News

Army Veteran, a USC Adminitrator, Uses Storytelling to Support the Military

November 10, 2017

By Ron Mackovich, USC News

Randall Hill ’78 was born on an Army base, and his life story revolves around the military.

“My dad was in the Army, and he encouraged me to pursue my application to West Point,” Hill recalled. “He said, ‘Why don’t you just see if you can get in?’”

Hill got in, graduated and served six years as a commissioned officer with assignments in field artillery and intelligence.

After earning a PhD in computer science from USC, Hill went on to become executive director of the Institute for Creative Technologies, where the entertainment and gaming fields converge with research to build training and simulation platforms. ICT’s interactive and virtual reality programs go beyond military training, helping veterans find jobs and cope with trauma from combat and sexual assault.

For Hill, it’s all about the story.

“We use the art of storytelling to support the military,” Hill said. “We’re in Hollywood. USC has the best cinema school, so we’re in the right place.”

Dedicated to authenticity
One of ICT’s newest interactive platforms is being rolled out at Fort Leavenworth to help victims of sexual assault.

“We interviewed a male soldier who suffered a sexual assault, and integrated that into an interactive media program using artificial intelligence,” Hill said. “Other soldiers can ask him questions, and we created a database that will generate the best response. They’re not just fact-based questions. It’s more like ‘What was your experience,’ and it comes back with a story.”

The interactive program grew in part from a project involving the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education that created an interactive experience with a Holocaust survivor.

“They were intent on authenticity, so we brought that same authenticity to the sexual assault program,” Hill said. “Part of the goal is prevention because some sexual assaults happen during hazing. We want to expose this to say ‘hazing is not OK, it has long-term consequences, it has a huge impact on people’s lives.’”

Going forward, Hill plans to stick to the story as ICT develops new programs.

“Storytelling is one of the oldest ways people have communicated, and your brain lights up when you hear a story,” Hill said. “You always remember a good movie, even decades after you see it.”