Cinema and media studies faculty write public letter of support

The faculty in Cinema and Media Studies have published a public letter in support of the graduate students in the department. The letter pushes one of our central demands for an additional year of funding. The full text of the letter can be found below:

May 26, 2020

Dear Provost Zukoski,

As we collectively wrap up a challenging semester in a changed world, the Division of Cinema and Media Studies writes to thank you for the thoughtful, flexible, and careful leadership that you and President Folt have provided for our community. We recognize the extensive logistical and economic challenges that USC faces as we plan for the coming academic year, and we are eager to partner with you in charting a path forward.

We write to you today to express our solidarity with USC’s least secure workers, including staff, adjuncts, non-tenure track faculty, and graduate students. As USC grapples with difficult financial decisions, we urge you to protect the most precarious members of our community, shielding their incomes, their jobs, their opportunities, and their benefits.

As faculty who teach, mentor, and work closely with graduate students, we recommend that the Provost’s Office and Graduate School directly address USC’s graduate cohort, a group facing particular financial, professional and psychological stressors, and articulate a clear plan to support their needs. These needs include emergency funds, health and housing services, increased international student advising, and research support. Additionally, the Graduate School should create a centralized, easy-to-find online resource specific to graduate students that aggregates pertinent policies and information related to COVID-19. Provost Zukoski’s April 16th memo to the graduate students outlined important first steps and commitments, but we believe that USC can and should do more. We are asking for more transparency about how top-level policies are being formulated and for much broader representation of faculty and graduate students in those groups and processes.

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) and the Graduate Student Government (GSG) Executive Board have requested the extension of doctoral student funding in order to offset research and other delays caused by COVID-19. We strongly endorse their request and ask that you formulate a clear plan for funding such extensions. Other leading universities, including Yale and Brown, have taken similar steps. If USC cannot guarantee such funding to all doctoral students, the Graduate School should substantially expand opportunities for sixth-year finishing fellowships, pre- and post-doctoral teaching fellowships, and sixth-year teaching assistantships.

Graduate students comprise over half of our student body. They are a vital part of our campus community, actively creating new knowledge through their research while enriching the undergraduate experience through their teaching. Please attend to their specific needs and concerns with seriousness and care as we navigate an uncertain future.


Kiki Benzon, Associate Professor of Practice
Vicki Callahan, Professor of Practice
J.D. Connor, Associate Professor
Lan Duong, Associate Professor|
Nitin Govil, Associate Professor
Aniko Imre, Professor
Priya Jaikumar, Professor
Akira Mizuta Lippit, T.C. Wang Family Endowed Chair in Cinematic Arts; SCA Vice Dean of Faculty
Tara McPherson, Professor and Chair
Michael Renov, Haskell Wexler Chair in Documentary; SCA Vice Dean, Academic Affairs
Ellen Seiter, Stephen K. Nenno Endowed Chair in Television Studies
Laura Isabel Serna, Associate Professor of History and Cinema and Media Studies

Ph.D. Candidate Mike LaRocco hired as Assistant Professor of Digital Media at Bellarmine University!!!

A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Ph.D. Candidate Mike LaRocco, who has been hired as Assistant Professor of Digital Media at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky!! Mike will defend his dissertation, “Video Camera Technology in the Digital Age: Industry Standards and the Culture of Videography,” next week and will begin teaching at Bellarmine in Fall 2018. We could not be more proud of you Mike!!

Mike Photo

Click here to read Mike’s bio and find out more about his incredible work!!

Ph.D. Candidate Emma Ben Ayoun receives VSRI Summer Grant; Eszter Zimanyi receives Research Enhancement Fellowship!

BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Ph.D. Candidates Emma Ben Ayoun and Eszter Zimanyi, who received the Visual Studies Research Institute Summer Grant and the 2018-2019 USC Research Enhancement Fellowship respectively!


Emma Ben Ayoun (pictured) will use her funding to conduct research in the United Kingdom this summer. Her dissertation bridges film studies and critical disability studies by thinking through illness and/as metaphor in global cinema. Click here to find out more about her brilliant work!

Eszter Zimanyi will use her fellowship year to conduct research in Europe. Her dissertation considers how Europe’s internal divisions during and after the Cold War have impacted the contemporary European migrant / refugee “crisis.” Click here to read her bio!

Ph.D. Candidates Stefania Marghitu and Debjani Dutta awarded Annenberg Summer Research and Travel Grants!

Congratulations to Ph.D. Candidates Stefania Marghitu and Debjani Dutta who both won USC Annenberg Summer Research and Travel Grants from the Graduate School!


Stefania will use her two Annenberg travel grants to explore the Gertrude Berg Papers at Syracuse University’s Special Collections Research Center. She will then present her findings at the Trailblazing Women On and Off Screen Conference at University of Greenwich, London. Stefania was also selected to present her work in the annual Annenberg Symposium this year, where she won another award! Her dissertation is titled “The Television Showrunner: Authorship, Agency & Identity in American Television.” Click here to read more about her incredible work!


Debjani will use her summer funding to do research in the United Kingdom. Her dissertation is titled “Tremulous Media: Nature, Technology, and the Seismic Imagination.” Click here to find out more about Debjani’s tremendous work!

Ph.D. Candidate Peter Labuza wins multiple fellowships and awards!


CONGRATULATIONS to Ph.D. Candidate Peter Labuza, who received the John E. Rovensky Fellowship in U.S. Business and Economic History, the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship from The Lilly Library at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, and the Friends of the Libraries Award from the University of Wisconsin, Madison this year! Peter was also the first student from a Cinema Studies department since Douglas Gomery – all the way back in 1979 – to be invited to participate in the University of Illinois Business History Conference Dissertation Colloquium. Incredible!!

Click here to read more about Peter’s work

Ph.D. Candidate Şebnem Baran hired as Visiting Assistant Professor at Smith College!


A GIGANTIC CONGRATULATIONS to Ph.D. Candidate Şebnem Baran, who has been hired as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Television Studies at Smith College! Şebnem will defend her dissertation, “Whose Quality Is It?: Transnational TV Flows and Power in the Global TV Market,” in May and will join Smith’s faculty in the department of Film and Media Studies this upcoming fall. We couldn’t be prouder of you, Şebnem!!

Click here to read Şebnem’s bio and find out more about her work!

Professor Priya Jaikumar receives USC’s Mentoring Award



A VERY BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Cinema and Media Studies Associate Professor Priya Jaikumar, who just received USC’s Mentoring Award in the “Faculty Mentoring Graduate Students” category!!! Professor Jaikumar is an invaluable source of support in our department; her careful and critical reading of student work, generosity of time and encouragement, and wealth of knowledge have made a lasting impact on all of us who have the privilege of working with her. This award could not go to a more deserving person! Congratulations again, Professor Jaikumar – we are so
appreciative of all you do!!

Debjani Dutta and Aaron Rich both awarded USC Andrew W. Mellon Humanities in a Digital World Fellowships


A huge congratulations to Cinema and Media Studies Ph.D. Candidates Debjani Dutta and Aaron Rich, who were both awarded USC Andrew W. Mellon Humanities in a Digital World Fellowships for 2018-2020! Only two Ph.D. fellowships are awarded each year by USC’s Digital Humanities Program, and we could not be more excited that both fellowships went to CAMS students this year!!

Click here to read Debjani’s bio and find out more about her dissertation, “Tremulous Media: Nature, Technology, and the Seismic Imagination”


Click here to read Aaron’s bio and find out more about his dissertation, “The Hollywood Research Library: Visual Knowledge in the Republic of Images”