Cindy Olnick

Associate Director of Heritage Conservation, Visiting Heritage Conservation Expert-in-Residence


B.S. Mass Communications, Boston University

Areas of Focus: Writing, messaging, and communications strategy for heritage conservation; reframing heritage conservation/historic preservation; building communications capacity in the field

“Our students give me faith in the future.” 

Cindy Olnick serves as both Associate Director of Heritage Conservation at USC and a communications consultant for heritage conservation, historic preservation, and the built environment. At USC, she teaches courses in communicating for the built environment and master’s thesis preparation. She also recruits new applicants to the Master of Heritage Conservation (MHC) program and related dual-degree programs in urban planning, landscape architecture, and building science.

Cindy co-created and co-hosts the award-winning podcast Save As: NextGen Heritage Conservation, which glimpses the future of the field through interviews with MHC students and alumni. With co-host (and MHC Program Director) Trudi Sandmeier and producer Willa Seidenberg (MHC ’23), Cindy talks with current and former students about their innovative research, diverse career paths, and perspectives on the field. (See “Save As: Unplugged” for an inside look at the podcast.)

In her consulting practice, Cindy develops messaging, content, and strategy for organizations locally and nationwide. Past projects include working with the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions to create the 2023 Messaging Guide for Local Preservation Programs, bringing a preservation perspective to strategic planning for Docomomo US, and leading public engagement for a national grant competition that won $150,000 for L.A.’s Church of the Epiphany. She currently leads community engagement for Historic Places Pasadena, the City’s project to create a new historic context statement and citywide historic resources survey.

Cindy previously built and led the communications program for the Los Angeles Conservancy, the region’s leading preservation organization. She currently serves on the board of the National Preservation Partners Network and the steering committee of the Preservation Priorities Task Force, a partnership of the Partners Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She also serves on the board of Photo Friends of the Los Angeles Library, for whom she wrote the 2017 book L.A. Landmarks: Lost and Almost Lost. Based on the book, she created a free self-guided tour, Lost and Found, for Friends of Residential Treasures: Los Angeles.

Related Links: Save As: NextGen Heritage ConservationCindy Olnick CommunicationsLinkedIn

Currently Teaching
  • 554
    Heritage Conservation Practicum: Communicating for the Built Environment
    Heritage Conservation Practicum: Communicating for the Built Environment

    Regardless of how you work with the built environment, you will need to express ideas clearly and communicate in different ways with different people to meet different goals. This course applies basic communications principles to heritage conservation, architecture, urban planning, and related fields. We will explore the ever-changing landscape of tools and tactics (including AI), along with enduring truths about how humans perceive information. You will practice different types of writing and learn when and how to use jargon (if ever). You’ll analyze how public narratives influence issues like housing. You’ll learn how to connect with different audiences, create and repurpose compelling stories, and use images effectively. You might even conquer your fear of public speaking. Through individual and group assignments, and a final project based on your professional interests, this course will help you build essential skills that will serve you well throughout your career. 

  • 691b
    Heritage Conservation Thesis Preparation and Thesis
    Heritage Conservation Thesis Preparation and Thesis

    Prerequisite(s): ARCH 549 Introduction to, and exploration of, topics leading to the development of a thesis prospectus and directed research towards the completion of the master’s thesis in heritage conservation. Credit on acceptance of thesis. Registration restricted to Master of Heritage Conservation students who have satisfactorily completed 12 hours of graduate course work and have permission of the Program Director. Graded IP/CR/NC.

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