USC Annenberg is ushering in a new era of digital media education, communication and production with the groundbreaking of a visionary new building and the launch of a $150 million fundraising initiative.
On Nov. 8, 2012, the University of Southern California will welcome trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of USC Annenberg to campus for a ceremony marking the beginning of the initiative, which will invest in new generations of students and scholars exploring and developing the digital future.
Funds raised will pay for capital projects to enhance Wallis Annenberg Hall – labs, studios and technology – as well as student scholarships, fellowships, chaired professorships and funding for start-ups led by students and faculty. 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.
“Wallis Annenberg stands among USC’s most generous and steadfast supporters, as well as the university’s longest serving trustee,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “As journalism continues to evolve, her landmark gift will help keep USC on the field’s cutting-edge, while ensuring that our students have access to world-class facilities.”
Plans for the new 88,000-square-foot, five-floor building, scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, call for a technologically transformative jewel in the center of USC’s campus. Designs were drawn to reflect the transparency and collaboration that drives USC Annenberg’s educational philosophy. (See a fly-through video of the new building here.)
“USC Annenberg is widely recognized as a world leader in journalism and communication,” said USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III. “This new facility, and the initiative, will enable us to expand our innovative teaching, research and service, and spark a new era of creativity among our faculty and students in this new digital age.”
Beyond the university’s iconic Gothic flourishes on the exterior, the ultramodern interior will feature a four-story atrium with a rooftop skylight and multistory digital media tower showcasing student programming along with online social media and live broadcast news. The atrium itself is designed to encourage informal conversation and gatherings as well as formal events. Leaders envision the space as an area for the USC community to convene and share ideas with guest lecturers, faculty and students.
At the heart of the building will be a fully converged, 20,000-square-foot newsroom, looking onto Childs Way, that will tear down the silos that now separate broadcast, print and web journalism. A state-of-the-art content management system will allow students to share and publish from multiple sources to any medium, enabling students to embrace and lead the new era of digital journalism. The transparency and collaborative energy will power students’ choices as they build the foundations of their future careers.
The nucleus of the operation is a 360-degree assignment desk that will run the day-to-day work of USC Annenberg’s student news organizations. While still operating independently, the news organizations – and solo student journalists – will have the ability to seamlessly share audio and video on multiple platforms from a single newsroom. A media halo of digital screens above the assignment desk will provide a live stream of breaking news, along with online news and RSS feeds.
Studios in the newsroom will be multipurpose. A television studio with multiple sets, including anchor desks and a green screen, will operate alongside a separate radio studio equipped with broadcast-quality cameras so that radio programming can be used online or on TV as well. A third studio, designed for vodcast, will allow students to stream professional-quality audio and video directly to the web.
Beyond the newsroom, all of Wallis Annenberg Hall will feature up-to-the-minute technology that is scalable and flexible as new innovations become available. The building will be loaded with full WiFi and 4g wireless capacity, including at least 110 hotspots and no dead zones. There will be more than a thousand Ethernet connection points.
Digital monitors throughout the building will stream student programming and instruction material in classrooms.
The philosophies of sharing and collaboration permeate every space in the building. A central media database, unique for an academic environment, will encourage sharing and analysis by communication and journalism faculty, students and scholars, no matter where they are.
Faculty and students will be able to work together in all kinds of physical spaces – multi-purpose rooms, classrooms, meeting rooms, open study areas, a laptop lounge and computer lab, and research and learning labs. Eleven “drop-in” student collaboration areas will foster impromptu meetings and conversations. There will be a full-service café and an auditorium seating 160.
“As we move further into the 21st century, it is clear that the education of journalists will require a facility unlike any that now exists,” said Wallis Annenberg, chairman of the board of the Annenberg Foundation. “This building will give talented students and faculty the opportunity to experiment with emerging tools and invent journalism and communication models for the digital future. The future of journalism will be shaped at USC.”
Planning for the building was initiated by a $50 million lead gift from the Annenberg Foundation at the direction of Wallis Annenberg, who is also the foundation’s president and CEO. Besides being the longest serving trustee on USC’s Board of Trustees, she has been a lifelong advocate for the essential role journalism plays in enriching society and sustaining democracy. 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.
The new construction, on the west side of Pertusati Bookstore, will supplement the school’s current operations in its existing building on Watt Way.
The School’s $150 million fundraising initiative will help build out the new facility as well as earmark a $30 million endowment for student scholarships, including need- and merit-based scholarships, graduate fellowships, internships and residencies and study-abroad stipends. Administrators will also set aside $30 million for an endowment for faculty, research and teaching – including chairs and professorships and research centers. Finally, $20 million will go toward innovation and start-up funding, changes in flexible technologies and interdisciplinary projects and collaborations.