Miki Turner remembers exactly where she was when she received an email from Reagan Griffin, Jr.: L.A.’s Citadel Outlets.
“I stopped to read Reagan’s email on my phone and there was a picture of him holding his USC acceptance letter,” said Turner, professor of professional practice of journalism. “I literally started jumping up and down; people thought I was crazy.”
Turner had taught Griffin as a rising high school senior from Memphis in USC Summer Programs’ sports journalism course, and the two immediately forged a bond. At the time, Griffin recalls thinking that he wasn’t even sure he could get into a school like USC, but then Turner said something that completely changed his outlook.
“During one of the last days of the program, Ms. Turner pulled me aside and said, ‘Reagan, is this something that you really want to do? Because, if it is, I think you have a very bright future in it,’” he said. “That was the push that I needed to say, ‘I can go all-in on this and give it 110%.’”
Once Griffin began his studies at USC Annenberg in Fall 2019, it seemed only natural for his mentor/mentee relationship with Turner to continue through Annenberg Resources and Mentoring (ARM). The program, which Turner established in 2017, matches first-year and transfer students with a faculty or staff member, who provides one-on-one guidance.
ARM is one of three mentoring and support programs USC Annenberg offers its students to help them feel a greater sense of community within the school and the university.
USC Annenberg also tapped into its alumni network to create Seeing ME in the MEdia, which pairs first-generation and BIPOC students with alumni to encourage career exploration. Since its inception in 2019, the program has matched 29 alumni mentors with 29 graduate and undergraduate mentees.
This Fall, as all classes moved online, USC Annenberg launched Student Communities to promote peer-to-peer conversations and knowledge sharing. Made up of five to seven students across majors and class standings, each group is facilitated by a faculty member, staff member or alumna/us and meets at least twice a month.
“There has never been a more critical time for us to offer our students these three distinct ways to create personal and meaningful connections with each other, and with our faculty, staff and alumni,” said Suzanne Alcantara, assistant dean of student affairs.
Turner believes these programs will gain even more momentum this academic year.
“We’re seeing a lot of need, not only for first-generation students and students of color, but even our more privileged students need a little help to navigate this new environment and this new climate,” she said. “My hope is we can be there to help them along this journey.”
Griffin says the advice and direction Turner has provided was invaluable during his first year and beyond. While they often trade jabs on their rival sports teams — Griffin is a Lakers fan and Turner roots for the Clippers — she has already helped him break into the sports journalism world by creating his own basketball podcast, Hoop + Holler, with fellow students Eddie Sun and Julio Martinez. In June, following the police killing of George Floyd and the protests for racial justice that followed, Turner connected Griffin with The Undefeated to publish his first article, “A letter to my white friends.”
“For me, finding a mentor was just a matter of, ‘Who's a person that has my best interest at heart, that I trust, and that knows their way around the industry?’” Griffin said. “Ms. Turner has a vision for what's going to work. And she saw it in me.”
USC Annenberg students are encouraged to apply for the Annenberg Resources and Mentoring, Seeing ME in the MEdia, and Student Communities programs here.