The University of Southern California grew up with Los Angeles and with the Southern California region. From its founding in 1880, USC consciously declared itself not a pastoral college removed from the world of human affairs but a city university committed to advancing society and elevating humanity. USC’s passion, to be the great private research university that serves the public good, was in no small part related to its symbiotic relationship with the city – each nurturing the other, each succeeding because of the other. Over the past century-and-a-half, each, in its own way, has grown into a global powerhouse. And now, the defining city of the 21st century and the defining university of the 21st century are looking to realize their full potential.
With the privilege of having a community of entrepreneurial-, inclusive-, and convergent-spirited scholars, teachers, practitioners, staff, trainees, and students comes the responsibility of using this community’s talents to transform the world and to develop leaders dedicated to serving society through public and private initiative. And perhaps there is no greater impact that USC could have in the world than by contributing to solutions in its own backyard. Many of the challenges confronting the world in the 21st century are the challenges facing Los Angeles, and they are the challenges USC must commit itself to overcoming. The opportunities to reimagine the future of the globe are the opportunities that abound in Los Angeles. And, we should consider that the hopes and dreams of the people of Los Angeles are the hopes and dreams of people throughout the world. We can only be the most impactful 21st century university by being both a great global institution and a great local friend and neighbor.
The intractable challenges of our age are large and complex. Solutions will be hard won and rarely perfect. In practice, this means recognizing that solutions to Alzheimer’s disease require neuroscience and cultural awareness, that a full grasp of cybersecurity demands grounding in humanist notions of privacy, and that innovation and creativity, once the sole domain of human intelligence, will soon include alternatives provided by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Such are the “wicked problems” of our time. USC will deploy its intellectual capital to tackle these wicked problems. Indeed, the breadth of our disciplinary expertise, and our long history of community service and community-led problem solving, coupled with entrepreneurial, inclusive, and convergent approaches make us uniquely suited to this task.
In the coming years, we will partner with governmental and non-governmental organizations, community partners, philanthropic and private foundations, and all interested parties to address some of the most crucial issues of our time: homelessness, immigration, global pandemics, security, and sustainability, to name just a few. We will invest in interdisciplinary and interschool research centers and institutes that address wicked problems using evidence-based, convergent approaches. We will recruit faculty, postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows and residents, volunteers, and graduate and professional students whose current and future talents will impact these areas. We will provide seed funds for research and service projects that carry high risk but also potential high rewards. We will reimagine our curricula at both the undergraduate and graduate levels so that students are taught to understand the complexity of these problems, how to work in teams to craft innovative solutions, and how to implement those solutions, and we will provide resources to faculty teaching General Education courses so that they can introduce undergraduates firsthand to the challenges facing Los Angeles.
Just as California in prior centuries was seen as the land of opportunity, now megacities play that role. Los Angeles is an engine of economic development, an arena for political and cultural pluralism, a stage for individual and collective expression, a fount of artistic creativity, a laboratory to test notions of sustainability and security, and the seedbed of innovation. USC has much to contribute, and to gain, by seizing the inherent opportunities in Los Angeles.
In the coming years, we will forge more and deeper partnerships with the creative industries of Los Angeles, such as in the media industries, Silicon Beach, and the Arts District, by creating joint research programs and internship opportunities for students. We will create an interschool arts program that fosters arts experiences and civic engagement across the city. We will leverage our two university museums as touchpoints for community engagement with the university. And we will use Los Angeles to enrich curricula at all levels.
Over the next few years, USC will set a goal that every member of the Trojan Family contributes to making some small part of the world better.
Universities leading in the 21st century cannot be silos. Nor can they believe they are not a silo simply because they are producing research with impact. Universities are part of the social fabric, especially in the geographic vicinity of their campuses, and as such, they must be caring and committed community partners. As Trojans, we should be immensely proud of our partnership with communities throughout Los Angeles and around the world. Whether it is through our Good Neighbors Campaign, or workforce training and employment, or the Joint Educational Project which provides community service-learning opportunities to thousands of students every year, or the community clinics run by health professionals and students, or the Trojan Day of Service that enlists alums throughout the world in community improvement projects, civic engagement is part of USC’s DNA. And we must not forget USC’s long history of athletic excellence, arguably the most celebrated athletics program in American collegiate history – with more Olympic gold and combined medals won by its athletes than any other university, more gold medals won than all but 14 nations in the world, and more NCAA championships than any university save two. Beyond these noteworthy milestones, Trojan athletics boosts civic pride, promotes civic engagement through sports camps for kids, and contributes to Los Angeles’ success in hosting past and future Summer Olympics, Paralympics, and Special Olympics.
Over the next few years, USC will set a goal that every member of the Trojan Family contributes to making some small part of the world better. We will create community advisory boards to counsel us on our partnering possibilities. We will create programs that help our students connect with community partners and support student groups that wish to make a difference in the community. We will increase the number of programs that bring our neighbors to our campuses. We will continue to broaden and deepen our support for children, especially through programs focused on early life health and wellness, education, and access to the arts. We will encourage our schools to create and support community clinics across a wide spectrum of support services. And we will not forget that we are a community unto ourselves, and so we must continue to invest in programs that support physical health, mental health, and wellness for faculty, staff, and students.
The 21st century, the century of medicine and biology, presents opportunities for creating innovations that will revolutionize healthcare treatments and delivery. But it is also a time that presents serious challenges, such as rising costs and access to quality health care, especially for the underprivileged. Working with our academic partners at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) and LAC+USC Medical Center, with our neighborhoods, and with the City and County of Los Angeles, USC has the potential to be a leading voice in the area of lifespan health and wellness here and around the world. It also highlights USC’s collective and more integrated approach to caregiving, drawing on the participation of scholars and practitioners not just in medicine but across many disciplines. By doing so, we will weave together all threads of our impact: solving problems, seizing opportunities, and supporting our community.
In the coming years, USC will embark on building a new, state-of-the-art hospital in East Los Angeles in order to provide world class medical service and patient care for the people of Los Angeles. We will expand our clinical footprint throughout Southern California. We will continue to recruit the world’s leading health care professionals that treat the most complex clinical cases. We will invest in research institutes that investigate the early antecedents of good long-term health; the major health problems of Los Angeles, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer; diseases related to environmental impacts such as pollution, health policy and health care delivery, and dementia and other health problems associated with an aging population. We will expand our efforts to translate research quickly from bench to bedside to serve people across the globe. We will take advantage of the diversity of Los Angeles by engaging our friends and neighbors as partners in clinical research, and provide more opportunities for health professional trainees to engage in biomedical and health care research. And we will launch the first major biotech community in Los Angeles, creating the infrastructure to support start-up companies and accelerators while also spurring economic development and high-tech job training for our local communities. As we continue building our clinical, scholarly, and research capacity and form new partnerships, a guiding principle will be to integrate patients’ health, behavioral health, and social service needs in ways that improve coordination of care within and across those systems.