A Note of Thanks from Dean Willow Bay

Three years, four cities, 54 companies and more than 80 students later, Maymester has become one of USC Annenberg’s signature experiences. I continue to be touched by the thank-you notes like these that I receive upon our return.

“The Maymester program is the most life-changing thing I have been a part of while at USC.”

“I am a first generation college student whose parents migrated from Guatemala. Many families that come from humble beginnings do not have the expertise in venture capitalism and start-up companies. When your parents are living paycheck to paycheck, they teach you about working harder than anyone else in the room, counting your blessings and being grateful for the months that the rent is paid on time. As a result of attending the Maymester, these silos were broken down. For two whole weeks, the walls that blocked my vision for the future became transparent and permeable.”

“I have learned so much about journalism, media, critical thinking, storytelling and empathy from you.”

“I have been able to find my dream jobs, jobs I didn’t even know existed. I have had conversations with people I could only dream of talking to, and have made valuable connections with alumni who have taught me so much.”

As I read these messages, I realized how profoundly grateful I am to lead this experience and to share this journey that touches so many parts of our USC Annenberg network. 

I, too, have many thank you’s to express.

To our former dean Ernest J. Wilson and Mark Greenberg, chair of our Board of Councilors, whose desire to expand USC Annenberg’s presence in New York inspired the program’s creation. To our tremendous career development team — Suzanne Alcantara and Miracle McClain — who are the driving operational force in putting everything together. To our faculty, including Sarah Banet-Weiser,  Burghardt TenderichChristopher Smith and Lisa Pecot-Hébert, who craft curricula and agendas that reflect the media ecosystem of each city. And, most especially, to everyone who answered my calls and emails with “Yes, we’d love to have your students visit.”

What this trip showcases is the full strength of the Annenberg Advantage as we come together to offer students a real-time glimpse into the disruption, innovation and accelerated pace of change in today’s media environment. We also ensure they have a lot of fun in between whether it’s intimate get-togethers with parents and alumni over dinner or attending a night game at Yankee Stadium. 

Before we depart from USC, faculty lead two seminars to prepare students. Diving into publicly available research, they compile briefing books and a series of questions to guide their informational interviews. Then they travel to San Francisco, the cities of Silicon Valley or New York to meet on-site with an average of 15 industry-leading companies in each city such as Pixar, the NBA and ABC News, The New York Times, and Facebook. We also add new names and faces each year — vibrant newcomers with fresh perspectives like those from the start-up and nonprofit sectors. Students interact with a range of professionals — from those just getting started in their careers to those at the helm. 

Each visit is as unique as the company that hosts us. Through these organizations’ incredible generosity, our students’ eyes are opened to a world of possibility. Our hosts offer us an invaluable window into their workplaces, provide insight into the challenges and opportunities that confront them each day, share their career paths and advice, and often ask students for their perspectives. Students ultimately leave with a real sense of what it would be like to work and live in these cities.

I always finish the two-week trip exhausted, exhilarated and inspired to partner with our faculty, staff, hosts, alumni and parents to create the “trip-of-a-lifetime” for our students. I am deeply grateful for all their support as we continue to connect the rich and rigorous academic life in USC Annenberg’s classrooms to the intellectual growth and professional opportunities that await them.

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