Parents take pictures of their graduates during the 2014 USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism's Commencement, Friday May 16, 2014, in Los Angeles, California.
USC Photo by Gus Ruelas

Two brothers, two degrees, one Annenberg

When they arrived for commencement on May 16, the Santelli family had two Annenberg grads to celebrate—brothers James, 22, who received his B.A. in Broadcast and Digital Journalism, and Andrew, 31, who earned a Master’s in Communication Management. The brothers shared a school and a commencement ceremony, but their day-to-day experiences at USC could not have been more distinct. “I was meeting some of my classmates in person for the first time,” recalls Andrew, a mid-career professional who earned his degree entirely online thanks to Annenberg’s innovative program. “James was saying goodbye to friends, classmates, and a campus he called home for the last four years.” Despite the fact that it was one of his few times on campus, for Andrew being part of the procession and “knowing that my brother was there too, was a moment I'll never forget--I really felt like part of the Trojan Family.” And as soon as he crossed the stage at the Communication ceremony, he raced next door to the Journalism ceremony to see his brother and fellow Annenberg grad receive his own diploma. We asked the brothers about their experiences—one virtual, one brick-and-mortar—and how online scholarship differs from on-campus learning.

James Santelli -

Degree: B.A. in Broadcast and Digital Journalism with a minor in Sports Media Studies

Job: Currently searching for an on-camera sports reporting job.

What led you to Annenberg?

When I was growing up, I would see my brother (he’s 9.5 years older than I am) do things I would want to do: He did public address announcing for different sports at Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh and Eckerd College in Florida. At Eckerd College, he covered sports for the student newspaper. I saw him doing the things I wanted to do, and I guess those goals stuck with me. I did public address announcing at Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh for basketball, lacrosse, volleyball and field hockey, and then tried to cover every sport I could at USC.

What were some defining moments of your time at USC/Annenberg?

The opportunity to intern with NBC at the London Olympics; covering last fall's upset over Stanford from the field and filming (for ATVN) the storm of people rushing the Coliseum field; doing radio play-by-play for USC baseball; writing game stories about USC football and basketball for Neon Tommy; and overall just having a great group of people to work with at both ATVN Sports and Neon Tommy.

What was important about being on-campus?

Being in the classroom was vital for my path in broadcasting. Learning about how to shoot, edit and write television packages required personal interaction with my professors, and I had some great broadcasting professors in Graham Robertson, Jeff Wald and Judy Muller. I got great feedback from them, and I saw the progression in the quality of my packages. If I had not been there in person, I don't think I would have improved so quickly.

How do you think your brother’s Annenberg experience differed from yours?

It was completely different to be in-person and to be online! He didn't get to make friends in Parkside Arts & Humanities his freshman year. He didn't get to cover games and athletes like I did. He wasn't in the ATVN newsroom. But from what he has told me, Andrew still got the opportunity to work on projects with classmates from around the globe. It sounds like his classes were much more oriented to group projects than mine were. And of course, he could be attending his classes in boxer shorts. My professors probably would have frowned upon such behavior.

Andrew Santelli - @andrewsantelli

Degree: Master’s of Communication Management

Job: When I started the degree, I was living in Orlando, Florida and working in internal communications at Disney Cruise Line. Shortly after my coursework was complete this past December, I was promoted to a new manager role at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online in California, where I use what I learned at Annenberg almost every day.

What led you to Annenberg?

We were brought up in a family (I'm the oldest of our 4, James is the youngest, we have two sisters in between us) where we were really encouraged to pursue our passions, whatever they were.

What were some defining moments of your time at Annenberg?

Two experiences are prominent in my mind. The first was the variety of group projects and case studies we undertook--no small feat across time zones in the U.S. and abroad. For example, with one group I worked on a strategic communication plan for a non-profit that provides low-income housing to those in need around Las Vegas...real-world stuff which required original research and collaboration with my classmates. The second was my capstone practicum. For this course, which takes up the last two terms, you create a project entirely of your own design: a traditional research paper, a case study, a guide for practitioners in your field, etc. You work with a peer group to review each other's work on a regular basis, but it is all up to you. For mine, I investigated critical factors in the credibility of executive speeches. I created an experiment to test the effects of pace of speech, attire and setting on how audiences perceive an executive's credibility. It required hours of research and data analysis, not to mention writing, so it was a true culmination of everything I learned at Annenberg.

How was returning to school in an online program while working as a professional in the field?

The first term, when I took Managing Communication and Uses of Communication Research, was an eye-opener, particularly when it came to the pace of the work and the difference in course delivery than what I was used to from my undergraduate experience…What made it smoother, though, were my talented classmates and the dedicated Annenberg faculty and staff who were always a phone call, email, Skype chat or Google Hangout away. My online learning experience was outstanding. I was nervous at first, as I'd come from a traditional liberal arts undergraduate experience, but the collaboration tools and online delivery system were easy to adjust to. As a working professional, I'm used to coordinating projects across offices and time zones, and so to study alongside students who were similarly adept made the process much smoother.

How do you think your brother’s Annenberg experience differed from yours?

There are a ton of ways our experiences were different. James lived on campus and was able to take advantage of all the extracurricular experiences that USC offers, not to mention life in Southern California. Having watched him grow through his four years at USC, I could really tell how the traditional undergraduate experience allowed for his self-discovery and growth. I chose Annenberg for my own reasons, to help me along with my professional development, but the positive experiences he was having there definitely made me more comfortable with my decision. While our goals and courses were much different, from an academic perspective we both had the elements I think Annenberg is known for: challenging coursework led by insightful faculty focused on what's currently happening in the communication and journalism fields.