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Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism are partnering to establish the Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication. 

Credit: Maya Pratt

Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication and the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism are establishing a joint center to create a partnership between the two schools.

The first of its kind, the Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication will aim to facilitate a long-term relationship between faculty and students across two premier institutions for communication in the United States. The center hopes to create opportunities for collaborative research projects and classes across the schools, focusing on how communication can address issues such as health care, politics, data privacy, and journalistic trust. It will officially launch on July 1, 2021.

The center looks to leverage the expertise of both Annenberg schools to understand the impact of the current media environment on attempts to grapple with social issues, Penn Annenberg Dean John L. Jackson Jr. wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

“There is so much we need to understand and get right about our contemporary media ecology if we want to have a chance of addressing important social and political issues, including and especially in the context of systematic violence, political extremism, and global pandemics,” Jackson Jr. wrote.

Sarah Banet-Weiser, a USC Annenberg professor of Communication, will serve as the inaugural director of the center with appointments in both schools.

The context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent rise of online teaching has also influenced the program, Banet-Weiser said. The development of an environment online where learning can take place in fruitful and engaging ways will be integral to the center’s success, she added. 

In the fall, Banet-Weiser will be teaching an in-person Ph.D. seminar on feminist media at Penn, which will also be offered to USC students virtually.

As the program matures, the center hopes to expand course offerings to undergraduate students and establish an exchange program between USC and Penn. With USC located at the heart of entertainment and creative industries, and Penn being at the center of news and sports journalism, Banet-Weiser said the “study abroad” would provide opportunities for students from both schools to gain exposure to different media industries. 

The program also creates new opportunities to bring in other institutions in the Annenberg universe, such as the Annenberg Honors Program in the Cathy Hughes School of Communications at Howard University. 

Banet-Weiser said that, while this past year has been filled with tragic and devastating events, it has also provided people with an opportunity to think creatively and imaginatively about the importance of communication. The center will be important for exploring these ideas further, she added.

“How do we communicate? How should we communicate better? And how should we communicate more in the interest of justice? That’s sort of the core of this center, to really ask these big urgent questions and then be able to marshal the brain power of the students and faculty at USC and Penn,” Banet-Weiser said.