UPDATE: Thank you to those who participated in our 2022 Think-a-Thon. This year, we had over 35 students from across campus join our competition. Seven groups presented their solutions to some of the world’s most pressing 21st century media challenges. We would like to specially thank our keynote speaker, Prof. Geoffrey Cowan, as well as our panel of judges comprised of Prof. Colin Maclay, Prof. Miki Turner and Prof. Robert English. This year’s event was a major success, and we could not have done it without our student fellows, led by this year’s Think-a-Thon Executive Directors Kate Curry and Marie Zaragoza.

Winning Teams

“How We Can Avoid the Oncoming Digital Dystopia”
1st Place: Bea Heard, Torrey Snyder and Allison Walsh
Deliverable Link
$500 Cash Prize

“Truth to Youth: A Proposal for Middle School Media Literacy Curriculum”
2nd Place: Michael Murray, Ben Blum, Anthony Payne and Chris Kucera
Deliverable Link
$300 Cash Prize

“The Council to Protect Journalists Abroad”
3rd Place: Jocelyn Song, Eva Hartman, Isobel Smith and Eva Denecke
Deliverable Link
$200 Cash Prize

About the Think-A-Thon

Join the USC Global Policy Institute’s 2022 Think-a-Thon. This year, our theme is “Tackling 21st Century Challenges: Media and Global Affairs.” The problem-based learning competition will focus on the changing role of news media, social media, information integrity and the Internet in global affairs.

From disinformation to press freedom, Internet regulation to data mining and digital privacy/surveillance to social media misinformation, we are looking to examine how media is emerging and evolving in a globalized world.

What is a “Think-a-Thon?”

In this case competition, teams of students will work together to create innovative solutions to tackle global media challenges.

These challenges can be anything from COVID-19 misinformation to digital surveillance.

In teams, your job will be to select a problem and develop a solution that could be implemented to alleviate a global ill — however broad or narrow you seek to define the issue and its solutions. 

The case competition will take place on Saturday, April 9 in TCC Ballroom, where students will work throughout the day to pitch their solutions to a panel of judges. 1st place, 2nd place and 3rd place winners are eligible to receive a cash award.

As part of our competition, we will focus on a series of sub-topics including:

  • Misinformation and Disinformation
  • The Commodification of Media
  • Data Mining and Targeted Media
  • Journalistic Freedoms and Restrictions
  • Political Polarization
  • Media in Developing Countries

2022 Registration

Competition Timeline

Tuesday, February 8

Competition sign-ups open

Wednesday, March 23

Competition sign-ups close

Saturday, April 9

Competition day

Event Series

Feb. 8
Social Media Platforms and the Responsibility to Regulate Hate Speech and Misinformation

Feb. 22
Misinformation, Digital Security and the Threat to Election Security

Mar. 8
New Technology in the Developing World

Keynote Speaker

Geoffrey Cowan

Director, Center on Communication Leadership and Policy
University of Southern California

Geoffrey Cowan is the Director of the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy as well as a Professor at USC. He has been an important force across a spectrum of communication and public policy arenas — as a lawyer, academic administrator, government official, best-selling author, distinguished professor, non-profit executive and Emmy Award-winning producer.

Prior to becoming dean at USC Annenberg, Cowan served the nation as the 22nd director of Voice of America, the international broadcasting service of the U.S. Information Agency. He also served as associate director of the USIA and as director of the International Broadcasting Bureau. From 1979-1984, he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, where he played a key role in the development of National Public Radio.

Cowan serves on the boards of the Berggruen Institute, Common Sense Media and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Walter Lippmann Fellow of the Academy of Political and Social Science.

Cowan is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard College.

Event Series Calendar

Social Media Platforms and the Responsibility to Monitor Hate Speech and MisinformationOur first panel features three distinguished guest speakers in the field of digital and social media. Join us for this Q&A and discussion on how misinformation and hate speech campaigns work; what companies and governments are doing about it; and what public policy and the law tell us about these challenges.
5:00 PM PSTVirtual (Zoom)
The Impact of New Media and Technology on U.S. and Foreign Elections
On Tuesday, we’re joined by an expert panel to discuss the role of media in domestic and foreign elections. From misinformation and digital civic engagement to election interference and media’s role in public opinion, we invite the USC community to come ready to discuss, learn and engage in a Q&A.
5:00 PM PSTVirtual (Zoom)

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I form a team?

You are welcome to form a team with 3 to 4 other students. If you are interested in forming a team but are not sure with whom, we encourage you to attend GPI’s event series with our panelists and experts to meet like-minded USC students.

Can I join without a team?

Yes, you can join the competition individually and GPI will place you on a team looking for more members.

What is problem-based learning?

Problem-based learning is a learning challenge that encourages students to problem solve an issue by tackling it head-on in groups. While the technique was initially developed for use at medical schools, it has since been recognized by the academic community as a valuable way to inspire learning across disciplines.

Thus, we welcome USC students from any academic background to participate in the GPI Think-a-Thon and share their expertise to problem-solve together on this complex global challenge. 

What exactly does the PBL process entail?

The PBL process is inherently group-centric, so working well in groups and leveraging each member’s strengths will be crucial. There are several ways you can do this, such as splitting up work according to each member’s strengths, having each member handle a different perspective on the issue, or another creative idea that you come up with.  

Generally, the steps in problem-based learning consist of the following: 

  1. Examine and define the problem
  2. Explore what you already know about underlying issues related to the problem
  3. Determine what you need to learn and where you can acquire the information and tools necessary to solve the problem
  4. Evaluate possible ways to solve the problem
  5. Solve the problem
  6. Report on your findings

Why should I sign up? What skills will I gain?

The 2022 Think-a-thon will be a unique opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and network with innovative professionals working in the climate arena. Furthermore, you will be able to develop the following skills: working in teams, managing projects and holding leadership roles, oral and written communication, self-awareness and evaluation of group processes, working independently, critical thinking and analysis, explaining concepts, self-directed learning, applying course content to real-world examples, researching and information literacy, and problem-solving across disciplines.

We hope you find this process to be rewarding as you practice the art of thinking creatively with other like-minded teammates.