USC and WIRED Join Forces for New Online Masters Degree

USC and WIRED Join Forces for New Online Masters Degree

WIRED has been around, in print and online form, since 1993. In Internet years, that’s about 110, and in terms of publishing survival, it’s nearly miraculous, so one supposes it’s learned a few things along the way.

Now, the tech/culture publication wants to share those lessons with you.

The University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, WIRED, and its parent company, Condé Nast, have formed a partnership to offer a new online Masters degree in Integrated Design, Business and Technology. As stated in a USC press release, “The aim of the 18-24-month degree is to educate creative thinkers and technologists to better equip them to transform the world of industry and enterprise.”

The first students are expected to begin matriculating in the 2015-16 academic year.

Erica Muhl, dean of the USC Roski School of Art and Design, and WIRED editor-in-chief Scott Dadich made the announcement on Wednesday, Oct. 1, at WIRED By Design, a live event held at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in Marin, California.

The new degree program includes coursework from the Roski School, which has a reputation for interdisciplinary education, the USC Marshall School of Business, and the USC Veterbi School of Engineering.

From the WIRED side, there will be residencies at the publication’s headquarters in San Francisco–with new offices set to be done in time for classes to start–along with seminars and lectures by WIRED editors, writers and designers.

Said Dadich at the announcement, “Taking the best from USC and WIRED, we can teach discipline and disruption, business fundamentals, and the very latest innovation models from Silicon Valley. This is going to be thrilling.”

On the upside for WIRED, its brand is now associated with a top private university with the means to support the program (and no need to answer to taxpayers), giving it a gravitas unusual for a publication focused on the intersection of technology and culture.

For USC, it’s an opportunity to build out its Web presence, with financial help from Condé Nast and others. USC currently offers more than 80 online programs to about 8,000 graduate and executive education students.

Helping USC in the WIRED effort are higher-ed partners Synergis Education–an Arizona-based company that helps institutions create unique learning environments and recruit and retain students–and New York-based Qubed Education, which helps to facilitate partnerships between top universities and well-known media organizations and brands.

Condé Nast president Bob Sauerberg and chief administrative officer Jill Bright are part of the management team at Qubed, which aims to bring the expertise of the company’s writers and editors beyond just conferences, lectures and adjunct professorships into formal, accredited programs.

A June 3 post about Qubed at InsideHigherEd.com describes it as a new initiative with New York-based fund University Ventures, “that, since 2012, has sought to drive innovation in higher education not by ‘disrupting’ it from the outside but by encouraging it from within.”

InsiderHigherEd.com quotes Daniel Pianko, a managing director at University Ventures, as saying, “We’re not the barbarians at the gate. A lot of the pure disruptors out there don’t seem to understand the importance of 1,000 years of history. Our approach is, how do you work within the construct that has history and immense consumer acceptance, and innovate within that.”

Pointing out that University Ventures is an investor in Synergis as well, the post quotes Bright as saying, “We have a very strong interest in being part of the developing the next generation of talent. It is an opportunity t introduce our brands to new audiences by creating something that’s unique in an educational setting.”

For Southern California, the choice of USC, whose USC School of Cinematic Arts is number one on the Hollywood Reporter’s list of top U.S. film schools, means that San Francisco-based WIRED has passed by Silicon Valley educational neighbors Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley, in favor of a school closer to Silicon Beach.

Considering the ongoing cold war between technology and traditional publishing and filmmaking in particular, programs like this could represent a way to create new business models that prevent future digital disruption from turning into destruction.


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