Photos courtesy of Jeremy Evans
The Institute for Entertainment, Media, Sports and Culture (IEMSC) is gearing up for a new year with numerous upcoming events and activities for students. After receiving a grant from Waves of Innovation in March, the Institute plans to launch and plan more programs for students to get involved in.
Executive Director of the IEMSC Nelson Granados said the Institute’s mission is to unite and strengthen all of the efforts, initiatives and events related to media and entertainment across the university to prepare students for those competitive industries. The Institute was launched in October 2015.
Granados said he is charged with fulfilling the Institute’s mission of cultivating the next generation for the entertainment, media and sports industries and also making an impact on society and culture through other various initiatives. Granados is also an associate professor at Graziadio Business School.
Project Manager of the IEMSC Jeremy Evans said his role in the Institute is to bring various opportunities to students from all five schools at Pepperdine — Seaver College, the School of Law, Graziadio Business School, the Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) and the School of Public Policy (SPP) — and plan events that promote networking with people in the entertainment, media and sports industries.
“I think in one sense [the Institute is] a collaborator [because it is] trying to bring alumni, the community, industry leaders and students together around topics of entertainment, media, sports and culture,” Evans said. “The Institute is a collaborator in terms of bringing all of the schools of Pepperdine together … in terms of event planning and really just being very strategic about how are we educating students.”
Granados said the Institute started its mission with Seaver College, the School of Law and Graziadio Business School because they are more obviously related to the industries the IEMSC focuses on. However, the Institute is also looking into how to involve GSEP and SPP as well.
“You can boil [the IEMSC’s initiatives and efforts] down to three main categories … all directed at improving the experience for students interested in media, entertainment and sports: … learn, network and discover,” Granados said.
Learn: Integrating Courses Across Schools
Granados said the learning aspect of the IEMSC involves supporting, integrating and coordinating programs across Pepperdine’s various schools. The IEMSC has tried to open the gates for students to take more classes across the different schools.
“Integration means allowing students to be able to cross register, allowing students to be able to leverage the programming provided by all the different schools so that you get a more integrated experience as a student,” Granados said.
Evans said the learning aspect of the Institute’s initiatives is important to him. He has an LL.M. in Entertainment, Media and Sports Law from Pepperdine School of Law and is currently working on his MBA with a concentration in Entertainment, Media and Sports Management at the Graziadio Business School.
Evans said while he was a student at the School of Law, he was able to take classes at other Pepperdine schools, so he took a Digital Media and Entertainment class at the Graziado Business School.
“I think that really was … an eye-opening experience for me,” Evans said. “I loved learning about the business side of things, and I loved being exposed to … those different types of topics that were of interest to me.”
Granados said through this integration, students not only learn from professors in different disciplines but also have the opportunity to learn from students in other schools.
Granados said another example of the learning aspect of the Institute includes supporting the Screen Arts major in Seaver College as well as the launch of the Master of Law (LL.M.) in Entertainment, Media and Sports Law in 2017 and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in entertainment, media and sports management in 2018.
Waves of Innovation
Recently, the IEMSC received a $100,000 award from the Waves of Innovation. Granados said the IEMSC proposed a master’s degree (MS) and certificate in Entertainment, Media and Sports Business.
Theresa de los Santos, the academic director for Journalism at Seaver College for the IEMSC as well as an associate professor of communication and the NewsWaves adviser, said she is part of the team focusing on how to use the Waves of Innovation award.
De los Santos said her position with the IEMSC consists of advancing journalism opportunities for Seaver students.
“Our proposal [for Waves of Innovation] included the creation of a master’s program at the Graziadio Business School,” de los Santos said. “That part we’re moving forward with. They already have the curriculum map and that degree … [so] that degree is looking pretty positive.”
Granados said the MS aims to complement the education of students. De los Santos said the second part of the award was an interdisciplinary certificate that adds to a student’s degree.
“The question is, in addition to the existing curriculum … a student may be taking … what else do you need to know to differentiate yourself when you go out to the market to get a job?” Granados said. “So we’re engaging in market research to answer that question.”
De los Santos said the Institute is still trying to figure out the details of the certificate and is using part of the award to do research on the industry to inform the formation of the certificate or some other program that will differentiate students when they enter the job market.
“[The Waves of Innovation] showed that … Pepperdine … and especially the leadership in charge of granting those awards really is seeing … that media is still big in our world and really seeing the potential of what our students can do with full knowledge,” de los Santos said. “[When students] come out as really educated creators who are business savvy and know the legal aspects of media, the change they can do in the world is pretty powerful.”
Networking: Connecting Students with the Industries
Granados said the second main initiative of the Institute is networking. The IEMSC connects students with industry executives and experts in various contexts such as in the classroom, off-campus events, meetings at an alumni’s office and experiential learning trips.
From 2018 to 2019, the IEMSC developed something called the “menternship” initiative. Granados said a “menternship” is a combination of a mentorship and an internship where students can meet and receive career advice from IEMSC’s Executive Board members.
IEMSC Executive Board meet at the STAPLES Center.
“We have an executive board of top people in media who are alumni of Pepperdine, who love Pepperdine and want to give back,” de los Santos said.
Granados said students have the opportunity to meet and talk with an executive board member at his or her office through this “menternship” program.
The Institute had its first “menternship” last summer. Granados said eight students from different schools spoke with Evan Lamberg, the president of Universal Music Publishing Group North America.
The IEMSC plans to do another “menternship” in the fall. Granados said students from any of the five schools at Pepperdine can apply by going to the Career Services center.
In addition to the “menternship” program, Granados said the IEMSC also conducts various events for students to hear from people from the entertainment, media and sports industries about various topics.
The Institute has three upcoming events:
For the American Film Market event on Nov. 8, Granados said the Institute is trying to get a shuttle to transport students to the free event.
Evans said the L.A. Kings panel will include three speakers: a sports celebrity, an attorney for celebrities and a chief development officer for a major company. Pepperdine University has a partnership with the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) that provides Pepperdine with a classroom within the STAPLES Center as well as other opportunities.
“Normally when you attend a legal education event, it’s just lawyers; if you attend a business event, it’s just business people,” Evans said. “What we’re trying to do is to bring all those parties together, where we can all learn from each other.”
Evans said these events are for students from all five schools at Pepperdine.
“[I] really encourage students to be very proactive,” Evans said. “It’s the real world experience … relationships … that are going to open up doors for people, get them jobs, get that experience. I would just really press upon folks to take advantage of the opportunities that Pepperdine is offering, to attend some of these events.”
Summer Classroom Series
Another program the Institute offers is a classroom series at the STAPLES Center.
For example, Granados said two Pepperdine alumnae led a session called “Entertainment and Film: Breaking In and Moving Up,” where they discussed how to succeed in the entertainment industry as a woman.
Alumnae Danielle Price and Sarah Stern speak in the Pepperdine classroom at the STAPLES Center.
“It is the kind of workshop or knowledge that you don’t necessarily find in a specific class of a program’s curriculum,” Granados said. “The exciting thing about the future is hopefully we will nail what the talent, skills and knowledge are that the students are gonna need to really differentiate in the marketplace.”
Evans said if students are not able to attend these sessions in person, the Institute has recordings of them available for anyone online.
“We have different speakers for each topic come in,” Evans said. “There’s a whole list of what they were on the website. That was a deal that we brokered together with the California Lawyers Association. We thought it would be a great partner to distribute the content in terms of getting information out there and really working together on it.”
Neil Grunig, a student in the MBA program at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School who will graduate in 2020, said he attended four out of the five panels discussing different aspects of the entertainment industry last summer.
“Each class was different, but as a whole it gave me insight into different aspects of the entertainment industry,” Grunig said. “It also keeps my brain in tune with current issues and prepares me for when I navigate the industry as well.”
Grunig said he recommends the series events at the STAPLES Center for other students.
“They were very informative, and it helps me stay abreast of what is happening within my field as well as others within the entertainment industry,” Grunig said. “The industry is constantly changing, so the more information one is available to absorb the better for that individual.”
Media and News Networking Trips
Looking more specifically at the Communication Division for the IEMSC, de los Santos said she created media and news networking trips. There have been two trips so far.
On the first trip, de los Santos said she took a group of undergraduate Journalism students to New York for a week, and on the second trip, she included undergraduate Public Relations students to the group and took them on the trip to Washington D.C. and New York.
De los Santos said the students were able to connect with Pepperdine alumni and get inside access to top media companies such as The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Refinery 29, NBC News and CNN.
De los Santos said these bi-annual end-of-summer trips are for all Seaver undergraduates and are affordable.
“To really just elevate the quality of learning for our students, I really see that as my main goal and job on the Institute,” de los Santos said.
Discover: Researching Entertainment, Media and Sports
Evans said in all of the initiatives and events the IEMSC offers there exists some component of the idea of “thought leadership.”
“First and foremost, the Institute serves as a thought leader and a platform for talking about entertainment, media, sports issues for bringing stakeholders together,” Evans said.
Granados said as the media industry changes due to new digital media, the Institute dedicates time to these topics to help students become “thought leaders” in their industries. By leading in the research and understanding of these new changes in the industry, the IEMSC can transmit the information it learns to Pepperdine students as they go into the workplace.
“To me, [thought leadership] is being on the forefront of producing knowledge, to be a leader, to be guiding what we know about certain areas of media,” de los Santos said.
Granados said the Institute engages in market research to understand how the industry is transforming and how to equip students for this competition
Recently, the Institute published a report on how the media and entertainment industry is changing.
“We’re looking at things like what are the growing sectors of the industry,” Granados said. “We’re interviewing executives, students and alumni, in order to get their sense of what are the talents, skills and knowledge they’re going to need as the digital transformation ensues.”
De los Santos said one way she has pursued thought leadership is by taking on the topic of “truth in news.”
“During the 2016 election … fake news became such a hot topic,” de los Santos said. “I feel like we’ve moved on from fake news, but [there are still] questions over, ‘Where do I get accurate information?’ and ‘How do we need to reconsider truth when a lot of different truths can be presented, depending on the person in the place and time?'”
De los Santos and her Journalism colleagues encouraged the Institute to sponsor a panel at Pepperdine on the issue of truth in the news. She said another bigger community event on the same topic and a workshop for educators on how to teach news literacy followed the first panel.
De los Santos has recently launched a study with her colleague Elizabeth Smith, assistant professor of communication and director of Pepperdine Graphic Media, and the Reagan Library. This study looks at high school students and their level of news literacy.
“[This study] is not directly Institute-sponsored, but it came out of the Institute events — the panels — and really fits under thought leadership,” de los Santos said.
Granados said the Institute also researches “drivers and inhibitors of funding for women-owned firms.” The Women in Film organization in Los Angeles is partnering with the Center for Women in Leadership at Graziadio Business School and the IEMSC to collaborate on this research.
The study focuses on answering the question of why it is more difficult for women than men in film to get funding for their business ventures. Granados said the study will also inform an action plan that aims to equip women with the tools they need to achieve their goals in the industry.
Granados said he is most excited for the market research to come out, so that the Institute can create the right initiatives to make Pepperdine students well equipped for this new marketplace.
“[This research project will] hopefully … have an impact on the industry … on our students and our female students to be better able to fulfill their entrepreneurial dreams … work in the industry and launch their own ventures,” Granados said.
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