Taking the Boring Out of Research

Samantha Rothschild, MCM Candidate, Class of 2016

When I was first applying to colleges it seemed like I could never get away from the common slogan: “we have great research opportunities!” At a certain point, research felt like it was a given. Of course school X, Y and Z would have amazing research opportunities. It became a vague, overhead term that did not mean much, yet was supposed to mean a whole lot. But, when I came to USC, I found out exactly how Annenberg’s research studies truly stood out from the rest of the nation. Through Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative, spearheaded by Dr. Stacy Smith, Marc Choueiti, and Dr. Katherine Pieper, I have learned how exciting and fulfilling research can be.

The MDSC initiative focuses on gender and race portrayals in popular film and TV, documenting gender and race/ethnicity of those behind the camera, and addressing other questions of inequality in the media. I first started with the MDSC Initiative three years ago coding characters in top grossing films of 2011. At the time, I didn’t even know what a content analysis study was, let alone how it worked, but with their intensive training I certainly found out. Stacy, Marc, and Kate’s professionalism and demand for perfection leads to high-quality work done with integrity. Weeks of training, multiple coders on a single film, and numerous checks ensure a level of excellence that no other study on these topics can compete against. I feel personal pride when I see studies that I have contributed to being published in outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, BBC News, and Forbes.

Not only do I feel like I am contributing to something special, but I also am proud to work in an environment where the Trojan Family rings true. The MDSC Initiative is a community, balancing professionalism with friendships. This summer we celebrated Marc’s birthday complete with snacks, soda, and of course, a birthday cake. In addition, at the end of each semester, Stacy, Marc, and Kate throw a party for everyone on the team to celebrate all our accomplishments.

The MDSC initiative has defined such a large part of my Annenberg experience. When asked what my favorite part of being in Annenberg is by a professor, I excitingly answered “research.” Annenberg takes Communication seriously and does so with a unique element of family that I truly believe cannot be found anywhere else in the country.