Managing Complexity in Diverse Organizations for Students

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

Beginning in Fall 2023, MCDO is a degree requirement 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 and Public Relations Innovation, Strategy and Management (Online) (MS) program in the School of Journalism.

This immersive, eight-week, learner-centered program is offered every fall, spring, and summer. It was designed by USC Annenberg to equip students with the skills to collaborate with, manage and lead across teams with diverse backgrounds and expertise. Participants also learn how to create and support inclusive environments and how to help advance equity and representation in global contexts. 

Program modules focus on topics such as fostering connection and inclusive cultures; managing implicit biases and power; 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.

The program — which is experienced in 90-minute, synchronous online sessions — was developed by USC Annenberg faculty in collaboration with Minerva Project, a global education partner, and is delivered on Minerva’s active learning-focused online platform, Forum.

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

In addition to fulfilling a degree requirement, students receive a certificate in Managing Complexity in Diverse Organizations from USC Annenberg upon successful completion of the program.

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

Register or Join Waitlist

MCDO is an online professional skills training program for master’s students enrolled at USC Annenberg. The 8-week certificate program is offered once every semester in fall, spring and summer. Students are encouraged to complete the training in their first year at USC Annenberg. 

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.


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 desktop or 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 inequality 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 MCDO cost?

USC Annenberg is currently offering all 2023-2024 incoming master’s students in the School of Communication and the Public Relations programs the MCDO professional training program 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 my total time commitment for MCDO?

In addition to your weekly 90-minute synchronous session, you will have 1-2 hours of weekly pre-class readings and homework. In total, this program should not exceed 30 hours. 

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.

Am I required to be an active participant? 

Students are required to prepare appropriately for each live session and to participate actively in each one. There are many ways to participate, including: Speaking up in class, responding to instructor and peer questions, engaging in discussions during breakouts, using emojis/reactions, commenting via chat, and responding to polls. Instructors will monitor students’ total talk time, as well as other metrics related to participation. If your instructor observes a lack of engagement or participation during class, they may mark you absent. 

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

Yes, MCDO is a camera-on experience. You are required to use a personal computer with an operable web camera and microphone for every session. Forum is not available on tablets or smartphones. 

Log in from a distraction-free space and start every session with your camera and microphone on so that you can engage with your fellow students and instructor right away. Each session offers an eye rest break, but you can briefly step away if necessary.

We appreciate that some participants may have learning accommodations that apply to this course and its policies. Please let your instructor know of any applicable accommodations provided by USC’s Office of Student Accessibility Services (OSAS).

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

Students are allowed no more than two (2) excused class absences. Absences are counted whenever a student misses 30 minutes or more of a class session. Students with more than two (2) absences will not satisfy their degree requirement and must retake MCDO in a subsequent term. The absence policy is clearly outlined in your syllabus. 

Are there any homework assignments?

Yes, you will be assigned between 60 and 90 minutes of out-of-class preparation each week. This includes required class reading, as well as important workbook reflections and activities. Your instructor will review all assignments but they will not be graded.

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

All USC Annenberg graduate students are welcome to join MCDO, regardless of their year. 

Can I display my MCDO certificate on LinkedIn?

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

Is MCDO registered in the University’s class scheduling system?

No, you are not enrolling in this course via the same system as your other USC courses.

How often is MCDO offered?

MCDO is offered multiple times per week during each spring, summer and fall semester.

Who developed the Managing Complexity in Diverse Organizations (MCDO) 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