On Wednesday, Wallis Annenberg Hall had its grand opening ceremony and reception to commemorate the completion of the building and to showcase its exciting new features.
The ceremony gathered a large number of trustees and spectators who came to support the expansion of the new USC Annenberg building. Dean Ernest Wilson opened the occasion by looking back to a moment he shared with philanthropist Wallis Annenberg.
“In 2010, Wallis Annenberg and I began a conversation,” Wilson said. “We reflected together on the importance of journalism and communication for the future of democracy in the United States of America. She described her deep commitment to the eternal values to openness, inclusion and transparency. This conversation that we had spread to the Annenberg community as a whole.”
USC President C. L. Max Nikias thanked Annenberg for her generosity and continual support for the field of journalism. Annenberg then took the podium and stated that she couldn’t think of a more worthy investment.
At the reception, hundreds of guests were invited to take a tour throughout the massive 88,000-square-foot building to get a sneak peak at the tools USC Annenberg students use on a regular basis.
On every level of ANN, guests were welcomed to walk in and view facilities like the media center where they had a chance to see students at work. Since the commencement of classes in late August, students have become familiar with the new amenities that have been instrumental to their education.
“The media center is the point of the building,” Moulite said. “The point is to get more comfortable with the idea of continually working together and feeding off of different outlets.”
Maritza and her sister Jessica Moulite, M.S. journalism, attended the reception and sat watching the spectators from the building’s forum. Both students devote an eight-hour shift once a week to work on news assignments in the media center. They develop stories for several Annenberg organizations within the facility.
Jessica explained that she recently went to the Superior Court of Los Angeles to cover an event for Hispanic heritage month. She was thrilled to produce a story on that event for ATVN and ARN.
“It’s just cool to see how I’m able to use the different resources at the school to tell as many stories as I can,” Jessica said.
Similarly, Mirian Fuentes, second year broadcast student, dedicates four hours each week to ATVN as part of her broadcast class requirement. Fuentes explained that she likes the practicality of applying what she’s learned in her broadcast class to ATVN.
“I really like this new building and it’s a reminder that we’re up to date on where we’re suppose to be,” Fuentes said.
Fuentes met with her friend Kate Guarino, a second year print journalism student, in the building’s forum. They both stood in front of the new media wall that was recently placed in the forum in preparation for the grand opening.
Guarino has favoredthe amount of space the new building offers, and she particularly likes the collaboration opportunities she’s faced.
“I work in Intersections of South LA, so I’m not in the media center as much but I think it’s interesting how we can pull our resources,”Guarino said. “If Intersections has a South LA story that they want to collaborate with Neon Tommy, all we have to do is go right in here.”
Nevertheless, Annenberg students are not the only individuals that have taken advantage of the new building and what it has to offer. Other USC students have visited the site to study or to simply admire its architectural design.
Daniel Huang, fourth year civil engineer student, has frequently visited the ANN building to study on its second or third floors, but what has drawn him is the aesthetically pleasing qualities of Wallis Annenberg Hall.
“I really like the atrium and all the windows since they let a lot of light into the building,” Huang said. “Its makes for a warm and lively environment to study in and having that kind of environment helps me stay focused.”
Lee is a professor of journalism and integrated marketing communications at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She began developing online courses 15 years ago, when she began exploring more effective methods of teaching and learning.
“I didn’t like school very much and I wondered why that was,” Lee said. “I wondered why school didn’t create in me the amount of curiosity and exploration that I actually enjoy.”
She added that her interest was in knowledge transfer and “how knowledge moves from someone who understands it to someone who is eager to utilize it,” and began looking into online learning.
At the time, online learning was considered “the fantasy of the future,” but has since become a much more pervasive method of learning. According to Lee, nearly 33 percent of higher education students are currently taking at least one course online. She added that online learning is not a new concept, though people talk about it that way.
“Our grandparents took correspondence courses or some form of distance learning,” Lee said. “It’s just evolved and technology has managed to make it that much better.”
Lee has developed online courses for Northwestern, as well as “Post MasterClass” for The Washington Post, which is a series of online courses led by newsroom experts on various topics.
One of her most recent projects was designing courses for Semester Online, which allows students from 10 schools to take online courses from any of the other participating schools.
Lee has also been working with developing MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), the latest trend in online learning. The idea behind MOOCs is that participating schools are providing access to free education to as many people as possible..
But, only five percent of college campuses currently offer MOOCs. And though that number is growing, Lee said there are concerns about course completion, the revenue model, student authentication and accreditation.
Additionally, MOOCs were created primarily to give people in underdeveloped places the opportunity to get an education, but Lee said that the vast majority of people taking MOOCs already have college degrees. However, “people feel like it’s a moment in time where you can use technology and knowledge and make it broad for a whole range of people.”
Lee said that her teaching style has changed since teaching online. It’s forced her to “think about how to make [classes] interesting, and for [her], to know that everybody in a class has got it.”
There are also methods that allow teachers and schools to experiment with and restructure online learning. One of them is the “flipped” classroom, in which students view recorded lectures online prior to coming to class.
Lee also proposed the “blended” learning experience, in which students take courses in a classroom for 3 years and then take their final year of courses online. She argued that a school as selective as USC would then be able to admit an additional class of students. Additionally, students pursuing careers that require experience with technology and the web – which is an expanding pool – get more exposure while in college.
While USC may not be “blending,” it has begun expanding its online offerings —Annenberg included — which raises concerns for some.
Annenberg Professor Gabe Kahn, who has done research on online education, pointed out that schools such as USC and Northwestern, who have a high cost of attendance, need some kind of strategy in approaching online courses.
“The reason why they can charge so much — and have that pricing power — is because of their scarcity, in terms of the number of people who are allowed in,” Kahn said. “As we are going to dramatically increase supply of these educational products, there’s going to be no way to maintain that pricing power.”
But, the potential gains are worth the challenges. Kahn added that it is clear that “the use of technology can drive more effective learning.”
And Annenberg’s online Master of Communication Management degree program, which graduated its 100th student this summer, is an example of that, making use of live video sessions and collaboration tools.
“The debate, I think, is over,” Neil Teixeira, Annenberg’s director of distance learning, said. “They both have their merits, but I would say that online, when done well, meets or exceeds expectations that most people have of an on-campus, traditional program.”
The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism today inaugurated a new era of digital media education, communication and production with the Grand Opening of the visionary Wallis Annenberg Hall.
A crowd of more than 500 students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and friends of USC Annenberg cheered the ribbon-cutting that marked the official opening of the 88,000-square-foot, future-focused facility that rises from the center of USC’s campus. Cardinal and gold metallic streamers filled the air as members of the Trojan Marching Band trumpeted the occasion. School and university leaders heralded the building as an expression of the school’s dedication to transparency, collaboration and experimentation. As the digital media revolution pushes ahead, Wallis Annenberg Hall is uniquely prepared to help build the next generation of communicators.
Thanks to philanthropist Wallis Annenberg, students will have access to the digital tools of the future in the richest of learning environments, said USC President C.L. Max Nikias. It is her sustained support of USC Annenberg that has allowed it to flourish, he said.
“Bearing testament to Wallis’s vision of access and connectivity, the building is full of spaces that encourage collaboration and cooperation,” Nikias told the crowd that gathered around the tall glass entranceway leading into the building’s four-story atrium. “It is also home to some of the most creative minds – faculty and students – who will push the limits of technology, communication and journalism. They will redefine how we connect, how we think and how we access information and experience our days.”
The $59 million building, initiated by a lead gift of $50 million from the Annenberg Foundation, was designed with the input of students, faculty and staff. The physical spaces and digital networks comprise a learning and production laboratory unique to an academic environment – a place where students and scholars can be nimble and innovative as they work collaboratively.
“In today’s dynamic era, communication is at the center of everything. Wallis Annenberg Hall is a perfect example of that – a pulsing, networked, fully collaborative space,” said USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III. “It embodies our values and guides our actions and ambitions as we study, chronicle and invent the future of journalism, public relations and communication.”
At the heart of the building is a 20,000-square-foot Media Center – a newsroom that fully converges audio, video and text production for delivery on all platforms. It combines the school’s student-run digital, broadcast, radio and public relations operations. Journalism and communication students share material and expertise among platforms, using up-to-the-minute technologies. Television, radio and direct-to-Web video broadcast studios are multipurpose and allow students to stream professional-quality programming to any medium seamlessly.
“Here, students will acquire legacy skills and legacy ethics while learning how to use modern platforms,” Nikias said. “They will balance the demand for instantaneous information with the time-tested traditions of storytelling. They will, in a time of converged media, master all domains of contemporary journalism and move between them fluidly.”
From the beginning, the idea of the Media Center helped spark the vision for the entire building, said Wallis Annenberg, who as president and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation directed the gift that initiated planning for the building.
“It started with the idea that the real future of journalism – the students here – should learn and train and innovate in the kind of 21st century newsroom, the kind of interactive, multimedia incubator, that should be commonplace in 10 or 15 years,” Annenberg told the crowd gathered to celebrate the building named in her honor.
“It started with the notion that a great school of journalism and communication leads the way, serves as a laboratory for change. It doesn’t just anticipate the future, but wills it into being.”
Nikias took the opportunity to publicly thank Wallis Annenberg, whom he called the “Dean” of the USC Board of Trustees. She has been a lifelong advocate for the essential role journalism plays in enriching society and sustaining democracy, he said, but now Wallis Annenberg Hall will forever link her name with the University.
“As USC’s longest-serving Trustee, Wallis has provided strong guidance and counsel to this university for over 40 years,” Nikias said, drawing applause and cheers from the audience. Thanks to her support, USC will “forever give Annenberg students access to a world of exciting possibilities, where they will create and convey timeless stories that connect and chronicle the human journey.
“And for this, Wallis, we will be forever grateful.”
The Annenberg Foundation and the Annenberg family have contributed a total of $350 million to USC, beginning with Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg, who founded USC Annenberg in 1971.
MSNBC anchor and USC Annenberg alumna Alex Witt, as a featured speaker of the Grand Opening ceremony, told the audience that she hires interns every semester for her show, so she’s familiar with the competition USC students and graduates face as they launch their careers.
“I am 1000 percent confident the students here are being educated in the premiere facility in this country. There is nothing like it anywhere,” Witt said. “USC students are going to come out of this place, and they’re going to be competitive not only with those who are also applying for jobs, they’re going to be head and shoulders above the rest of them.”
The first steps through Wallis Annenberg Hall’s collegiate Gothic exterior reveal a Greek assembly-style forum, topped with a towering atrium and skylight. The forum is designed to encourage impromptu gatherings as well as host guest lectures and programs. A 30-foot digital media wall will greet visitors as a real-time showcase of student programming.
Throughout the building, collaborative spaces drive the design. Students are drawn into reconfigurable project areas with movable walls, a digital lounge providing ongoing technical training and workshops, open study areas and drop-in spaces. Corners easily become meeting areas, thanks to well-placed chairs and electrical outlets. Hallways are lined with whiteboards, allowing for impromptu conversations and meet-ups.
And anywhere that glass could replace drywall, it does. The philosophies of sharing and transparency are clearly visible.
Behind the scenes, a central media ecosystem – unique for an academic environment – encourages digital collaboration by communication and journalism faculty, students and scholars. Wallis Annenberg Hall boasts an integrated multimedia system built on a 500-terabyte, private media cloud. Students can strip, rebuild and transfer projects seamlessly from a range of sources – including classrooms, Media Center workstations and laptops – deliver programming ready for use on TV, radio or the Web.
With the new era of entrepreneurial journalism and communication in mind, USC Annenberg designed a glassed-in “do-it-yourself” video broadcast studio, visible from Childs Way, featuring technology that allows any student to direct and produce a Web or TV program while sitting in front of the camera. The one-man-band studio is an example of the technology being used to spark students’ creativity and innovation.
The space likely will be used in ways the technologists haven’t even thought of, school leaders said.
Among the building’s other features:
- Five floors and 23 classrooms
- 3,000 wired data ports and full WiFi, including 111 hotspots
- 148-seat auditorium and an Italian bistro-style café
Design and architecture of Wallis Annenberg Hall is by Harley Ellis Devereaux, in partnership with Bernards as the general contractor. The new building, on the west side of Pertusati Bookstore, supplements the school’s operations in its flagship building on Watt Way.
An integral part of Wallis Annenberg Hall is USC Annenberg’s new nine-month journalism master’s degree. The program launched in August, and students in the inaugural class already are using the advanced technology of the classrooms and the Media Center to produce journalism across all platforms. Dean Wilson has dubbed the degree “a new program in a new building for a new era.”
Fall 2014 also brings both of USC Annenberg’s schools, the School of Communication and the School of Journalism, two new directors – Sarah Banet-Weiser and Willow Bay, respectively. Two years after launching a $150 million fundraising initiative, USC Annenberg has raised more than $100 million for Wallis Annenberg Hall, scholarships and fellowships, chaired professorships and new student projects. The initiative is part of the broader Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multi-year effort to raise $6 billion for the university’s academic, community and capital priorities. Three years after its launch, the campaign has raised more than $3.6 billion.
For more information about Wallis Annenberg Hall, visit the #ANNHallPass homepage, where you can find photos, an interactive timeline documenting the building’s design and construction, an audio playlist in honor of the new facility and more.
At USC Annenberg, media and entertainment go hand in hand.
This belief was solidified several years ago, when a committee devoted to entertainment studies at USC Annenberg was formed, Professor Alison Trope recalled.
The committee examined the school’s entertainment courses and programs, as well as Annenberg’s “place in the larger university sphere in terms of entertainment studies,” and the result was the Communication and the Entertainment Industry minor.
The minor was built around its cornerstone course, COMM 300: “Foundations for the Study of Entertainment, Communication and Society,” which has been taught since the mid-2000s. Trope, who teaches several courses for the minor, said the minor aims to address the scope of entertainment studies.
“I think that the word ‘entertainment’ can mean a lot of different things,” Trope said. “In the context of the minor, I think we’re trying to look at different media industries that fall under that general umbrella of entertainment.”
Those industries include film and television, advertising, fashion, music and social media, which are examined from an economic and cultural standpoint as “products and commodities.”
In many ways, Trope said, the minor provides “the foundation of critical analysis that is at the base of a liberal arts education.”
The core courses — COMM 300, COMM 310: “Media and Society,” “COMM 384: Interpreting Popular Culture,” and “COMM 395: Gender, Media, and Communication” — demonstrate the breadth of the minor’s curriculum.
COMM 310, taught by Professor Robert Scheer, looks at “big picture issues,” welcoming a different guest speaker each week.
Rania Aniftos, a sophomore Print and Digital Journalism major, recently declared the minor and is taking COMM 310. So far, her class has been visited by former USC football players, former White House counsel John Dean, The Wrap founder Sharon Waxman and this week, Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt.
“It is really interesting to see how all the controversial topics they speak about — from concussions in football to pornography to political scandals — are affected by the media,” Aniftos said.
She added that public opinion can also be drastically influenced by how the media portrays a story.
“Information is a huge part in our everyday lives — especially in entertainment — and it is so easily accessible to us, that it is so important to understand and learn how to deal with it and write about it,” Aniftos said.
From ground breaking to grand opening, follow the development of USC Annenberg’s new building.
Located on the third floor of Wallis Annenberg Hall is one of the new faculty neighborhoods that comprises several offices for faculty from all USC Annenberg programs, including communication, journalism and public relations.
Keeping in line with USC Annenberg’s objective of collaborative space, the faculty neighborhood is a melting pot of Annenberg faculty members with distinct academic backgrounds and focuses. But one of the biggest links among them is digital media.
“This was a really bright and exciting moment,” Robert Hernandez, associate professor of professional practice, said. “Just to sit with really smart people made me even more excited to come to work. I think its pretty cool to have a diverse group in one faculty suite.”
Hernandez is one of the nine professors who currently hold an office in the faculty neighborhood. Of the nine, four are communication professors, three are digital journalism professors and two are public relations professors.
Hernandez said that it’s great to collaborate with people working on digital related projects all in the same space.
“We’re still settling in,” Hernandez said. “There are really cool projects that I want to eavesdrop in or participate on.”
The faculty neighborhood has several offices side by side, two sitting areas and a conference space. There’s a sense of openness to the suite, regardless of the individual offices it holds. Although there have been meetings in the conference room, Hernandez noted that collaboration is happening in a less formal setting.
“We didn’t want to promise that we were now going to join forces to make this super project because we’re all busy,” Hernandez said. “What we were attracted to was collaboration and just sharing ideas that organically happen.”
Alison Trope, clinical professor and director of undergraduate studies for the Annenberg School, explained that professors who hold offices in the faculty neighborhood wrote a formal proposal that argued the potential for crossover and collaboration.
“As a group our interests intersect in a number of ways — civic engagement, digital media, media and news institutions, identity, public and digital spaces,” Trope said. “Rather than gathering a group of peers that all worked in the same arena or used similar methodologies, we are in many respects joined by our similarities and our differences.”
Trope has already participated in the Civic Paths Research Group, that assistant professor Mike Ananny co-leads, by attending both meetings this year. The meetings were held in the faculty neighborhood conference room and will continue to be held every week and a half, Ananny explained.
Ananny, another member of the faculty neighborhood, said that the suite has also generated a lot of student traffic. He said he has met a lot of students of different Annenberg programs within the suite because the setup has helped create new connections.
“I think it’s the everyday casual interactions that is the real value to this space,” Ananny said.
Something that has excited Ananny about the faculty neighborhood is the potential for creating future classes and co-teaching opportunities with his colleagues.
“We’re all pretty open to that because it fits into this larger goal of bringing the journalism and communication schools closer together,” Ananny said.
Hernandez helped catapult the idea of a faculty neighborhood a few years ago in the ASC building after speaking to former Director of the School of Journalism, Geneva Overholser. Overholser loved the idea and asked Hernandez to write a memo that was eventually turned into a formal pitch.
“It was in line with the new building,” Hernandez said. “We thought that being in the new building would be cool but the cooler part would be to serendipitously work together on things and influence each other.”
Initially Hernandez wanted to share a space with two other faculty members of different Annenberg backgrounds while he was still in the ASC building, but he never dreamed that his idea would take off to shape a faculty neighborhood.
The faculty neighborhood may be one cluster of collective space for the Wallis Annenberg Hall, but its part of the greater picture of moving forward into a new era of journalism.
“There’s something to participate in in every floor of this building, whether it’s the digital lounge or the media center,” Hernandez said. “We’re actively roaming around and trying to build a digital culture and that’s the bigger goal for my digital journalism colleagues and myself.”
With technology and communication rapidly evolving, Annenberg aims to equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in, as well as shape the future of the media industry.
“The century to come will be dominated by people that are part of this digital revolution,” Professor Jonathan Taplin said.
“Digital. Media. Leadership.” is part of a series of videos looking at USC Annenberg’s exciting new era. For a look at the recently completed Wallis Annenberg Hall, watch USC Annenberg: New Building, New Program, New Era.