The I T00 AM Critical Makers Lab (CML), a program of the Critical Media Project (CMP), offers an extended learning and enrichment opportunity for 8-11th grade students from South LA schools. The lab is organized around questions related to identity and representation, asking students to reflect on who they are and how they can represent themselves, their community, their story through several media making projects.

  • Module 1: Identity

    Core Questions: Who am I? What am I? When am I? How am I defined by others, by demographic categories? Maker Project: Identity poem & self-portrait collage
  • Module 2: Place

    Core Questions: Where am I? Where am I from? How does my home, neighborhood, city, state, nation define me?Maker Project: Story map
  • Module 3: Belonging

    Core Questions: What am I a part of? How am I part of a community? How do I belong? How am I included/excluded? Maker Project: Audio interview & Documentation Video: In addition to the Maker Project, students will film a short video self-reflecting on the projects, process, and what they have learned so far.
  • Module 4: Visibility

    Core Questions: How am I seen and represented? What parts of me are visible in traditional and nontraditional (alternative) media? Maker Project: Visual argument
  • Module 5: Stereotypes

    Core Questions: What am I not? How am I stereotyped and how do I respond to these stereotypes? How do I advance my own truth and representation? Maker Project: Challenging stereotypes video
  • Module 6: Advocacy

    Core Questions: What is my WHY? What matters to me? What can I change in the/my world? Maker Project: Final project Final Showcase.
  • CMP Mentors

    Yuki Liang

    Yuki Liang is a junior at the University of Southern California, where she is studying journalism and political economy. She is also pursuing a screenwriting minor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Yuki is from China, and she wants to be a journalist who inspires people and gives voice to the unheard. She hopes to raise awareness of the critical social, economic, and ecological issues facing people around the world through her work. In her free time, she loves reading novels, watching movies, and listening to music.

    Jenny Ha

    Jenny Ha is a junior at the University of Southern California majoring in Sociology with minors in Consumer Behavior and Justice, Voice, and Advocacy. After enduring the impacts of an underfunded education system at an under-resourced Title I school, she became an advocate for racial and educational equity. She continues her passion for social change through the Critical Media Project and the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund Governing Board at USC.

    Jessie Faltinsky

    Jessie is a senior from San Diego studying Communication and Consumer Behavior. At USC, she is involved in several groups, like CMP, that have allowed her to hone her passion for enhancing the youth and female voice via education. Jessie is currently working on a senior thesis that centers on developing more empowering and equitable spaces for (pleasure-based) sex education, drawing from the voices and experiences of young women. In her free time, she loves hanging out with her chickens, attending flea markets, and has recently gotten into aquascaping during quarantine.

    Jillian Russell

    Jillian Russell is a junior at the University of Southern California where she majors in Journalism and minors in Screenwriting, exploring her passion for arts and entertainment. She wants to use her voice as a writer to cover inclusive and authentic stories that bring hope and empowerment into people’s lives. She also works as an editor for USC’s Annenberg Media, co-hosts USC’s Trojan Vision, and collaborates with other women filmmakers in USC’s Women of Cinematic Arts.

    Faith Dearborn

    Faith Dearborn is a graduate student at the University of Southern California pursuing a Master of Arts in Visual Anthropology. She is currently producing her thesis film on femininity and digital cultures. Faith graduated Magna Cum Laude from USC with degrees in Political Science and Gender Studies and a minor in Cinematic Arts. She hopes to pursue a career in social impact filmmaking.

    Meher Qazilbash

    Meher Qazilbash recently graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern California with a degree in Communication. Along with CMP, she participated in various clubs and projects at USC that allowed her to immerse herself in a world of art and collaborate with others. She is currently pursuing her career as a writer and hopes to tell stories that are inspiring and challenging.

    CMP Team

    Project Founder & Director

    Alison Trope, Ph.D. is Clinical Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the School for Communication at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. She is the author of Stardust Monuments: The Saving and Selling of Hollywood (Dartmouth, 2012), which explores the enduring efforts to memorialize and canonize the history and meaning Hollywood takes on in our everyday lives. She teaches a range of courses in the Annenberg School on media and news literacy, gender and media, popular culture, media exhibition and distribution, and visual culture.

    Associate Director

    DJ Johnson is an Associate Professor of Practice, Division of Media Arts + Practice, USC School of Cinematic Arts. He is a filmmaker and educator with over twenty years of experience in media education, specializing in media strategies for social change and community organizing. DJ has designed curricula and implemented educational programs internationally. He serves on the Board of Directors of Picture Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that uses creative media to promote the social value and effectiveness of alternatives to violence.

    Project Manager

    Stefanie Demetriades, Ph.D. is a communication educator and researcher. She has taught a range of classes related to media and technology, and studies media, culture, and society, with a focus on cultural processes of meaning making around complex social problems.

    Editorial Assistants

    Olivia Gonzalez is a Ph.D. student in the School of Communication at USC Annenberg. Her current research centers on the experiences of historically marginalized groups at the intersections of entertainment media production and education in the United States. Her work interrogates the politics of race and gender within contemporary structures of media production, with a specific focus on the professional socialization of aspiring film and television producers of color. Her research also examines youth cultural production, and critical media literacy pedagogy in secondary education.

    Jessica Hatrick is a Ph.D. student in the School of Communication at USC Annenberg researching higher education student activism. Jessica is a committee member of USC Annenberg’s communication and cultural graduate conference: Critical Mediations. Central to Jessica’s work is the belief that education is a collective experience and that our knowledge is not created individually but through cooperative sharing of information and resources.

    Lauren Levitt is a PhD candidate in Communication at USC pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her ethnographic dissertation project examines the support networks of sex workers and sex workers’ rights activists in New York and Los Angeles, showing how sex workers and activists create alternative kinship structures and engage in non-capitalist economic practices to manage economic precarity and social stigma.

    Experience Designer

    Jesse Cahn Thompson is a programmer, artist, and musician based in Los Angeles. He received his MA from the Royal College of Art in 2019 after receiving the inaugural Pokémon Company Scholarship. His work and research focus on digital communication technologies as a means to democratize, balance, and empower networks of people. He is a cofounder of Poolside Press.

    Multimedia Designer

    Alexis Demetriades is an illustrator and artist. Her art explores identity, community, and memory. Her illustrations have been published by The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, The V&A, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and others. She graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2019, and was awarded the Augustus Martin Prize for print. She is a cofounder of Poolside Press.