Students with camera equipment practicing using it

The Jackson Years (2019 - 2023)

The Annenberg School today is expanding the horizons of Communication scholarship into new modalities and with new partnerships. 

John L. Jackson, Jr. became Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School on January 1, 2019 and served until he became Penn Provost on June 1, 2023. His time at Annenberg was marked by the creation and growth of new centers, such as the Center on Digital Culture and Society; Media, Inequality and Change Center (a collaboration with Rutgers University); SAFELab; and the Center for Information Networks and Democracy. He also expanded connections with the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. 

Three new faculty hires in 2019 — Sarah J. Jackson as a Presidential Associate Professor and Duncan Watts as a Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor — added to the expertise of the school, with Jackson’s specialty in how the media represents marginalized populations, notably Black and feminist activists, and Watts one of the pioneers in computational social science. Both Jackson and Watts won Carnegie Fellowships in 2020, making them the third and fourth members of the faculty to receive the honor.

John Jackson at the head of a table teaching a class
Jackson teaching an undergraduate course on the history and importance of HBO

New health media effects hires joined the school in 2020 with the additions of Annenberg alumnus Andy Tan, who founded the Health Communication and Ethics Lab, and David-Lydon Staley, who launched the Addiction, Health, and Adolescence (AHA) Lab.

Deen Freelon was hired under Jackson's tenure, to begin his role on July 1, 2023. 

Under Jackson’s leadership, the School has further embraced multimodal scholarship, building on Annenberg's early investments in the pedagogical value of combining hands-on practice with theoretical training, and encouraging a broader definition for academic scholarship that is inclusive of video, audio, and other multimedia formats. School initiatives like the Center for Experimental Ethnography, CAMRA, and partnerships with the School of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Education furthered this goal. The School also introduced the Mediamaker-in-Residence position, which brought to the school public radio veteran and podcaster Dan Gorenstein and Blackstar Film Festival creator Maori Karmael Holmes. 

Jackson’s leadership also guided the School through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the closure of the School building in Spring 2019 and the initiation of fully online classes and events. For the first time ever, Annenberg's Graduation and Convocation ceremonies in 2020 were held virtually, as was graduation in 2021.

In 2021, the School announced a new partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, which created a joint center — the Center for Collaborative Communication — and brought Sarah Banet-Weiser onto Annenberg's faculty, adding to the appointment she already had at USC Annenberg.

The Annenberg School remains committed to both its interdisciplinary and disciplinary roots and maintains its reputation as the premier Communication program for research, teaching, and service in the world.

On January 25, 2023, Penn President Liz Magill announced that Jackson has been selected as the next Provost for the University of Pennsylvania, a role he is now fulfilling. 

Back: The Delli Carpini Years