The USC online MCM has helped professionals from all fields build expertise and advance or transition in their careers. Get to know our students and alumni, and discover how the program has helped them thrive as modern communicators.
USC MCM Student Spotlight
Manager, Production — Digital Guest Experience Disney Parks & Resorts Digital
The blended MCM helped Andrew develop skills in business and communication. Now he’s a chief of staff for Disney Parks & Resorts Digital.
MCM Prepares Graduate to Steer Disney’s Digital Customer Experience
In 2012, Andrew Santelli realized his ambition had outgrown his skill set. He was working as a communications specialist for Disney Cruise Line, but he wanted to prepare to address a wider range of emerging, complex issues with more informed strategy. That’s why he decided to earn his Master of Communication Management degree. He saw it as a focused opportunity to advance his skills and become an expert communications leader.
“I knew that to advance in my career and, beyond that, to get involved in the kind of strategic communications I wanted to get involved in, I would have to get more experience providing the answers to difficult communications questions,” Andrew said.
A lot has changed since then. Now Andrew serves as the chief of staff for the digital guest experience at Disney Parks & Resorts Digital, working with executive leadership to refine storytelling for organization stakeholders. He leads internal communications, connecting offices across the globe. Earning his degree served as the catalyst to leadership he sought.
“If you’re interested in expanding your capabilities and putting more tools into your toolbox, then the Master of Communication Management is a great opportunity to pursue those interests and, with the help of your fellow students and the faculty, set yourself up for future opportunities,” Andrew said.
A Sounding Board for Communications Strategy
Because Andrew narrowly defined his career goal, he ruled out general degrees like a Master of Communications or a Master of Business Administration. He said it was the blended curriculum of the Master of Communication Management that first drew him to the degree, and the University of Southern California’s distinguished reputation inspired him to enroll.
“I liked the fact that USC has a great reputation in the communications and PR world,” Andrew said. “But also, I liked how rigorous the program was. It was the same quality and coursework as the on-campus program, just delivered differently.”
That difference in delivery turned out to be a game-changer that had a positive impact on Andrew’s development as a communications expert.
“Your classmates are sounding boards for workplace strategies,” Andrew said. “They absolutely become strong partners for your academic work who help you learn how to execute in your career.”
Heightened Confidence and Advanced Communications Skills
Between holding strategic discussions with diversely experienced students and faculty members and conducting original research and investigative group work, Andrew said he graduated with the refined communication management skills that initially sparked his interest in the degree.
“I put a lot more tools in my toolbox in terms of developing communication strategies, how to steer staff through change management, how to prioritize communications for different stakeholders and how to integrate communications among stakeholders,” Andrew said.
Now a graduate equipped with leadership skills to own his strategic process, he said he also discovered new confidence that helps him manage his team of digital producers who are tasked with enhancing digital products. In this way, earning his degree led to advancement within his company. It also led to another form of unexpected satisfaction.
“I think there was a special sense of pride, different from an undergraduate graduation,” Andrew said. “Earning my Master of Communication Management was more about feeling a sense of accomplishment.”
MCM Student Testimonials
“There wasn’t another program with the prestige of USC and the Annenberg School, so I just didn’t see anything else that compared as far as the value I would have gotten out of the Master of Communication Management degree.”
— Jason Smith, Class of 2016
Vice Chancellor of Governmental & Community Relations University of Houston System
“I drove to San Francisco and I went to work for a colleague I met through the MCM program, having never met in person, and it’s been an amazing two years. Not only did I get an amazing job and a career change, I have grown to consider that colleague as one of my most dear friends.”
— Justin McAneny, Class of 2013
Activation Strategist, quench agency
“I face huge challenges every day, but I know that I have the training and resources from my different classes to help me reach my goals. Because of my education, I am able to execute successfully with a diverse, global and high-powered group of people.”
— Alexis Santoro, Class of 2016
Brand Marketing – Americas, Airbnb
“Every time I’m assigned a new communications project, I go to a template provided by the program. It really, really helps me because as I’ve applied it to my job, I’ve gotten better and better at thinking of new ways to add to my communications plans.”
— Eric Bottomley, Class of 2016
Communications Specialist, Kaiser Permanente
“The confidence I have gained from the degree has helped me almost as much as the knowledge. I have the confidence that I know what I am doing and other people recognize that I know what I am doing.”
— Andrew Santelli, Class of 2013
Manager, Production — Digital Guest Experience
Disney Parks & Resorts Digital