Martin Kaplan holds the Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School, where he was associate dean for ten years. He is the Founding Director of the school’s Norman Lear Center, whose mission is to study and shape the impact of media and entertainment on society. He was Vice President Walter Mondale’s chief speechwriter and deputy campaign manager of Mondale’s presidential bid. He worked at Walt Disney Studios for 12 years, where he was first a feature films vice president and then a screenwriter/producer. His movie credits include The Distinguished Gentleman, starring Eddie Murphy, and the film adaptation of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off. A summa cum laude in molecular biology from Harvard College, where he was president of The Harvard Lampoon, he won a First in English as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University, and he holds a Ph.D. from Stanford in modern thought and literature. Read more.
Johanna Blakley is the Managing Director at the Norman Lear Center, where she performs research on global entertainment, cultural diplomacy, celebrity culture, fashion, digital media and intellectual property law. She received a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she taught courses on popular culture and twentieth-century literature. She has held a variety of positions within the high-tech industry, including Web producer, Web site reviewer, digital archivist and research librarian. Read more.
Kate Folb is the Program Director for the Lear Center’s Hollywood, Health & Society program. Kate comes to HH&S after a career in television and music production/management, followed by more than twenty years in the entertainment education field. As Director of Special Projects at the Scott Newman Center, Kate worked with top TV shows and films on issues of alcohol and other substance abuse. Kate was Director of the Media Project, a partnership of Advocates for Youth and the Kaiser Family Foundation, which addressed portrayals of adolescent reproductive health in the media. More recently, Kate lead Nightingale Entertainment, an independent consulting firm working with organizations including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Planned Parenthood Federation of America on entertainment education and celebrity involvement in national media campaigns. Kate holds a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Denver, and a Master’s degree in Education from UCLA.
Mark Leong is the Lear Center’s Business Director and came to the Norman Lear Center by way of UCLA, where he earned his BA and MBA. He also worked for twelve years in various administrative positions as a Bruin; however, he is now happy and proud to be part of the Trojan Family.
Erica Rosenthal is the Director of Research at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. She came to the Lear Center in 2011 and led research for the Hollywood, Health & Society program for more than seven years. Currently, she oversees the Lear Center’s and the Media Impact Project’s portfolio of research focused on understanding media narratives and studying their impact on audiences’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. She has worked a wide range of topics including health equity, economic mobility, immigration, reproductive rights, sexual health, gender-based violence, and more. She has a PhD in social psychology from Claremont Graduate University and 20 years of experience studying the impact of media and communication initiatives on health and public interest issues. Her graduate research examined the barriers emotional messages pose to media literacy, and the central role of trust. She has published on the power of storytelling in both scholarly journals and popular media and speaks on the social impact of media and storytelling.
Veronica Jauriqui is a Project Administrator at the Norman Lear Center where she oversees all center publications and events and manages research projects on entertainment, cultural diplomacy, politics and media. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Whittier College and a Master of Arts in communication from USC. Prior to joining the Lear Center, she worked in health communication and journalism, spending several years as reporter and assistant editor for the Los Angeles Independent newspaper where she won a L.A. Press Club award for newspaper design. She has also done freelance writing for a variety of lifestyle publications and websites and was a contributor for Los Angeles magazine and Performing Arts magazine.
Adam Amel Rogers is a Project Administrator at the Norman Lear Center. His research interests include gay media representation, sports as entertainment and the impact of entertainment on politics. Adam has been a contributor to the NFL Network and Huffington Post. He joined the Lear Center after working in communications for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and serving as Director of Alumni for Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY). He completed two terms of AmeriCorps service to the American Red Cross, where he responded to national disasters. Also, he has interned with Congresswoman Linda Sanchez. Adam has a Masters of Communication Management from the University of Southern California and he graduated magna cum laude in Political Science from California State University, Los Angeles.
Armine Kourouyan is Project Manager for the Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) program at the Norman Lear Center. She has experience working at the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, specializing in risk communication, where she worked to teach public health professionals how to effectively communicate risk to the public and media in the event of an emergency or disaster. She has a background in entertainment education through her work with The Media Project, a program of Advocates for Youth, providing the entertainment industry with the latest facts, research, and script consultations on sexual and reproductive health issues for adolescents. Armine holds a Master of Public Health from UCLA, from the department of Community Health Sciences. She received a B.A. in English from the University of California, Berkeley and is certified as a Community Health Education Specialist (CHES).
Roberta Cruger, senior outreach specialist, has worked in the entertainment business as director of special programming at MTV Networks and at Time Warner’s Manhattan Cable, Columbia Pictures, MCA/Universal Music International, and served as co-executive director of the Grammy Host Committee. She joined HH&S for the Climate Change Initiative and wrote on environmental issues for Discovery Network’s Treehugger.com and Planet Green channel. Roberta also has contributed to Smithsonian, Salon, The Believer, National Geographic, Los Angeles Times, Creem and MSNBC.com. Roberta holds a B.F.A. in film and television from New York University. She’s taught at the School of Visual Arts and at Universidad de las Americas when pursuing her master’s in visual anthropology. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erica Watson-Currie is a Research Associate, where her current projects include investigating the effectiveness of podcast and transmedia projects in journalism, and expanding effective usage of audio-visual interviews and testimonies as primary research sources for use by educators, scholars, and community groups. Erica previously spent two years as a Senior Evaluator at a private firm, whose projects included NASA and NSF grant-funded STEM education projects, and educational films. She has worked as an instructor, researcher, and experiential learning trainer at the University of Southern California. Erica received her Ph.D in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC, along with Masters degrees in both Communication Theory and Communication Management.
Russell DeVita is the web editor and writer for Hollywood, Health & Society at the Norman Lear Center. In addition, he oversees all social media outreach for HH&S and designs its communication publications. Before joining the Lear Center, he worked as a graphic designer, award-winning magazine art director and journalist, and spent several years as an editor, writer and designer at the Los Angeles Times, where he was part of an editorial team that shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. He holds a BA in journalism from SUNY College at Buffalo, and a BFA from Art Center College of Design. A Brooklyn native, Russell still considers New York his true home.
NamQuyên (Q) Lê, is an emerging filmmaker and public health practitioner. In her role as the transmedia specialist at Hollywood, Health & Society, she merges digital/social media with public health, film theory, and multifaceted communications methods to help bridge gaps between Hollywood film/television writers and STEM experts. She previously worked for Giao Diem Humanitarian Foundation as an intern in Central Vietnam to facilitate, survey, monitor, and evaluate the organization’s Pediatric Nutrition Project; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland as a study coordinator in pediatric clinical research primarily focused on rare metabolic diseases; and at the USC Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute as the Digital Innovations & Communications research and project coordinator. She completed her Bachelor and Master degrees in Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Eun Jung (Kristin) Jung is a Project Administrator for the Media Impact Project (MIP) at the Norman Lear Center. Kristin manages MIP’s public diplomacy research portfolio. She has led evaluation research for the U.S. State Department’s cultural diplomacy programs: American Film Showcase (AFS), Middle East Media Initiative (MEMI), Global Media Makers (GMM), and Media Meets Message (MMM). She has skills in performing global survey research, literature review, TV/film content analysis, and social media analysis. She is passionate about developing best practices for using mixed research methods to study the impact of global entertainment, cultural diplomacy, and journalism. Kristin has conducted entertainment media research on a variety of issues including poverty, health equity, charitable giving, reproductive rights, climate change, and media representations of Africa/African countries. Kristin holds two bachelor’s degrees in International Studies and Media & Communications from Korea University and a master’s degree in Public Diplomacy from USC.
Soraya Giaccardi is a Senior Researcher at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center. Her research interests include representation and inclusion in media (gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, age, size, etc) and how these representations contribute to real-world attitudes and behaviors. Her training in Developmental Psychology provides a framework for understanding the unique role of media throughout the lifespan. Previously, Soraya served as the Associate Director of Research at the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and has collaborated with content creators, ad agencies, and non-profits like The Representation Project, Promundo, and Plan International.
Laurel Felt is an educator, researcher, and learning designer with 20 years of experience in the playful learning space. She currently teaches at the USC Annenberg in both the undergraduate Communication program and the Master of Communication Management program. As an avid enthusiast of 21st-century learning, her research interests include social and emotional learning, learning through play/games, learning through stories/narrative, and learning with technology. Her work has been published by scholarly journals as well as more accessible outlets, including Common Sense Media and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Felt earned a PhD in Communication from the University of Southern California, an MA in Child Development from Tufts University, and a BS in Social Policy from Northwestern University.
Shawn Van Valkenburgh is a Project Associate at USC’s Norman Lear Center. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara where he used mixed methods to research culture, misogyny, and social media.
Leka Gopal is the program assistant for Hollywood, Health & Society. A recent grad from the University of California Berkeley, she joined HH&S after working with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, the Office of National Security at the State Department, and writing for various publications.
Dana Weinstein is the Project Specialist for the Media Impact Project, where she assists with various research activities. She previously worked as an Executive Assistant at Public Counsel, a public interest law firm dedicated to fighting social and economic injustices. Her research interests include inequities in higher education and the role of media literacy in schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Occidental College in Sociology and Spanish Studies. She has a Masters in Education with a specialization in Research and Evaluation at Cal State L.A.
Originally from Nigeria, Uju Okechukwu has worked as an Account Manager for a private construction company and as a Budget Technician at USC Dana and David Dornsife, since coming to the United States in 2019. She brings with her, experience in department management with a broad background in full-cycle accounting, budgeting, purchasing and social media. Her path in business administration started while attending Covenant University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Finance. When not working, Uju enjoys watching movies and sitcoms and she also writes short stories of her own. She loves having intellectual conversations so expect brief exciting conversations when you come across her!
Cristian Hurtado is a computer consultant for the Norman Lear Center. He previously worked for companies including Geek Squad, Inverted Chaos, and KCRW as well as other projects in the IT, Film, and Music industries. Garnering the Apple ASCP and Google IT Professional certifications, Cristian is working to assist and resolve his clients technological needs while also staying on the pulse of current industry trends. At home, he is usually found editing videos, hobby-building computers, or watching Formula 1.