business case for diversity and inclusion is equally strong. Vijay Eswaran notes in the World Economic Forum, “the moral argument is weighty enough, but the financial impact — as proven by multiple academic and corporate studies — makes this a no-brainer.” In their 2022 article “Inclusive Leadership,” Simmons and Yawson illustrated how “leaders who deliberately role model inclusive leadership behaviors create a culture where everyone works to their full potential, stimulate learning organizations and catalyze workforce relationships towards achieving strategic goals.”

In Harvard Business Review in 2020, Ely and Thomas point out that scholarly researchers agree that “increased diversity [...] leads to higher-quality work, better decision-making, greater team satisfaction, and more equality — under certain circumstances.” By that, the authors mean that “increasing diversity does not, by itself, increase effectiveness; what matters is how an organization harnesses diversity, and whether it’s willing to reshape its power structure. 

We all play an important part in advancing racial equity in corporate America and globally. Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility principles across multiple differences including race, ethnicity, religion, ability, gender, sexual orientation, education, age and socio-economic status are relevant to everyone, everywhere. Major cities in America and across the globe are increasingly diverse, yet the path towards fostering inclusivity is unclear — as is managing the increasingly complex media and tech organizations our graduates will soon enter. 

As a leading school of communication, USC Annenberg has developed a virtual professional training program and toolset that our students can use to build anti-racist and inclusive cultures and move from good intentions to effective practice. It begins with exploring perspectives across differences: race and ethnicity, including Black, Asian, Latinx communities and indigenous groups; gender and sexuality; economic disparity; mental illness; physical disability, and more. 

USC Annenberg’s expertise in developing executive education and training for leading media and tech brands, combined with our deep industry partnerships and leading faculty voices in diversity, equity, and inclusion across news, culture and communication, makes us uniquely qualified for this task. Building on important work that has gone before, we have envisioned a contemporary, scalable, and fully online training and toolset that will help student and professional communication practitioners deliver the inclusive change our moment demands.

What does the MCDO program cost?

USC Annenberg is offering all incoming master’s students in the School of Communication and the Public Relations and Advertising program the MCDO professional training free of charge. The professional skills you will acquire in the program will be immediately applicable and a key differentiating factor for USC Annenberg graduates ready to enter the job market.

What is active learning?

Active learning is an approach to instruction that involves actively engaging students with the course material through discussions, problem solving, case studies, role plays and other methods. Activities within an active learning classroom help promote high-order thinking such as knowledge application, analysis, and synthesis. Active learning places a greater degree of responsibility on the learner than passive approaches such as lectures, but instructor guidance is still crucial. Learn more about active learning here.

Must I have my camera and microphone on throughout each session?

Yes, all learners are required to use a personal computer with an operable web camera and microphone for every session. (Forum is not available on tablets and mobile devices). Learners should situate themselves in a distraction-free space and start every session with their cameras on. Microphones should remain muted until called upon or until an activity begins. Learners may momentarily turn off their cameras if they must briefly step away.

What is the total time commitment for MCDO?

In addition to your weekly 90-minute synchronous session, you will have about 30 minutes of pre-class readings/work as well as a mandatory 90-minute program introduction. In total, this program should not exceed 20 hours. 

What happens if I miss a class session, arrive late or leave early?

Since every active learning session is critical to the program, missing 15 minutes or more of any lesson is considered an absence. All absences must be excused by following the steps below. More than two absences will make you ineligible for the certificate, though you may still participate in class. While all sessions are recorded and will be made available if you miss one class, you’ll get the most out of this program by consistently and actively attending all your weekly class sessions.

To excuse an absence, you will need to complete the following makeup work before your next session.

  • Review the recorded session video on Forum.
  • Submit approximately 100 words explaining how the learning outcomes were applied at specific moments in the class, and outline how you plan to apply them in your own life. 

Submitting Makeup Work
Go to the “Makeup Assignments” section at the top of your Forum dashboard. Then click on the date you missed to go to the makeup assignment page. Upload your 100 words as a PDF by clicking the “Upload Primary File” button on the right-hand side.

Can current USC Annenberg graduate students participate in this program even if it is not their first semester at USC Annenberg?

Yes, all USC Annenberg graduate students are welcome to join, regardless of their year. 

Can this certificate be displayed on LinkedIn?

Yes, you will be given an electronic certificate upon completion of the program.

Are the courses registered in the University’s course system?

No, you are not enrolling in this course in the same system as university courses.

Is this program offered only in the Fall or Spring?

The program is also available during the Summer semester.

Is there homework?

Out of class reading is required, but there are no homework assignments. You will not receive a grade for participation in MCDO.

Who developed the Managing Complexity curriculum?

More than a dozen USC Annenberg faculty members worked closely with Dean Willow Bay; School of Communication Director Hector Amaya; School of Journalism Director Gordon Stables, and our partners at Minerva Project to develop the MCDO curriculum. The MCDO Curriculum Development Committee members included Laura Castañeda (academic lead), Morten Bay, Clarissa Beyah, Melanie Cherry, Adam Day, Joseph Itaya, Elizabeth Luke, Freddy Tran Nager, Courtney Pade, Brad Shipley, Christopher H. Smith, Lindsay Stanton, Neil Teixeira, and Tina Vennegaard.

For more information, please contact us at