USC Annenberg Students to Take on New York City in Inaugural Maymester Program

For two weeks this summer, a group of USC Annenberg students will experience New York City’s vibrant media ecosystem — visiting legacy and new media companies, veterans of the business and its newest pioneers.

Students will hear first hand what it takes to make it in the business from a diverse array of media professionals: content creators, journalists, researchers, communications experts and top executives.

Gordon Stables, assistant dean for student affairs and Maymester program organizer, believes this opportunity will continue strengthening the relationship between USC Annenberg and New York City, as many students have already worked in the Big Apple through various internships and job opportunities.

“The Maymester is a showcase,” Stables said. “It allows talented students to get a behind-the-scenes view of the kinds of careers that an Annenberg graduate can earn in New York. The showcase also lets a number of high-profile employers see, first-hand, what makes USC Annenberg students special. All of this helps to make the experience of current students interning in NY a more natural part of the USC Annenberg experience.”

Sarah Banet-Weiser, director of the School of Communication, and Willow Bay, director of the School of Journalism, will co-teach the program, allowing students to learn from a cross disciplinary perspective.

“The value of having the two directors lead the program means that it’s both their professional associations and their wisdom that really get to be added to the program,” Stables said.

As a native New Yorker, Bay said she wants students be immersed in the city and its media-centric opportunities.

“But even more so, I am looking forward to introducing key players in New York City’s media industry to our students,” Bay said. “I know how fruitful this dialog will be.”

On a typical day, the small cohort of 16 selected USC Annenberg undergraduates will meet with one or two senior executives and, on some occasions, tour broadcast facilities or meeting environments. During the meetings, companies will give presentations on current trends in their industry, challenges and potential areas for growth. This will allow students to gain deeper insight into the day-to-day of operations of these various organizations.

Companies confirmed to participate in the course include ABC News, Sesame Workshop, Time Inc., the Department of Education, MSNBC, Huffington Post, Democracy Now, BET, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The New York Times and the NBA.

Stables explained that the program’s goal is really a continuum to what the school is already working toward.

“Its part of our broader effort to engage the communities of practice that we work with, and New York is really one of our greatest communities in that way,” Stables said.

Approximately 800 USC Annenberg alumni live in the Tri-state area, including 600 that live in New York, according to director of alumni relations Mara Simon-Meyer. Students will be able to mix and mingle with about 100 local alums during scheduled group lunches and dinners throughout the trip.

USC Annenberg organizes and puts on a number of similar networking events every year. The most recent was the “Meet the Directors” event, which was hosted at renowned chef and USC Annenberg parent Bobby Flay’s restaurant, Bar Americain.

“We had a very successful turnout at our ‘Meet the Directors’ event in NYC, where more than 60 alumni, parents and friends attended,” Simon-Meyer said.

The school also hosts “Coast to Coast,” an event series bringing USC Annenberg alumni together in cities beyond Los Angeles.

“Our alumni are an incredibly enthusiastic, supportive and passionate group, and our goal is to provide them with opportunities to stay involved with Annenberg in a variety of ways,” Simon-Meyer said.

Before the two-week excursion, students will complete readings and short research papers on the companies and organizations they will visit. This preliminary research will serve to drive the discussion led by individual students at each company meeting.

“Because all of that is done in advance, the students leave for the program with a set of notes that they and their classmates have written to provide the foundation for those conversations,” Stables said.

At the end of the course, Students will also complete a final reflection paper on their biggest takeaways from the trip.

But beyond the prep work, Suzanne Alcantara, director of Career Development for USC Annenberg, said she believes the students will benefit largely from the person-to-person meetings and conversations.

“These opportunities for unique connections and a deeper understanding of the media business is what I think makes the program incredibly noteworthy and special,” Alcantara said.

New York City is one of the most popular destinations to work for USC Annenberg alums, Stables explained. Moving forward, he said that the school hopes to continue getting more students engaged in work and study in New York.

“There’s already a very strong [USC] Annenberg community in New York,” Stables said. “This Maymester program is an opportunity for current students to get a chance to a see that up close.”

Additional reporting by McKenna Aiello & Caroline Kamerschen.