Dissertation diversity demonstrates School’s scope

From the ethics of organ donation to communications in video gaming, the dissertations produced by the 14 doctoral students graduating this year from USC Annenberg echo and reflect the school’s wide range of scholarship, interest and disciplines.

Other USC Annenberg Ph.D. recipients this year wrote theses with titles such as, “Mapping Out The Transition Toward Information Societies: Social Nature, Growth and Politics” (by Martin Hilbert); “The Emergence of Green IT: The Formation and Implementation of Green IT Strategy and Organizational Change in IT Organizations” (by Jingfang Liu); and, “Helping Haiti: A Rhetorical Analysis of the 2010 Haiti Network Relief Movement” (by Diana Winkelman).

“The diversity of our students' work is dizzying, and is a constant reminder of the immense breadth and power of communication research,” said Communication Professor and doctoral chair Dmitri Williams. “Our students are creating the future with a mix of methods – and on topics that impact Main Street, Wall Street, and our homes and families.”

Communication Professor and Director of Doctoral Studies G. Thomas Goodnight observed that the students’ work produces “a convergence of theory and practice that creates a unique perspective.”

Goodnight has been director of USC Annenberg’s doctoral program since 2002. During a recent interview, he described the field of communication as “a discipline that deals with how messages are circulated and connected across the globe.” Goodnight added: “Annenberg students seem to be leading research along these particular lines.”

Goodnight was the chair of three dissertations this year, including Ryan Gillespie’s that examined organ donation in the United States and the ethics of donating and selling organs. Gillespie said he was impressed – but far from shocked – by the range of issues addressed by his cohort.

“I have learned not to be surprised at the diversity of topics and theoretical and methodological approaches found in our school,” said Gillespie. “It is a very cool thing.”

Adam Kahn’s dissertation, chaired by Williams, looked at video game teams and how they utilize available communication channels. “Annenberg's breadth allows us to come out of the program with a basic understanding of a little bit of everything so that we can converse with scholars across the discipline,” said Kahn.

Goodnight, the doctoral program director, points out that USC Annenberg’s “palette of study” is broad by design. “We accommodate different kinds of methodological approaches,” said Goodnight. “When you have that, you create flexibility for students so they bring and translate their own backgrounds into productive work.”

Learn more about USC Annenberg Doctoral Students