It’s hard to offer predictions in a world still navigating a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. But, if I were to bet on one thing it would be the USC Annenberg Class of 2022. With all their passion, purpose and mission-critical communication skills, I believe they will command our attention in the next year and beyond.
As Melissa Waggener Zorkin, global CEO and founder of WE Communications, and a member of the USC Center for Public Relations board of advisors, shared with us during a recent event, “Communication is one of the most powerful tools and facilitators of the things we need to get done in this world.”
Our graduates have acquired the expertise to do just that, along with a deep understanding of the power of the stories we tell. Their “soft skills” — or “human skills” as I prefer to call them — have never been more relevant, or more necessary.
When LinkedIn considered upcoming shifts in work, it pointed out that “soft skills” such as communication and reasoning are in high demand. That’s not a void that robots or artificial intelligence can fill. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the communication and media industries will grow 14% between 2020 and 2030, resulting in more than 150,000 new jobs for writers, producers, editors, translators, and creators across platforms.
Our Class of 2022 will join the workforce with a firm grasp on what it means to be changemakers as communication continues to reshape the way we live, work, play, solve problems and consider our future. In our classrooms, they have been analyzing and reflecting — in real-time — upon the profound disruption, re-invention, innovation in media and communication, particularly the ways in which media is produced, distributed, consumed and understood. Along with these changes, they have been asking urgent questions about civil discourse, free speech, access to information, the spread of misinformation, the erosion of trust, truth and accuracy.
As a result of their education, lived experiences and professional development, I know this class will help solve some of our most intractable societal problems. I also know they will inspire us in the process.
Take Steven Vargas, “a complete superstar who is talented on more fronts than I can name” according to one of his professors. Not only does Vargas have a track record of journalistic achievements and accolades, he is also a member of the Equity Board, an Annenberg Media initiative dedicated to promoting inclusive coverage. Or what about Caitlin Hernández? Their work as a leader at Annenberg Media has elevated the stories of LGBTQ+ communities with nuance and rigor. And then there’s ZaZu Lippert, who after realizing her passion for radio, is now the executive producer of #PRFuture, a podcast that covers shifts in the PR industry’s approach to complex issues such as polarization and activism.
Steven, Caitlin and ZaZu are three out of hundreds of examples I could give of USC Annenberg students who give us hope. Given the challenges we face, we need their energy and determination more than ever. But, they need our help, too. They need mentorship. They need us to listen. With 2022 on the horizon, I can’t think of a more important use of our resources.
I have seen the future. I can’t wait for you to work alongside them.