(left to right) Dean Ernest J. Wilson III, Jane Hufschmid and Hans Hufschmid.
USC Annenberg / Brett Van Ort

USC Annenberg and USC Marshall honor Robert V. Kozinets with endowed Hufschmid chair

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has announced that Robert V. Kozinets, a globally recognized expert in marketing research, strategy and social media, has been selected as the Jayne and Hans Hufschmid Chair in Strategic Public Relations and Business Communication.

The Hufschmid Chair is dedicated to future-focused, interdisciplinary scholarship combined with real-world practice. It is designed to provide academic and research leadership at the intersection of business and communication, moving the fields forward at a time of unprecedented disruption.

 “We set out to find a truly transformational, visionary scholar to fill a remarkable role,” said USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III. “And we found a one-of-a-kind scholar in Rob Kozinets. His range of expertise – from the disruption of media to how we create and consume it – will help the next generation of practitioners do more than react to change. It will help them influence it. We are so grateful to the Hufschmids for their vision in creating such a unique and integrative chair.”

Kozinets, who will hold a joint appointment with the USC Marshall School of Business, will create new classes and programs that explore and inform the evolution of media – and strengthen the critical connections among digital communications, networks, brands and entertainment.  

He comes to USC from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto and pioneered “netnography,” a type of applied anthropology that is used online. His innovative method, and his theories of branding, social media marketing and consumer culture are taught in classrooms around the world. And his work is used to address the challenges of business, at companies including American Express, TD Bank, Campbell Soup, Nissan, Sony, L’Oreal and Merck.

“Rob Kozinets embodies the cross-disciplinary approach that makes our graduates leaders in public relations and communication industries,” said Willow Bay, Director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. “But more than that, he looks for solutions to real-world media and business problems, which is an invaluable mindset for our students to embrace.”

To say that digital disruption is everywhere is almost a truism, Kozinets said.

“But what is not as obvious is that the disruption is not just technological or commercial – it is also cultural. Technology transforms societies, communities, governments and families as it is transforming corporations, because the communications between them are being rapidly altered.

“I am honored for the opportunity to pursue these critical issues as USC Annenberg’s Hufschmid Chair,” he said.

Kozinets, who has authored two books on netnography, has extensive experience as a public speaker, trainer and consultant. His work has been published in more than 60 marketing journals. At York University, he was Chair of the Marketing Department, and has also served on the faculty of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the University of Wisconsin in Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business.

He has a doctorate of Philosophy from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada; a Masters of business administration from York University; and a bachelor of business administration with honors from York University.

“It was not an easy chair to fill, because it represents a rare cross-section of business and communication,” said Hans Hufschmid, who co-founded GlobeOp Financial Services in 2000 and served as chair and CEO. “We are happy the university was able to identify a great candidate.”

Hans Hufschmid earned a bachelor of science in business administration from USC Marshall in 1983; Jayne Hufschmid earned a bachelor of arts from USC in 1975 and a Masters in Public Relations from USC in 1980. She is an independent public relations and communications professional.

Jayne Hufschmid said she and her husband, in their work lives, saw a need for the practice of PR to mesh more effectively with business. In practice, PR professionals need to understand how business functions – especially in a new, disrupted world of social media – and how to communicate with their business colleagues, she said.

“We’re excited to establish something that bridges the two disciplines,” Jayne Hufschmid said. “And Robert Kozinets seems like he’s perfectly placed to lead students who want to work in both worlds.”

The Hufschmids have been long time supporters of USC, and their previous gifts include support for the creation of the USC Annenberg Bill Faith Scholarship Endowment, as well as a $300,000 gift to endow the USC Trojans football team kicker position. Their latest contribution is part of the Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort to secure $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand its positive impact on the community and world.

“Both of us had a great education at USC,” Jayne Hufschmid said. “It really laid the foundation for everything that came next in our lives and careers, so we very much wanted to give that same thing back to the university and to the students.”

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a national leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,000 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, graduate and undergraduate degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals, across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school's comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university in a global urban environment.