The graduate certificate is open to Ph.D. students in any USC program. To complete the certificate, doctoral students are required to take one core course and three elective courses (see courses below).

In addition to the completion of these course requirements, students must demonstrate a focus on STS as a meaningful component of their doctoral dissertation. This will include working with faculty with expertise in STS on the doctoral committee (as a primary advisor or minor member). Faculty will be responsible for judging the adequacy of the STS component in the student’s dissertation. To apply for the certificate, contact

Core Course

COMM 569/SOCI 653: Introduction to Science & Technology Studies

This course is designed to provide newcomers with an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of Science & Technology Studies (STS) at the doctoral level. It presents canonical and contemporary scholarship, providing an overview of some of the major themes and issues that occupy the field, with attention to different disciplinary areas of application and concern. STS provides tools for critical analysis of the forms of political, epistemological, and cultural authority that underpin scientific knowledge and technological systems. We will read examples of sociological, historical, and ethnographic approaches to the study of knowledge production, its relationship to technology, and political and social order. This course will provide doctoral students with a cross-disciplinary foundation for analyzing the material and epistemological dimensions of their proposed independent research sites.

Pre-Approved Elective Courses

The following courses are pre-approved to apply toward the certificate. Other courses may be applied toward the certificate, as approved by the STS faculty advisor. One of these courses may be a research workshop geared toward doctoral prospectus development. Unless approved by the program director, directed research may not be counted towards the award of the certificate.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

AMST 640: Race, Technology, Power

Taught by Professor Juan de Lara, this course will introduce graduate students to an emerging field of scholarship that examines how race, science, and technology are mutually constituted. We will draw from a number of academic disciplines, including science and technology studies, ethnic studies, critical race studies, and the social sciences.

The class is divided into three sections. Section one will use scientific objects and genetic coding to illustrate how racial thinking has been shaped by and been central to technological innovation. In section two, we will interrogate the multiple ways that race and technology have transformed governance and human subjectivity. The final section will focus on more recent efforts to contest entrenched networks of power and to push for social justice through online platforms.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

AMST 700: Theories and Practices of Professional Development

This seminar is the “prospectus course,” in which each person completes a draft of his/her dissertation prospectus by the end of the Fall semester. Along the way, we will talk about how each dissertation project fits into the disciplines of American and Ethnic Studies, including practical matters of preparing for the job market and less tangible issues such as theories of these disciplines and their related scholarly and pedagogical practices.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

COMM 573: Networked Publics: Theories & Encounters

This course introduces students to historical and contemporary debates around how publics are made, what they can look like, and what they should be. It traces normative models of the public across communication institutions and infrastructures, focusing on the role that networked information technologies play in how publics are imagined and realized.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

CCOMM 574: Science & Technology Studies for Communication & Media Studies

How does knowledge acquire the status of fact, and how does it travel through the world? What is the relationship between science, technology, and social order? It’s tempting to see new technologies, especially new media technologies, as drivers of political and social change. But technological artifacts also embody the values and assumptions — and conflicts — of the societies that produce them, in complicated and surprising ways. This course provides an introduction to the field of Science & Technology Studies, examining the intersection of technology, knowledge, power, and society, with particular attention to cases and theories relevant to the study of communication and media. It takes as its premise that assumptions about society may come to be embodied in technological artifacts and technical knowledge, and undertakes to study how social relations get “inside” technology.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

COMM 632: Cultures of Artificial Intelligence

Taught by Professor Jennifer Petersen, the course will draw on literatures including feminist STS, histories of technology, and social theory to investigate the development and implications of AI. The focus will be on a critical genealogy of concepts and forms of knowledge central to AI.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

COMM 647: Network and Society

Advanced research seminar examining the interaction between communication technology, society, economy, politics and culture from interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

COMM 652: Ethnographic Field Research in Communication

Taught by Professor Christina Dunbar-Hester, the course explores ethnography as research mode including theory and practice of ethnographic research; epistemological and political underpinnings of ethnographic research.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

CSCI 631: Privacy in the World of Big Data

Privacy challenges that arise in the world driven by data. An overview of algorithmic and technical approaches to addressing them.
Recommended Preparation: thorough understanding of algorithms, proof-based mathematics, and basic probability.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

ENGL 509: Marx, Darwin, and the Evolution of Social Theory

Taught by Professor Devin Griffiths, this course will examine the dialogue between two of the nineteenth century’s most influential theorists of social change, while tracing their impact on later discussions of race, aesthetics, labor, and environmental thought.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

ENGL 610: Theory at the End of the World: Ecocriticism, Apocalypse, and the Anthropocene

How do we think the end of our world? How might our writing shape the world to come? These questions will be central to our seminar, which will examine major works of ecocriticism, systems thinking, and organic theory to explore how a variety of writers have conceived the world as an integrated ecology, and how such conceptions of the world system inform out attempts to deal with climate change and the dawn of the Anthropocene.

Pre-Approved Elective Course

LBST 572: Controversies in Science, Medicine and Ethics

Focus on how scientific developments drive ethical issues in medicine. Exploration of ethical dimensions of issues such as stem cells, genetic engineering and reproductive technology.