USC Master of Communication Management Online: Alumni Spotlight

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Are you curious about what it’s like to be in the USC online Master of Communication Management program? During this webinar you’ll hear from USC Annenberg’s Director of Distance Learning, Neil Teixeira, and 2013 MCM alumna, Jennifer Davies, talk not only about the program but also about how the MCM online program helped Jennifer to advance her into her current role as a Senior Public Information Officer for the City of Las Vegas, NV.


Yesenia M.:                        Hello, and welcome to the Online Master of Communication Management Program Student Spotlight webinar, presented by the Annenberg School of the University of Southern California. My name is Yesenia Monarrez, and I am an enrollment advisor for the online master communication management program. And I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us.

So, before we begin, I would like to review what you can expect during the presentation. In order to cut down on background noise, everyone is on listen only mode. And if you’re experiencing any technical difficulties, please be sure to refresh your browser. And if you have any questions for any of our speakers, please type them in the Q&A box in the lower right hand corner of your screen and hit send. Feel free to enter any questions as you can think of them and we’ll be sure to answer as many questions as time allows at the end of the presentation. Also, a copy of the presentation and recording will be available soon.

So, here’s our agenda. Here’s a quick look at what we will be covering. First, I will be introducing Neil Teixeira, our Director of distance learning for Annenberg who will share some information about the university and the program and introduce our speaker, Jennifer Davies. Our alumna, Jennifer, will be discussing her experience throughout the program and what it means to be a graduate from the master communication program at USC. Then lastly, we will end the presentation with a brief Q&A session.

Next, let’s begin. Hi, Neil, thank you for joining us today.

Neil T.:                                  Thank you very much, Yesenia. Thank you once again to everyone that has taken time out of their busy schedules to attend our webinar today. I along with our alumnus presenter are looking forward to sharing some helpful information about USC Annenberg School and many of the outstanding elements of the online master communication management, including how you can start an application for our summer and fall terms today.

My name is Neil Teixeira, I’m the director of distance learning here at USC Annenberg. I’ve been involved in distance learning efforts for about 20 years now, and I’m also an alumnus of the master communication management program. Although when I took it was only on-campus.

I’ll start off by talking a little bit about USC and the Annenberg School. USC was founded in 1880, back when LA’s population was just over 10,000 people. Since then, the University of Southern California has grown to become one of the world’s leading private research universities enrolling over 45,000 students each year. USC regularly admits more international students than any other American institution of higher learning. We hold research based education that can be applied to professional practice as a cornerstone of our institution.

Keeping with this, USC has long been a pioneer in distance education, offering masters level classes to professional engineers via satellite as early as 1972. USC Annenberg School is proud to continue that pioneering tradition by offering our fully online MCM degree to communication professionals like you all over the world.

USC Annenberg School was founded in 1971 through the generosity and leadership of Walter H. Annenberg. You may know him better as the creator of TV Guide, Seventeen Magazine, and through his family’s long legacy of supporting public television and the arts. Today, USC Annenberg is renowned for its innovative approach to communication, teaching, and research and serves as an international hub for scholars and professionals in communication, journalism, public policy, media, and education.

The online master communication management enables the USC Annenberg School to deliver the same high quality educational experience in a rigorous, engaging and collaborative way. By the way, that picture on the slide is our 2017 graduating class of online MTM students attending our annual graduation barbecue prior to commencement. We also host the reception and tailgate for homecoming. So you’ll see that not everything is online around here.

Before I discuss the program in more detail, I would like to briefly share us USC’s accreditation and ranking information, which reflect the University of the school’s commitment to excellence in higher education. USC and the online master communication management program have both been reviewed and accredited by WASC and USC is currently ranked in the top 25 among national universities by US News and World Report. Additionally, the Wall Street Journal’s comprehensive college rankings placed USC in the 17th spot nationally and third among all western US institutions. And among all institutions, the QS World University Rankings for 2019 rated USC Annenberg the second best institution for Communication and Media Studies in the US, the third highest ranked University anywhere in the world.

Before I introduce our alumni presenter we’ll turn to our programs, curriculum, and faculty, and some of the advantages you’ll have as an online USC Annenberg student. Master of Communication Management program has been designed for both early career and experienced working professionals. Everyone you’ll be taking classes with will play a role in your learning. You’ll share your work experiences and talk about issues that you’re currently facing on your job. You will get almost as much out of the people that you’re going to classes with as you will from your instructors. And we expect that you’ll immediately apply what you’re learning to your industries and places of business.

Our program is done cohort style, which means that you will go through the program with the same group of people over the course of your classes. Typically, each class is divided into sections of no more than 20 people. That doesn’t mean that you will have the same 20 people all the time, but most of your classmates will have gone through the same core courses that you have gone through. You can complete the program and less than two years, 16 months to be exact. This is important for many of you as working professionals. You have a lot on your plate, you have a lot of responsibilities at work and at home, taking classes will add considerably to your workload. So we know that it’s really important for you to get through this as quickly as possible. We think that completing the program two classes per term in about 16 months is the best way for you to achieve your goal of earning a master’s degree from USC.

What does an MCM mean? This is a management degree for communication professionals. We operate from the understanding that communication at the center of every enterprise and that communicators shape and change the world. This online degree is offered so the communicators like yourselves feel empowered to lead within your organizations. We find that learning online is phenomenal. For example, in the on-campus program where you come to class three hours a week, we find the class works and moves at a particular pace, and you’re forced to move at that pace. In the online program, you’re actually able to cover far greater material, far greater depth because you are working on it more incrementally. Of course, you’ll also be working in groups and working with your colleagues and your cohort on a regular basis. I think that’s an extraordinary advantage of our online learning program because the ability to work in virtual teams is increasingly becoming essential in the modern workplace.

So, our alumni presenter Jennifer Davies will talk a bit about her learning and career opportunities, but I’d like to briefly share some others as examples. One of the important elements of this program is that we teach you how to analyze complex business and communication problems. Gather and analyze research to improve your decision making and apply that research to be as informed as possible when making strategic choices. Our students come out here prepared to lead and tackle strategic communication issues in their organizations.

of our students from our recent cohort was immediately recruited out of the program to work at DirecTV by an alumnus of the Annenberg School. We had two classmates recently in one of our cohorts who worked together in a collaborative group project and one classmate who was a senior VP at Ketchum, a major PR firm invited him to apply for a position within her unit.

To really wanted to recruit him, she said, apply for the position and if you get it, you can come out to San Francisco and work with me on my team. If you can’t find a place right away to settle down, I have a spare guest house. Again, she was a senior VP. He had spare guest house in the Bay Area that he could bunk in until he finally found an apartment. What’s amazing about this story is that he ended up getting the job, packing everything that he had into his car in Philadelphia, driving to San Francisco, and the first time that those two classmates had ever met face to face was when he showed up at her doorstep to bunk in her guest house to then take on a new role within Ketchum. And he’s still working in the PR field here in California, and a wonderful alumnus who travels with some of our recruiters to different locations. So, if you ever visit a USC alumni panel or a student panel in a city close to you, you might get to meet him.

We’ve also had students who have applied for jobs while in the program. We’ve had a woman who applied for a global marketing communication position at Nike and ended up getting that position while in the program. And she spoke very highly of the program saying that the USC brand on her resume was a discussion point during her interviews and she really felt that having that strength on her resume helped to seal the deal and get her the job. She now oversees global marketing for Airbnb.

So, these are just some examples, but I think Jennifer will talk a bit about her specific example and she’s a fantastic one, so I’m looking forward to having you guys learn more about the learning and career opportunities that Jennifer had while she was in the program.

Let’s talk about the classes that you’re going to be taking and the curriculum you’ll engage in. The way the program is set up, students will ultimately take two classes per semester. Everybody begins with the core data and research class which is called, Uses of Communication Research, CMGT 540, and our core management theory class, Managing Communication, CMGT 500. You’ll note that these courses here are listed in numerical order and not order in which you would take them. But the areas in which our curriculum covers, most importantly, our strategic organizational communication, marketing and PR, communication and communication for data-driven decision-making. So overarching, this is a program that takes theory, research, and applies it to practice

The other courses of interest, maybe Jennifer may talk about include CMGT 541, Integrated Marketing Communication Strategies, and our Practicum, which is CMGT 597, which is a special projects that students can elect to take at the end of their program, where they come up with a particular communication problem, or some sort of business problem within their organizations. Or maybe it’s just a passion project. Something that you’ve been thinking about for a long time and now you have the understanding and the knowledge and the research and the ability at the conclusion of the program to really dive deeply into that problem, collect some data around it, analyze it, and apply it to the situation. So, it is led by a faculty mentor, and you can take up to two semesters to do research around your particular communication problem to develop what we usually consider as a portfolio piece for professionals to take back to their employers, to their places of work, or potentially use it in securing new positions in areas of interest to them.

Due to our limited time, I’ll refrain from going through each and every class here. But I will point out that our curriculum is designed to give you advanced applied skill set in those areas that I mentioned before. Essential skills you can employ to your advantage anywhere your career takes you. Please follow up with one of our enrollment advisors after the session for more information.

Briefly mention about our faculty that USC Annenberg has some of the leading communication faculty in the world. So it’s great that you’ll be learning from the same folks who teach on-campus. Almost all the faculty that you will have experience with have a combination of academic and professional backgrounds, including decade-long careers in industry and consulting. Additionally, all of our instructors have either a PhD or a terminal degree, which makes our online program truly different from the competition.

I’d like to take a moment now to introduce our MCM alumna presenter, Jennifer Davies. Jennifer leads the digital engagement efforts for the entertainment capital of the world in Las Vegas. Jennifer support the city’s 20 departments and seven elected officials, helping them with their social media and digital marketing outreach. She believes that social media is changing the face of government for the better and removing the bureaucratic barriers that often prevent citizens from getting involved directly.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in communication, public relations from Michigan State specialization in Search Engine Optimization, and her master’s degree from USC in communication management. Jennifer, thank you so much for participating today.

Jennifer D.:                         Hi, everyone. Thanks for having me. So, Neil kind of went over the curriculum. I kind of wanted to start with that and talk about in my current job, how a lot of what I learned even now almost six years ago, is still very applicable in things that I think about on a regular basis. So, he kind of explained what I do. I mostly handle, like he said, social media, but I am traditional and Public Information Officer, meaning I do help on our PR campaigns and media requests, and all the different facets of communication life. And so, one of the classes that you’ll take later in the program focuses on strategic corporate communication. And that’s one that I reflect back on a lot. We had to do a huge group project and our topic because, of course, I was working with people that were all over the country, our topic was, promoting this ballot initiative to get a light rail passed in Virginia Beach.

So, we had to do a lot of research and think through different communication practices that we would use for the different core groups that we would be working with and the stakeholders, we had to do [inaudible 00:15:33] analysis on all these different things that could come up during the campaign. And it’s something that I think about a lot and how I organize my work now, when I’m trying to sell a new idea, or we have something new coming down the pipeline, I reflect back on that really great outline of how to really sell ideas in your organization.

Another one was the 508 class which deals with Communicating Strategy and Change. This is one that I also focus on a lot because so much of my job is new, and especially in government, it can be really challenging to sell something that people haven’t done before. And so one of the books that we read in the class was, Made to Stick by Chip Heath. The Heath brothers are really known for their really awesome change management research, and so we were able to read this book as part of the class and talk about how you communicate hard messaging in organizations, and the importance of storytelling and really getting people on board with what you’re trying to do. And so, I actually still have that book on my kindle and I try to read it like once a year because it always just kind of reinvigorate me for what I’m doing in my job.

Another one was, Neil mentioned the 540 class, which is a research based class and that’s one of the first class that you’ll take the first semester. That class is probably the number one class that I think about the most because it focuses on how to write survey questions, how to formulate the research that you’re doing, so that the data that you’re going to have at the end is statistically valid, and things like that, and just how to be a better communicator and write questions for people so that you’re actually getting the information from them that you need to make your campaigns better. And so I’ve kind of become like the default person in my department to actually do that for us. So I get to help with a lot of the different random surveys that we put out for the city which has been another interesting portion of my job.

Then the other class that we think about a lot is 541, and that’s Integrated Marketing Strategies campaign class. So in that class we had to look at different campaigns that we admired an kind of break them apart and talk about the different parts of them that made them so successful. So, here in Las Vegas, I picked a campaign that was very notable, and still is, from our water district, we live in a desert and they had done a very, very big 10 year campaign about being water smart. And in Las Vegas, we’ve managed to keep our water usage very flatline, which is a good thing, we live in a desert, and the campaign was just really, really brilliant and well done. And so I always think about that one. I actually work with the water district a lot now in my current job, and I think about the different facets of that campaign that made it so successful.

So, those are all things that of course, I took six years ago, but are really core communications principles that I think about a lot as I move up in my career. But going back to the start and embracing an online education, like a lot of you, I was actually the first class to go through this program and so at the time, I was trying to figure out, I knew I wanted to go to grad school but of course, I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go in person. And I think online programs in general get sometimes a bad reputation as being less work or someone just sign a diploma or whatever. But when I was looking into grad school, I decided that I didn’t want to leave my job. I was moving up in my career and moving to LA was just not something that I wanted to do at the time.

My husband and I had just gotten engaged and we were planning a wedding and we had just bought a house and got a new puppy. So, it just wasn’t going to fit into my life. So, when I decided to look into going online, I decided if I was going to do it, I wanted a program that was really near an on-campus program, and it would just be a different format. I also wanted to be part of a top level University and a strong alumni network and I didn’t want to sacrifice the relationships that many people talk about forging during grad school. And I wanted something that was going to have small class sizes and team projects. And I worried that maybe if I did the program online that I would loose some of that.

But most importantly, I didn’t want to lose the access to my professors because during my undergrad that was really important to me being able to talk to them and learn from them. And so I kind of wondered, as I was figuring out if I wanted to go online if I was going to have to sacrifice some of that. But USC, thankfully, in this program really came through for me on everything on that wish list. I was able to work full-time and go to school. I’ll talk about time commitment more on the future side. I think people make the assumption when they hear that you went online that it wasn’t as challenging as going in person, but since this program exactly mirrors their on-campus program, I always felt 100% secure knowing that I was still receiving the same first class education that USC is known for.

Team projects are also critically important during this program and something that we did in every single class that I took, because it was a smaller program we all knew each other very, very well. We chatted online and on the phone. I ended up knowing my classmates honestly, 1000 times better than I ever knew anyone during my undergraduate program despite going into a large university like Michigan State and seeing my classmates on a regular basis. And I really never thought that was possible. I still talk to many of the people that I went to USC with today and not item for my wish list it was really everything I had hoped for and more.

The professor’s were equally wonderful. Many, if not all of them teach the exact same course [inaudible 00:20:50] on-campus program which was exactly what I was looking for. I chatted with all of them regularly and had a strong relationship with them too, they were extremely accessible and open to help with whatever we need, especially because I think they knew that we were all working, especially on the weekend, it was really easy to reach out to them and set up calls or reach out to them and talk to them more about concepts, and I’m sure that … I worried that maybe they wouldn’t be accessible on weekends because they will only be working during the week but they were great about making themselves available to us when they knew that we would generally be working on content for the program.

So, on time commitment, I know that that’s probably something all of you are thinking about, I know it was something that I definitely had trepidation about trying to figure out working 40 hours a week or more, and then trying to do this on top of it, but you’re obviously looking for a top-tier program which is what has led you to USC and this completely delivers, but it’s also not for the weak of heart. The program will challenge you intellectually and require you to really be on top of your game when it comes to time management. Like I said, I worked full-time, five days a week from 8:00 to 5:00, I planned a wedding and got married while I was doing the program. So, life balance is possible.

At the beginning of the semester, I would get our syllabus with all the critical assignments and dates, and I really planned my life around that and knew that if things in my personal life needed more attention, I knew that I needed to find some extra time during the week to really get my school stuff done. So I would utilize my lunch hour and maybe I would get up earlier or stay up later that night, or sometime during the week to try to get that stuff done. But I think an online education really allows you to make the program work for you. If you know you’re going to be tied up, you can just readjust your schedule as needed to make sure that you’re still getting your work done.

And I’m a top performer, I wanted to aim for straight A’s so I estimate that I spent probably 15 to 20 hours per course per week. I got a lot done on the weekend when my husband was working, and like I said, I was always trying to be smart about getting up early if I needed to or utilizing my lunch hour to kind of get stuff done there too.

The workload for us it kind of included reading books that as I mentioned earlier, I still reflect on regularly, online discussions with my classmates, research for paper writing and team projects which we set up conference call for those to talk through concepts and things like that.

And so life in the program was even better, I think, than I had hoped for. So, I did end up doing my Practicum and I did it at the end of the program and my topic, I wanted to pick something that would kind of stand the test of time. So, even though I love digital marketing, it wasn’t something that I wanted to do my big research project on just because it changes so quickly. So, I picked a topic that talked about, what the top reasons are that someone would stay in their jobs. Whether it would be money, whether it would be the leadership team, your boss, whatever it was, I wanted to understand better how to be a good leader and what the factors were that would make it most likely that someone would leave their jobs.

So, I did a whole research project on that. I did a really, really big survey, I read a lot of books, I went to the library a lot reading through different concepts about, research that that had been published about why people leave their jobs. And so I was able to bring that to fruition in a very long form paper, I think it was 40 or 50 pages in my own research project. And it’s still something that I reflect on today. In my research, I found that the number one predictor of whether you stay in your job is your boss. So, I think it’s something that I’ve carried with me as I’ve moved up in my career and started to take on more of a leadership role with my own team on the different factors and knowing how to make people more satisfied in their jobs.

Then real world application, like I talked about in the earlier slide, I still reflect back on a lot of those classes. On a lot of the books that I read and the concepts that we learned about to help drive me forward in my career. Then, like I talked about too, I was worried if we went online that I would be removed from the USC culture that they’re known for that I wouldn’t know my classmates as well, but I found a lot of opportunities to meet people in person. So, halfway through the program, my husband and I were able to go to homecoming weekend, it was really fun, they still do an event there every year and they set up a special barbecue with all the other Annenberg people. And so it was just a really awesome way to really immerse yourself in the USC culture and to get to go to a football game because football is so amazing at USC and it’s a really big part of their culture.

Also, here in Las Vegas, I was the first class to go through, but in subsequent years, more and more people here have gone through the program as well, and so, we’ve been able to meet up and meet in person and talk about the program and I think that’s been really awesome. I actually work regularly with another woman who went through behind me, she works for the school district, so we work together all the time. I actually reached out to her just a couple days ago because I was looking for a photo for this presentation and to see if she had one. And so I work with her all the time.

Then, even just connecting with classmates that don’t even live here in Las Vegas, I travel back to DC occasionally for my job and one of my really, really, really good friends I met through the program and she was there and we always try to meet up when I’m back there. So, we’ve stayed in touch and chat and text and keep up with everything. And likewise with all of my other classmates on Facebook and things like that, I think we’re always staying up to date on what everyone’s up to because it was such a small program and I was able to really get to know people really well.

Then life after USC. I think at the time you’re thinking, oh, my gosh, this is never going to end because it is a lot of work at the time but it does go by really fast. Like they mentioned, I went in, I started the program in September of 2011 and I graduated the next May. So, it’s about a really intense year and a half of your life but then when you look back on it, it of course, like everything else does seem like it went by quickly. But I think about this all the time, Jimmy Iovine spoken at our graduation in 2013. He’s the one that was a big time record producer and discovered Dr. Dre and whatever. And I remember him so vividly congratulating us that having a degree from USC really meant that we were now privileged. And I think that’s true. Our degrees have the potential to really open doors and secure opportunities for us.

I actually got a new job the month after I graduated. I was selected from 250 candidates and my director love telling everyone that story about how he picked me out of the pile from a million other people, and he is very, very proud that I went to USC and tell people that regularly. He’s like my proud dad. But USC has an outstanding reputation around the world and especially in the communication field where I, of course, still work and I’m sure many of you do as well. Annenberg is extremely well known and respected for really training our industry’s best and brightest.

The alumni network and powerful. There’s a very active chapter here in Las Vegas where I live and why I haven’t specifically tapped the network yet to get a new job, I definitely know that’s something that I may use in the future if I want to try something else. Especially if I want to leave off Vegas and go into a new market, I know that that’s something that I would really rely on. But I also think the relationship I made with classmates has stood the test of time. Like I mentioned, we’re all still friends, and whenever we see work related stuff, I mean, they’re always there cheering me on.

I think that’s it. I’ll pass it back over to Neil.

Neil T.:                                  Jennifer. Thank you so much. Not just for sharing your story, but also sharing your pictures. It was so nice to see all the pictures associated with those different points in your career, in your studies, graduation, homecoming games. It’s fantastic. So, thank you so much for sharing that with our prospective student audience. We really sincerely thank you and wish you all the best as you continue your good work in Las Vegas.

Before I hand the presentation over to Yesenia who will discuss what our faculty admission committee will look for in your application, I’d like to mention that there’s still plenty of time to get your application started and submitted for summer. Hopefully, each of you will touch base with an enrollment advisor after our call today. Yesenia.

Yesenia M.:                        Thank you, Neil and thank you, Jennifer. So, regarding our admissions requirements, just so everyone knows, the entire application is available online and you really just want to make sure to request all of your official transcripts from every school that you’ve attended. Also just know that the GRE or the GMAT is also required, however, students that have full-time professional work experience can qualify for the GRE waiver. So, please be sure to reach out to your advisor so that we can help you determine if you would be eligible for the waiver.

Another part of the application process is to complete a statement of purpose along with a writing sample. And all students will need to submit a resume showcasing all professional work experience along with two letters of recommendation.

I do want to share some admission tips. So, communication with your enrollment advisor is an important first step, I would say. We are here to support you throughout the application process all the way into your first week of classes. Also, as Neil mentioned, just a quick note for students that are looking to get started in the upcoming semester, there’s still time to apply. If you’re worried about not having enough time to take the GRE for those that are required to take the GRE, just reach out to us, we can go over some possible options that you might be eligible for. Also, don’t forget, students can qualify for the GRE waiver just based on experience.

Another good tip is just to make sure that you’re following the deadlines and the due dates in order to submit your application in a timely fashion. And as always, make sure to reach out to one of us with any questions that you might have.

Next, I really wanted to take some time to go over any questions that anyone might have. We did receive a few already. So, if you have any questions, please be sure to share them in our Q&A box so I can make sure that we are able to address those and we’ll get to as many as we can. Neil, the first question that I have here is, are there live sessions and how flexible are those live sessions?

Neil T.:                                  Yeah, a great question. I’m sure Jennifer will remember as well that there are live sessions, these are synchronous sessions that take place in some courses weekly, in other courses based on the modules that you’re in. So not every class has a mandatory live session every week. Some of them do, others have them irregularly. But the point is that live sessions are typically scheduled between 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, pacific time, so that the majority of folks working West Coast, East Coast in the US can participate. But they’re also recorded so that folks who are on different time zones or for whatever reason aren’t able to attend live can watch the recording of the live session.

So, the vast majority of live sessions are not mandatory, meaning you’re not required to attend for a grade. The only ones that are usually have lots and lots of heads up notice about, and they’re typically presentations that you’ll be giving at the end of the term or maybe for the mid-term. So those would be mandatory because you would be presenting something to the class. But generally, most live sessions are not mandatory, other than you need to watch the recording of it. So, you do not have to attend all live sessions at the exact same time they’re offered, you can always watch the recording, usually, we post the recording within 24 hours of the live session happening so that you have remainder of the class week to get caught up on the live session content.

You can always submit questions to your instructors in advance of a live session to have those questions asked during the live session. Even if you can’t attend, there’s always a usefulness in asking those questions so the entire class gets to hear them and hear them answered.

Yesenia M.:                        Thank you, Neil. So, let’s see. Another question is, this is a good one. Do online students have the same access or the same access to campus resources as on-campus students do?

Neil T.:                                  It’s a great question.

Jennifer D.:                         Oh yeah. I’d love to jump in on that one too.

Neil T.:                                  Oh, go ahead, Jennifer.

Jennifer D.:                         So, I was actually shocked and I’m sure it’s even gotten even better since I went six years ago. I was literally shocked. They would mail me library books, if I wanted them to. I could go on the library website and go pull them and they would actually mail them to me and I have them for like, I think I got a little bit longer because they were mailed to me so I’d be able to check them out for like, four weeks or something, and then I could mail them back and I think they even like coverage [inaudible 00:34:18] time and stuff too. So, I was totally shocked how easy that was. And then I also utilize the library here at our university on UNLV, but I was really surprised at how easily accessible all their resources were, even for students who weren’t in LA.

Neil T.:                                  That’s a great example, Jennifer. It’s true. To this day, you are still able to request a library loan as a remote student and the USC libraries will mail you the physical book that you’re requesting if a digital copy is not available, for example, and they will have prepaid return mail postage included so that you could send that book back to the library. It’s one of the features that USC has for our remote students. Again, research and the ability to do proper work is essential and it’s the backbone of our institution. So, we would be not doing a great job if we made it hard for you to get the materials you need. So we try to make it very easy.

Additionally, there are plenty of other resources that are available to you as a remote student. You will get after you start classes a USC card, which is a USC student identification card, we will mail that to you so that you can have access to USC campus facilities, even after hours on the weekend as a student. Additionally, you can use those privileges to sign up for sporting events if you want to get a season pass to a football ticket that’s student rate, you can do that. If you want to go to just individual games. There’s USC ticket office that gets you access to not just athletics, but other arts, entertainment options, events that happen on-campus, guest speakers, presentations, concerts, et cetera, you have access to as an online student. You may not be able to make it up to all of them because of your location but you’re welcome to attend and you have privilege to do so.

There are additional benefits that our online students can take advantage of. They include health and mental wellness, counseling, insurance opportunities. So, if you need health insurance, for example, as a student, you can purchase health insurance through the university during your tenure as a student. So, yes, there are many, many resources made available to students at USC, and the vast majority of them are available to you as a remote student. Many of them may require you to come to campus for, like the events and the arts, entertainment opportunities, speakers, but at Annenberg we do our best to record almost all of our special speaking events so that you have access to that through our YouTube channel or through other opportunities where you can watch a stream, either live or a recording of a guest speaker here at Annenberg.

Yesenia M.:                        Thank you. So, next question I have here, I know that Jennifer spoke about her Capstone, but they just, a more better understanding like, is it a Capstone Project? Is it a thesis at the end of the program, or do students have an option when they’re completing the program?

Neil T.:                                  Great question. So, I’ll give the high level response and then, Jennifer, if you want to go into more detail, that’d be great. So, the answer is, as you conclude the program, our program is 32 units, generally eight classes at four units each. At the end of the program, you have the option to choose two different types of Capstones. One is a Capstone course. So ultimately your eighth or unit class, and it’s drawn from, I think, four different courses that we offer as Capstones. They’re not always offered every semester so, which Capstone courses you have as an opportunity to take will depend on when you start the program. That said, you also have the option every semester to elect to do the Capstone Practicum. [inaudible 00:38:15] the Capstone course, it’s like a typical course that you take a little more individually focused and it synthesizes more of the work that you do throughout the program. That’s one option.

The other option is the Capstone Practicum, which is an individual project that you do with some faculty guidance over the course of one semester as four units or two, two unit courses over two semesters where you collect information around a communication problem that’s important to you, you collect that data, you analyze it, you do the background research on it, you synthesize all that information into either, could be a communication plan, could be some sort of business strategy. But ultimately, it is a practicum because it’s applied. Not a thesis, thesis are usually associated with programs that are more academically focused. This one is both academic theory and application. So, the practicum we find is much more useful for students like yourself who are professionals, because the goal is that you take something away that you can put into practice immediately that furthers to some small degree maybe academic understanding of that issue. But really, the final outcome is some sort of strategy or applied piece of knowledge that can help solve that problem in a specific context related to maybe your professional setting.

Do you want to add anything, Jennifer?

Jennifer D.:                         Now, I think you’ve hit on all there. The way that I did it is I split it between the two year courses like you said. So, I started my research when I was taking another class and then that last spring semester I was taking that last two credit class where I was formulating some research and things like that and working with the faculty advisors to do that.

Neil T.:                                  That’s actually a good point. I should mention that if you choose to do the practicum as a four unit experience, meaning you finish it in one semester, you’ll be able to finish the program in 16 months. If you choose to do it as a two semester experience, that will add one extra semester to your stay at USC making it about 20 months. But for some projects, the reality is, you want to dive more deeply, it can take more time to collect the data and do the research and formulate your strategy. And so, some problems are stickier and our faculty will probably say, you may want to take two semesters to do this type of quality research. In other cases, it may be data can be easily collected and it won’t take that much time and ultimately you can finish it in one semester. Our faculty will provide guidance to you on that. But that is an option open to all students.

Yesenia M.:                        Thank you for that. Next question that I have here, and again, I’m just trying to get through every question. So, this specific individual works for non-profit and private sectors. So it’s very important for him that this program helps him to monetize his social media and other communication efforts early on. So, how can he do that in this program?

Neil T.:                                  That’s a pretty specific question. So, it will depend. Ultimately, the courses that you begin with are CMGT 540 and CMGT 500, will give you the foundational understanding of how to accumulate, collect proper research to answer difficult questions. So it may be questions about, what is your donation pool really interested in? How do I best communicate messaging around my organization to get prospective donors engaged and interested? What is the best communication strategy for that? Those courses will help you fundamentally organize your communication to drive the messaging that you need to activate your donor pool.

So, you may want to start with focus groups. You’ll learn how to do focus groups in 514 in your very first semester. Six weeks into the program, you’ll be understanding and conducting focus groups. Surveys, you will be building surveys and other types of tools that help collect and refine the messaging, collect data that helps refine the messaging, I should say.

Jennifer, you work in the public sector, you work for the city government. I know that your goal is not necessarily monetizing your digital advertising, but can you talk a bit about how this program has helped you work in that sector.

Jennifer D.:                         Well, I think this program was a little bit better even then. I think the content that we learned about to me has more long term application than learning about concepts that potentially are going to grow and change over the course of a year or two. So I felt like the most value that I got from it was, like I talked about that research class that you mentioned, and understanding what goes into a good campaign. I feel like those are principles that are going to guide me through the rest of my career, regardless of what technology come and go. And so I feel like that to me is a really encouraging hallmark of a good program is that you’re not just focusing on today, you’re really focusing on how can you take this experience and use it for years to come.

Neil T.:                                  That’s a good point. I mean, you did get a specialization certificate in SEO, search engine optimization, which I’m sure that some time after that maybe a couple of years, the entire dynamics behind SEO have changed the rules behind how Google say prioritizes rankings.

Jennifer D.:                         Yes, exactly. And so I feel like, if you’re comparing those two, I have way more value out of my master’s program than I did out of that smaller one that was really just meant to give me more technical knowledge in my field. And to me, that’s really what a master’s program is mostly about. Is really challenging you and giving you that information and knowledge that you’re going to carry through with you for a lot longer than something that you’re going to learn about that’s going to help you maybe in the next few years. I think that probably can vary based on what industry that you’re in, but for my industry especially, I found that to be true.

Neil T.:                                  Great. I will also just add that we have had a number of students who have come through the program both USC employees and folks outside of USC who work in development, who work on donor relations. And they’ve taken this program in large part to refine their abilities to deliver the right messaging. To craft the right messaging and to do the research required to understand their audiences better, both from a communication perspective, a social psychology perspective, and then a fundamental data gathering to help inform decision making in communication strategy.

So, there are certainly elements of the program that will benefit anyone working in that type of arena, development and fundraising. The program is not necessarily designed to help you generate the fundraising goals, it’ll help you create the messaging and to activate the pool of prospective donors that you’re interested in.

Yesenia M.:                        Great, thank you. Another question. It might be a little bit specific as well, I just want to make sure we get it answered. The question is, if there’s opportunities to be able to do the practicum abroad.

Neil T.:                                  Yeah, I see no reason why you won’t be able to. So, we’ve had students go through this program from abroad. I will mention several. One, an army public affairs officer who did the entire program from the Green Zone in Afghanistan. He was stationed there throughout the duration of his entire program. He’s one of our very first students. Jennifer, you may have actually had classes with him, his name was Mike Nicholson.

Jennifer D.:                         Yes, I did.

Neil T.:                                  Yeah, you did exactly. His time difference was way off. I believe he was getting up at like, three or four o’clock in the morning sometimes to do collaborative work with his classmates, but he was a military guy, and it was definitely something that he latched onto. He’s like, I can build my schedule around whatever I have to do to accomplish the task. He was a fantastic student, and certainly he did his practicum from abroad. So, that is one example.

And we’ve had students who have participate in the program from all over the world, either because they’re stationed abroad, they live abroad, or they just travel frequently to work abroad, who have engaged in all elements of the program, including the Capstone from international locations. So, if your topic is on international marketing, we have a global marketing course that will prepare you to help look at how to market within your particular locale. But yes, I think that the short answer is, absolutely. If you’re an international student and you want to either do your practicum abroad or just look at issues related to markets abroad, that’s not a problem at all.

Yesenia M.:                        Okay, great. So, it looks like we still have time for maybe one or two more questions. So I have another question. If we can give an example of how a student has applied their newly acquired strategic thinking skills to their job, for example, like a specific project or something along those lines.

Neil T.:                                  I’ll leave that up to Jennifer, Jennifer, you can speak from experience.

Jennifer D.:                         I mean, I do this all the time. Going back to that corporate communication class, I think that was one of the classes that we really focused on. The legwork behind a great communication strategy with setting your objectives and figuring out your tactics and things like that. So, one way that I use that regularly in my job [inaudible 00:48:23] is I work with our elected officials and we have new one coming in all the time, we’re going to have three new ones take office this summer and I’ll have to give presentations to them laying out what I think their social media strategy should be, and I reflect back on my knowledge from that course in particular, to lay out a compelling presentation to help get them jump started in their social media efforts.

Neil T.:                                  I’ll add a couple of extra elements to that. We have had a couple of students come to the program recently who also took the strategic corporate communication course that Jennifer was mentioning, it’s CMGT 502, which is actually taught by the director of the master communication management program. Dr. Rebecca Weintraub. It’s her course.

There is a puzzle that is a strategic part of the course. It is a puzzle that shows you how all the different stakeholder elements fit together and the kind of categories related to the stakeholders. And you have to understand how that puzzle fits together in order to do a proper strategic communication plan. All the different pieces represent different elements of the message and the audience that will be receiving that message.

So, we have some students who told us recently that, one in particular who says that, I have the puzzle framed on my desk and I look at it every day because every day what I’m doing is CMGT 502, Strategic Corporate Communication plan building, that’s what I do all day long. I think he works for a major health and nutrition company based in Los Angeles. So, yeah, he has that element from the course, this puzzle printed out, framed, to look at every day. Not only has been has he been applying it since he first took the course but he’s doing it all the time.

There are so many other examples. One other that will come out of one of your very first courses, 540, you learn how to design proper surveys, as Jennifer mentioned. We had some students, one student specifically who wrote an email after taking the class and said, six weeks in and I’m applying what I’ve learned already. We had a consultant that we were paying tens of thousands of dollars to come in and help us with an acquisition, and they developed a survey that have lots of critical problems. Just bad survey design. Before this course, I would not have caught any of those issues but I was able to go to my boss and say, these questions are all asking questions that aren’t going to get us the data we need. They’re badly designed questions, I learn how to do surveys in my class, my program, and these are the way that we should design these questions so we get the data we need.

So, needless to say, the students, schools, the consultants, and I think they actually maybe hired a different consultant to get the job done, but this is stuff that you will be learning in your very first course as early as a few weeks into the program.

Yesenia M.:                        Thank you for that. And one last question, I think it’s a good one, is basically, how does the program stay relevant? So, when it comes to like current social media techniques and strategies, what does this program do to stay relevant?

Neil T.:                                  Well, I’ll answer this in a way that hopefully isn’t shocking to everyone listening, but the reality is, social media techniques and technologies change constantly. And the reality is, the strategy behind the messaging that gets deployed across those platforms doesn’t change that rapidly. So, as Jennifer mentioned, this program is designed to give you the higher level strategic thinking that’s going to go behind every single message you craft in whatever channel it is that you distribute. So, as the technology changes, as kind of protocols change about how we communicate, there’s an underlying fundamental research-based theory behind it. How it impacts your perspective audience. The psychology behind how they receive different messages in different formats.

This program is helping prepare you to think strategically about every single one of those audience members and the channels that you’re distributing and think that is going to have a longer term benefit to you and it’s going to stay more relevant over time than say, teaching you how to use a particular platform or how to create a message around it.

That said, we do have courses, say, in digital marketing. Our digital marketing course CMGT 535 in itself is revised and redesigned on a regular basis. All of our courses are. So, these courses aren’t static. They are revised every semester, sometimes more rigorously than others. Sometimes the content doesn’t changed so dramatically that you need to revise it every term. But every term, we look at every course for revision. And usually every three to four years there’s a major overhaul to the courses. Some of them a little more often than others because the content is changing quickly. But the idea is, we’re constantly looking at our coursework, expanding our coursework, in fact, we’re working on offering some new courses very soon that will broaden the curriculum for the program, but I think maybe, Jennifer, you might, if you can reiterate a bit about what you said earlier about the master’s degree experience at USC Annenberg and what you learned in that versus say, the more product end SEO kind of training you got in your specialization certificate.

Jennifer D.:                         Yeah, I mean, to repeat what I said before. If you’re looking for that really critical skill set development, then I would maybe look into more of those programs that are going to give you that deeper dive into a particular category of digital marketing. But if you’re looking for, like Neil said, a change in the way that you think and the way that you plan strategy, there are guiding principles that are always going to be around in our field, regardless of how we’re implementing them.

I’ll jump on to what he was saying too about how the course has change, you do have readings and theories that you’re learning about during the different courses, but every semester they’re bringing in, the professors are bringing in news articles and examples of things that are happening in the world at the time that you’re taking what you’re learning from a strategic thinking perspective and applying it to something that’s happening now. And so, they’ll assign you your course reading whatever, but you’ll also have things that will come up in your syllabus for the semester where you’ll have a discussion item that you’ll have to read this news article and then weigh in on how you could have used the theory from one of the classes that you’re learning about to change that situation. So, I think that those are the examples that they’re probably changing regularly because I know when I was going through it, all the things that we were talking about in those discussions were things that were happening right then in real world time.

And sometimes they’ll even tell you like, hey, I want you to go out and find an example of something that’s happening in the world right now that we can apply to what we’re learning about right now. So, I think that they’re able to keep it really current despite how quickly our industry is changing.

Neil T.:                                  Our faculty also bringing a lot of guest speakers to the courses, folks who maybe have written some of the books that you’ll be reading, as Jennifer mentioned, the books that were reading aren’t just old theory books, generally, they’re not. They’re [inaudible 00:55:56] more up to date thinking on brands and how we communicate messages in our more modern communication environment. It is easy to say that the need for strategic communication specialists is increasing because the amount of communication that we do is rapidly increasing with social media channels and income media expansion on television, so there’s definitely more and more need for folks who are specialized in these communication strategies.

So, we probably hear a lot more today about crisis communication and crisis PR managers and folks like that, because it’s really easy for famous people or important people to slip up and make a mistake and say something wrong or do something wrong and they have to have an entire team kind of managing all their communication going forward. Now, the methods in which they communicate their messaging has changed, and the frequency that we get that messaging has changed, but the fundamental theories underlying strategies behind it are not changing that quickly. And so this is a program that is designed to make you a leader in this area, a critical thinker in this area, and a strategic minded person in this area. And I think long term that’s going to have probably paid dividends to you professionally more so than specific technical training.

Yesenia M.:                        Perfect. It looks like we’re almost out of time, so if we didn’t get to your specific question, we will be sure to reach out to you on a one-on-one situation and we’ll be sure to answer any questions that you might have. So at this time, I would really just like to thank Neil. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your experience. It really does mean a lot to us. And we like to thank everyone that is attending our live session and hopefully you have a better understanding of what the master communication management program does entail, and we hope that it helps you with your decision process. So at the time, Neil and Jennifer, do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to share?

Neil T.:                                  I will just say that there’s still plenty of time to get your app started. Just take take a moment to follow up with enrollment advisor to ask whatever questions you may have, and if you do have additional questions that you may want to ask me directly, our enrollment advisors will help funnel that message to me so I can respond to you.

Jennifer D.:                         And hopefully [inaudible 00:58:31] be in the future as a potential alumni on the program.

Neil T.:                                  Thank you so much, Jennifer.

Yesenia M.:                        Thank you both so much. And again, just as a reminder, a copy of this recording and slide presentation will be available in the next following days. Again, thank you for joining us. We hope everyone has a great day.