Our Privilege Our Responsibility

A Message to the USC Community

October 28, 2015

I write to ask for your input, now and in the coming weeks, on several important issues facing our university.  Having recently passed my six-month mark as provost, I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to share with many of you my vision for the future, and I want to thank those of you who have been kind enough to share your aspirations for this university.  Equally important, I want to thank those of you who have shared with me areas in which we must be better.  I have been incredibly heartened by the belief expressed by everyone that we are poised to be the great story of higher education in the 21st Century and that our community is ready to do the hard work to realize this ambition.

As you have heard from me again and again, I believe USC has tremendous privilege: a university of remarkable breadth, a world-class entrepreneurial faculty, a bright and motivated student body, a committed staff and engaged alumni, a location on the Pacific Rim in one of the world’s great megacities, significant financial resources, and a leader in President Nikias who challenges all of us to take informed risks and to chart new paths.  We have the responsibility to live up to this privilege – and I believe more now than ever that our unique contribution will be as the global private research university that also serves the public good.

Fulfilling our promise will require that we not only dream big but that we work hard.  It will require that we face our own campus challenges with the same collective intelligence, energy and ingenuity that we bring to bear on the pressing issues confronting the globe.  Realizing USC’s full potential is our solemn responsibility and it will require the engagement of the whole Trojan family: students and alumni, faculty, administrators and staff, artists, teachers, practitioners and clinicians, scholars, parents – all!

Over the next several weeks, I will be writing to solicit your thoughts on topics that our community has identified as crucial to our future success – topics such as how we tackle the large, intractable, “wicked” problems of the 21st Century, how we transform global presence into global impact, how we expand access and opportunity, how we ensure that a USC education is not only affordable but maximizes the value of a college degree, how we improve safety and wellness, particularly in combatting sexual assault, how we improve campus climate and contest racial and other forms of bias, and how we continue to build and deepen ties to our city and surrounding communities.

These are the large issues of our time, but our ambition is large as well.  If we are going to be the university we all believe we can be, we must not only address these issues – we must lead.  As the provost of the University of Southern California, I expect to be held accountable for responding to these challenges.  But we all share the responsibility to contribute to solutions.  I look forward to meeting head-on these challenges with you.  We may not always agree on priorities, or how best to address them, but I am confident we are a community that cares and that we are ready to, as expressed in USC’s Strategic Vision, match deeds to ambitions.

While I have been at USC for over 13 years, my first six months as provost have given me new appreciation of USC’s uniqueness.  Our singular blend of academic excellence, entrepreneurship, creativity, diversity and optimism has enabled us to forge our palpable present and will serve us well as we look toward the limitless horizon of our future.

As always, I welcome your comments, and criticisms, at .  I very much look forward to continuing to hear from all members of our university community, and engaging with you as we create the global private research university that also serves the public good — our University of Southern California.


cc:        C. L. Max Nikias, President

Academic Senate

Graduate Student Government

Undergraduate Student Government

Academic Deans

President’s Cabinet

Provost’s Cabinet