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Banet-Weiser tapped to lead School of Communication

Sarah Banet-Weiser holds a joint appointment in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department at USC Dornsife. (USC Photo/courtesy of USC Annenberg)

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism will welcome current Professor Sarah Banet-Weiser as the new director of its School of Communication. Dean Ernest J. Wilson III will officially announce the appointment in the summer of 2014.

Banet-Weiser, who began her career at USC as an assistant professor in 1999, is an expert in gender and media, American studies, youth culture, and popular and consumer culture. An award-winning author who has edited and written a number of books, journals and journal articles, she holds a joint appointment in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“During my 13 years here at USC Annenberg, my own understanding and contributions to the field have been indelibly shaped by the range and breadth of this department and the faculty who work here,” Banet-Weiser said.

“While my own scholarship emerges from the subfield of culture and communication, I’m looking forward to continuing to build the department in all areas of the field — from health communication to organizational communication to rhetoric to new and digital technologies and other subfields,” she continued. “We have great opportunities and resources here at USC Annenberg, and I am honored to be asked to help continue building our department in the years to come.”

Banet-Weiser will take over the post from current Director Larry Gross. Gross has led the school since 2003, is a past president of the International Communication Association (ICA) and a former Guggenheim Fellow. A specialist in the areas of media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross is known for helping to found the field of gay and lesbian studies. He will continue to serve as USC Annenberg’s vice-dean and retain his position as a faculty member.

“Professor Gross has a remarkable record of achievement and excellence during his time as director,” Wilson said. “We’re transitioning seamlessly from one star to another as we shift leadership of the School of Communication. Professor Banet-Weiser is a renowned scholar, an award-winning author, a beloved teacher and an effective leader. I couldn’t be happier that she has agreed to take on this role and continue to build on the foundation of excellence in scholarship and education that the school is known for.”

According to Gross, Banet-Weiser is “extraordinarily appropriate” for the role, because of her deep knowledge of the school and her stewardship skills.

“She’s broad-minded in her approach to a fairly complicated field,” he said. “A key to our program has been that it balances heterogeneous approaches and methods, and she’s committed to that, as I have been. This is not a school with a single view of what questions to look at and what constitutes scholarship. We’re quite diverse in that way, and that’s one of our strengths.”

Beyond being a respected intellectual and scholar, Banet-Weiser has a commitment to social values that will be invaluable to the school, Gross added.

“She sees the academic mission as one that has wider social responsibilities that translate into what you teach, how you teach and how you think about working with students,” Gross said. “It’s not an ivory tower mentality, but one that understands that the university, as a privileged institution, must contribute to society.”

After earning her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, in 1995, Banet-Weiser came to USC Annenberg to take her first tenure-track position. She quickly rose to full professor, won a USC Mellon Mentoring Award for her work with graduate students and became a distinguished fellow for the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching. Her teaching and research interests include feminist theory, race and the media, youth culture, popular and consumer culture, and citizenship and national identity.

Banet-Weiser’s first book, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity, explores the beauty pageant as a space in which national identities, desires, and anxieties about race and gender are played out.

One of her most recent books is Authentic: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture. Winner of the 2013 Outstanding Book Award from the ICA, Authentic examines brand culture, youth and political possibility through an investigation of self-branding, creativity, politics and religion.

Banet-Weiser has also published articles in the academic journals Critical Studies and Media Communication, Feminist Theory, the International Journal of Communication, and Television and New Media, among others. For six years, until 2013, she co-edited a book series with New York University Press, Critical Cultural Communication.

For the past four years, she has edited American Quarterly, the flagship journal of the American Studies Association.

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