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USC Annenberg dissertations demonstrate a broad scope

This year's dissertations by USC Annenberg students reflected a range of disciplines. (USC Photo/Dan Avila)

From the ethics of organ donation to communications in video gaming, the dissertations produced by the 14 doctoral students who graduated this year from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism reflected the school’s wide range of scholarship, interest and disciplines.

“The diversity of our students’ work is dizzying and is a constant reminder of the immense breadth and power of communication research,” said Associate Professor Dmitri Williams. “Our students are creating the future with a mix of methods and on topics that impact Main Street, Wall Street, and our homes and families.”

G. Thomas Goodnight, director of doctoral studies and professor, observed that the students’ work produces “a convergence of theory and practice that creates a unique perspective.”

During a recent interview, Goodnight described the field of communication as “a discipline that deals with how messages are circulated and connected across the globe.

“Annenberg students seem to be leading research along these particular lines,” he added.

Goodnight was the chair of three dissertations this year, including one by Ryan Gillespie that examined organ donation in the United States as well as the ethics of donating and selling organs. Gillespie said he was impressed, but far from shocked, by the range of issues addressed by his cohort.

“I have learned not to be surprised at the diversity of topics and theoretical and methodological approaches found in our school,” Gillespie said. “It is a very cool thing.”

Adam Kahn’s dissertation, chaired by Williams, looked at video game teams and how they use available communication channels.

“Annenberg’s breadth allows us to come out of the program with a basic understanding of a little bit of everything so that we can converse with scholars across the discipline,” Kahn said.

Other USC Annenberg PhD recipients wrote theses with the titles Mapping Out the Transition Toward Information Societies: Social Nature, Growth and Politics (Martin Hilbert); The Emergence of Green IT: The Formation and Implementation of Green IT Strategy and Organizational Change in IT Organizations (Jingfang Liu); and Helping Haiti: A Rhetorical Analysis of the 2010 Haiti Network Relief Movement (Diana Winkelman).

Goodnight pointed out that USC Annenberg’s “palette of study” is broad by design.

“We accommodate different kinds of methodological approaches,” he said. “When you have that, you create flexibility for students so they bring and translate their own backgrounds into productive work.”


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