Audience members listen to Silicon Valley Entrepreneur, Investor and Author Peter Thiel as he visited the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Gift to help USC Annenberg build a bridge from classroom to board room

USC Annenberg has more to offer than a world-class education. From real-world experience in the converged Media Center to internationally recognized research, the school is on the cutting-edge of the communication and journalism fields. With a recent gift, this work will go far beyond the walls of the Annenberg School and Wallis Annenberg Hall.
A generous gift from Rick and Shelley Kuhle — parents of two USC Annenberg students and one alumna — has supported the launch of Annenberg Works, a comprehensive initiative that links industry partners with the USC Annenberg community. In doing so, Annenberg Works will expose corporate partners to the breadth and depth of talent within USC Annenberg, with the expectation of building a pipeline of new employment opportunities for graduates.
“What we are most excited about this program is that it will differentiate USC Annenberg from other top tier programs and guarantee not only jobs upon graduation but meaningful and impactful employment,” Rick Kuhle said. Josh Larsen, director of development at USC Annenberg, worked with the Kuhles to help define the gift. Larsen describes the overall goal as a “refocusing” of the work done by Career Services. “In the past we’ve been reactive,” Larsen said. “We’ve responded when a student has a particular desire to work in a field or work with a certain company … We wanted to flip that upside down and be more proactive. We’re grateful to Shelley and Rick for their partnership in launching this exciting new initiative that will benefit the USC Annenberg community for years to come.”
Part of being proactive included hiring two new positions: an alumni career counselor, to assess the needs of alumni, and a corporate liaison, to build relationships with companies to bring new employment opportunities to the USC Annenberg community. “Part of my role is really figuring out what’s the best way to engage companies,” Miracle McClain, the new corporate liaison, said of her job. Only a few weeks on the job and McClain has already launched a concerted effort to start to develop a strategic relationship with targeted companies. These relationships will lend themselves to more than simply internships and job offers. Events like career treks will offer students the opportunity to visit with companies in the field they’re studying to learn more about the industry while simultaneously allowing these corporate partners to personally meet many talented members of USC Annenberg student body.  “That’s new and that’s what I think is really going to ignite Annenberg Works,” McClain said. “Getting students up and out of the university and into the trenches of advertising companies, digital brand companies, journalism and broadcast companies.”
Once students have left USC Annenberg to begin their careers, there has been limited support from offices like Career Services. However this new gift and expansion allowed the school to hire Tiffany Madden, the new alumni career counselor and assessment coordinator. Madden will be sending out assessments for young alumni in order to gauge what they need and want from USC Annenberg as they begin their careers. Madden said the recent economic situation has caused a unique set of needs for young alumni that the school had not met. Outreach to those recently out of school is a top priority for her to assess what more the school can do to support them. Even mid-career alumni, perhaps looking to change fields or move into a management position, can take advantage of the new programming designed to meet their needs. But alumni relations are not limited to their own career searches. Madden also plans to build relationships with alumni that will then come back to campus and speak with students, playing to the value of the ever-present Trojan Family.
“I foresee us doing more and more alumni speaker panels,” Madden said. “I think it’s absolutely invaluable for our students to see and hear from those who have been in their shoes, who have walked these halls, have taken these classes, and can talk about they’ve come out on the other side.”
Some of these changes began in the fall semester, like the Insider Insights speaker series which brings high profile alumni to campus, offering advice to students. Director of Career Development, Suzanne Alcantara, said she is excited to see the office grow.
“The employability of our students is our number one goal, so it’s really exciting to have the bandwidth of two additional people and to really be thinking about our efforts in creative ways,” Alcantara said. “In particular, we look forward to measuring the impact of these new activities to make sure they’re achieving the greatest possible benefit to the USC Annenberg community.”
One large project launching this year is the Maymester program. A group of students will be traveling to New York City at the end of the semester to spend time meeting with different organizations, networking with alumni, and learning about the unique aspects of the NYC media industry. “That program is also running through this office,” Alcantara said. “We will be working some of our alumni angles and our industry contacts. There’s a lot of student excitement, and I think it’s going to be phenomenal that it’s happening as part of this initiative as well. And, of course, we’re excited about the prospect of connecting with new companies and showing them all that the USC Annenberg student body has to offer.”
Click here for a PDF of the Annenberg Works calendar.