Creating Cutting-Edge Student Support
The University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is laser focused on helping students chart their own unique pathways to success. With student success at the forefront, USC Annenberg develops students’ academic and professional skills while providing networking opportunities with scholars, alumni, and industry practitioners.
To stay competitive, USC Annenberg knew it was essential to go above and beyond the needs of their current and prospective students. The next generation of learners are different than they were five to ten years ago. The school needed to create an unparalleled experience that better prepares students for their future.
USC took those learnings and developed the Annenberg Insights Project – a student success management tool – to help match skills being taught in their classrooms to real-time career statistics, current labor market trends, and job outcomes.
4,000student advising appointments (both remote and in person)
100%increase in graduate recruits
70%complete constituent records indexed by skill set
Cumbersome Data Silos Made Optimal Student Support Difficult
USC Annenberg has a treasure trove of student data, but it was scattered across a number of admission, constituent, and event information systems.
“It was data silo after data silo,” said Charles Peyton, Associate CIO for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “There was no single perspective across all of these different data systems, specifically in the context of student experience.”
Dean Willow Bay and the Student Services team saw an opportunity to streamline things for their students. The USC Annenberg School visualized a connected system with the academic advisor staff equipped to assist students with career services in a less manual way.
The Annenberg Insights Project started in 2018 with a series of questions centered on how to collect, store, retrieve, combine, and analyze student, academic course, and major data effectively with external industries of practice and alumni partners.
USC Annenberg couldn’t find any examples of another higher education institution doing this. After an early discovery call with Salesforce, and later a close partnership with the Salesforce Professional Services team, they were encouraged to pursue an endeavor that was once considered impossible.
“One of the challenges with having bold and ambitious plans is finding the time to devote to innovation, strategic thinking, deep thought processes, and experimentation. Salesforce helped jumpstart that process for us, first, by being a thought partner and then by being a technological partner who came up with solutions for us to support our own plans,” said Willow Bay, Dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Salesforce helped jumpstart that process for us, first, by being a thought partner and then by being a technological partner who came up with solutions for us to support our own plans.” Willow Bay, DeanUSC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
Putting Big Data to Work with Heroku
Tackling big data with hundreds of millions of job postings was a big task and USC Annenberg was worried there were going to be too many constraints on the platform for it to work. They knew this huge undertaking needed a solution that could be sustainable for their small team when building the Insights Project.
“The turning point for me was spending time with Salesforce technologists and learning more about the integration of Heroku with Sales Cloud. It was just incredibly elegant,” said Peyton.
Heroku’s capacity to layer an extensible data warehouse has allowed them to plan years in advance. Brainstorming impactful, long-term questions – such as infrastructure costs, project sustainability, and staffing needs – were all built into a comprehensive phased plan.
With Heroku’s ability to automate and connect external data feeds, USC Annenberg saw several advantages with the Salesforce for Education platform.
Using Data to Facilitate Real-World Student Success
By using Salesforce for Education layered with Tableau, the school was able to create a responsive, real-time system in Annenberg Insights that can show students current job titles with the specific qualifications, and then match the student to classes, internships, and trainings that could help them develop those skills.
“We work in industries that are evolving every day. Annenberg Insights tells us who’s hiring, what industries have growth, and what skills students should be preparing for to be successful in those careers,” said Suzanne Alcantara, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the Career Development Office at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “We use these insights to help students make meaningful connections.”
With Annenberg Insights, the curriculum has continued to evolve to make the connection between skill-building and career opportunities. Using Salesforce for Education, advisors are able to create a skill profile for each student. Advisors can index those skills and showcase how each skill relates to certain careers, industries, and even specific jobs. Annenberg Insights can also provide students with a visual representation of what their education is leading to.
USC Annenberg can also examine the qualifications requested for certain careers and adjust their curriculum to better align with real-time job expectations. Annenberg works with partners in different industries to ensure the skills being offered through their classes lineup with those most in-demand in the field.
“I think about this platform as a Rubik’s cube. Students can spin it, slice it, and dice it to find a personalized opportunity” said Peyton.
Investing in Students Now for Their Future
The success of the Insights Project is just scratching the surface. Insights has helped USC Annenberg clean its constituent records, making for a more representative and accurate student database.
The school went from roughly 6,000 incomplete records at the beginning of the first phase to nearly 70% of the records complete (19,000+) with fully enriched job profiles indexed by skill set. Now, with a more holistic view of their students and alumni, the school can focus on being student success driven and data informed.
With the Insights Project, current students with an interest in a specific career or field can be guided to alumni who have experience in that same area. They are hearing positive responses from alumni who are loving the engagement with the next generation of talent.
The school is also helping alumni who are transitioning between jobs or looking to change careers, providing them with access to the same data. This will help their alumni make more informed decisions when it comes to their next job or career.
“Annenberg Insights, which we developed with Salesforce, has allowed us to create deeper, more meaningful relationships with our students,” said Bay. “We really believe that one of our critical differentiators is the strength of our student services team and their ability to guide students more effectively along their individual student journeys.”
About the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is an international leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy, and public relations. With an enrollment of approximately 2,750 students, USC Annenberg offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs that prepare the most promising minds to inquire, innovate, and lead at the global crossroads of media, technology and culture. The school’s academic rigor, experiential learning opportunities, state-of-the-art facilities, and unparalleled network of industry partners, and more than 22,000 alumni allow students to develop intellectual, professional, and ethical depth as they engage with an expert faculty of nearly 200.