Graduate Spotlight: Ariel Nuño’s Path to Leadership in Digital Media

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I was most surprised with how insightful and effective the live class sessions were, despite being remote. These sessions became the most important aspect of the entire program.

Ariel Nuño Headshot Website

Photo courtesy: Ariel Nuño

Ariel Nuño approaches the digital world with the lens of an anthropologist, seeing and navigating these virtual spaces with curiosity and care. As the Director of Digital Rights Management at Collab, Inc., she works with digital creators to protect, monetize and manage what is theirs—content, in all its forms, dispersed across social media platforms. Recognizing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on content consumption and the nature of work, Ariel decided to pursue the Master of Science in Digital Media Management, a calculated step forward in adapting to an ever-changing digital landscape. Below, she recounts her journey as both a student and as an industry professional looking to advance her career.

Tell us about your academic and professional background and how digital media management integrates itself into your career journey.

I completed my undergraduate studies at UCLA, where I earned a B.A. in Anthropology, with a minor in Earth and Environmental Sciences. When I graduated, I was eager to apply my anthropology degree, somewhat unconventionally, to the field of digital media. My background, as an anthropologist, meant that I was uniquely qualified to navigate digital spaces and manage people. I was fortunate enough to join Collab, Inc., a digital content studio and creator development company, where I began to carve a path for myself in their digital rights management (DRM) department. I grew with the company, at times wearing many hats, and am now the Director of DRM, using my M.S. in Digital Media Management to further my career. The MSDMM program helped me advance my knowledge regarding the business side of digital media and better equipped me to lead diverse teams of remote workers, who are globally dispersed. In the fast-paced, ever-changing world of digital media, this investment in my continued education has paved the way for future successes in my career as an industry leader.

Why did you decide to pursue the MSDMM program at USC? What were your goals?

It is normal for digital environments change rapidly and constantly. However, the COVID-19 pandemic completely changed the way business was conducted and content was being consumed in digital spaces. I knew that there was a lot I had to learn very quickly if I wanted to continue to succeed. The MSDMM program at USC was the perfect opportunity to learn from and among industry professionals, and immediately apply everything I was learning to my work at Collab.

Ariel Headshot In Gown

Photo courtesy of Ariel Nuño

How do you utilize digital media in your current role?

I live and breathe digital media in my current role as the Director of DRM, at Collab. In a snapshot, I work to help digital media creators protect, manage, and monetize their content across social media platforms like YouTube, Meta, and TikTok. To do so, I manage remote and globally dispersed teams of some of the brightest minds in the industry. I have and am currently utilizing all the skills I sharpened in the MSDMM program, spanning from creating decks to present to stakeholders, to building analytics dashboards, to practicing how to become a more effective leader.

When you look back at your time throughout the program, what stands out to you as a highlight?

One of the biggest strengths of the MSDMM program is that it’s virtual, which makes it convenient to those working full-time jobs or who are operating under time constraints. It also means that students can immediately practice the skills they are learning about to succeed in professional remote environments. Additionally, the program’s virtual nature allows for greater diversity in those who attend, resulting in varied perspectives and a superior learning experience.

What was your experience as an online student at USC Annenberg?

Overall, I was thrilled with my experience as an online student at USC. The program’s professors were stellar; knowledgeable in their fields, excited to share that knowledge, and versed in how to present that information in a remote setting. The professor to student ratio was excellent; the relatively small class sizes afforded ample opportunity to ask questions and receive individual attention. Additionally, even though the classes were remote, I had the opportunity to transition through the program with my cohort, so I saw many familiar faces and was able to see other students’ capstone projects develop along with my own.

What surprised you the most about your experience?

I was most surprised with how insightful and effective the live class sessions were, despite being remote. These sessions became the most important aspect of the entire program. Within them, I had the opportunity to thoroughly dive into covered content, was able to relate course material to current events, and had discussions with industry professionals from within my cohort, guest speakers, and the professors themselves.

Ariel Family With Tommy

Photo courtesy of Ariel Nuño

What was your favorite course and why?

Hands down, my favorite course was DMM 520, on strategic digital media marketing, which I took with Dr. Sylés Akira. I was able to turn the entire course into one big branded digital media marketing project for Café Bustelo, which I am not affiliated with, but as a self-proclaimed coffee snob was a dream come true. As someone who previously had no hands-on experience with marketing, aside from being in a target audience, this course was an enlightening way to connect everything we were learning about digital spaces and inform on the effect of digital marketing on the end user.

As an Ambassador for the MSDMM program, what advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in digital media management?

In today’s world, it’s very difficult to find a career that doesn’t intersect with digital media and, if you are looking to grow professionally, management and leadership skills are a requirement. On top of that, in most post-pandemic professional settings, you’ll also have to learn how to be a leader in digital spaces, as more and more companies have gone remote. As an Ambassador for the MSDMM program, I not only recommend the program, but challenge you to find an industry where the skills you learn in this program will not set you apart from your peers.

Learn more about the M.S. in Digital Media Management. 

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