Looking Ahead: An Update from President Carol L. Folt

Greetings Trojan Family,

In my first six months as president, I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to over 36,000 of you! Last month, we welcomed another 890 students to the Trojan Family during spring convocation. Each meeting, event and conversation has been a chance to learn about your hopes, concerns and remarkable accomplishments. I marvel at the exciting new initiatives happening across our campuses, and appreciate your willingness to work together to make real change happen. Underlying it all is your deep commitment to excellence, grounded in courage and compassion.

Now that students are settled into the spring semester, I wanted to reflect briefly on the work accomplished over the fall and outline goals for the year ahead. I also want to address the concerns and fears about the coronavirus. Working closely with Los Angeles County public officials, we are monitoring any potential cases to determine whether they have ties to USC. We have a well-established communicable disease protocol that will be activated should anyone test positive for the disease. Just as importantly, we will notify you when a rumor or incorrect information spreads over social media. We also will continue to update you on any developments or news that would impact our community.

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the heritage of so many in our community. In addition to several upcoming events that provide opportunities for discussion and reflection, our 2020 Black History Month project is a mural created for the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs. The mural will represent African American student achievement, ideas and empowerment. It will be located on the fourth floor of the Student Union. As you travel down Trousdale Parkway, you’ll also notice the beautiful banners created by students from local schools who drew their inspiration from USC’s African American community.

We are at the start of a new decade — one that can be our university’s finest yet. Together we will tackle the tough issues and work to shape a great future for USC. Through collaboration, trust and thoughtful purpose, there is no limit to what we can do to make our world a better place. With that sentiment, I invite you to take a moment to look at a few examples of who we are as a university, and our goals and developing plans for the future.

With best wishes to each of you for 2020 and beyond,
Carol L. Folt

Below you will find more in-depth details about a number of key areas: Access and Affordability, Student Health, Admissions, Sustainability, Faculty, Students, Athletics, Keck Medicine of USC, Human Resources and Staff, the Culture Commission, and Philanthropy, along with my recent interview about a variety of issues impacting USC.

Access and Affordability

The escalating costs of obtaining a higher education have become a barrier for students everywhere who want the opportunity to attend a top research university. We will continue to make USC more accessible and representative.

  • Shortly, I will be announcing an affordability initiative that will go into effect for fall 2020 freshman applicants. This initiative is a first step in our aspiration to make the highest quality education accessible to an increasingly talented and diverse undergraduate class of all socio-economic backgrounds. USC is already among one of the most generous research universities in the country.
  • Currently, USC awards a total of over $640 million in financial aid each year, providing financial assistance to over two-thirds of our undergraduates. We owe a special thanks to our donors and supporters who help our students pursue their dreams and attend USC when it might not have otherwise been possible.
  • This past fall, more than 15% of our entering undergraduates were in the first generation of their family to go to college.
  • Approximately 27% of our first-year students were from traditionally underrepresented minority groups.
  • For the first time, women made up 50% of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s entering class of future engineers.

Student Health

Nothing is more important than the well-being of our students, and we mourn those we lost last fall. We have added additional resources to support the mental health of our students.

  • This past fall, we increased the number of mental health therapists by nearly 50% to reduce wait times.
  • Starting last November, after-hours phone calls are answered by live operators.
  • A new clinic on the fifth floor of the Student Health Center opened in November, which will expand our ability to offer long-term mental health care.
  • In spring 2020, we will be able to offer all students in-person appointments on their first visit.
  • We began an educational campaign about opioid use and organized a drug take-back day.


Our admissions process must be grounded in legitimacy, fairness and integrity. Any enrolled student found to have submitted an application to USC containing false information will have their admission rescinded.

  • The university has completed the majority of its investigations into potential admission violations in the scandal known as Varsity Blues. Each case was unique and handled with sensitivity and fairness. Only a few student reviews are still ongoing.  
  • Reforms have been implemented to strengthen our internal controls and deepen the vetting of our student-athlete admissions process.
  • To safeguard our admissions process and make sure no aspect of our process can be abused, a task force comprising Provost Charles Zukoski, Athletic Director Mike Bohn, faculty, staff and students will audit, evaluate and oversee our protocols for admitting prospective student-athletes.


As the first president of USC to have a zero-waste inauguration, I share the community’s passion to care for and protect our environment. We’ve set ambitious plans to make our campuses models of sustainability. Here are a few of our plans that are underway now, and a more specific timeline will be announced later this spring.

  • A timetable to phase out single-use, nonessential plastics will include food accessory items like plastic utensils, bowls and plates, as well as disposable bottles, bags, cups and other non-reusable items.
  • We are targeting 2022 for our USC campuses to be zero-waste, with a diversion rate of 90% through reuse, repurpose and recycle.
  • We are aggressively pursuing a plan for carbon neutrality.
  • Solar panels are to be installed this year at the Galen Center.
  • To look at all facets of how to be a sustainable university, a Presidential Working Group on Sustainable Education, Research and Operations has been formed.


It has been invaluable for me to participate and engage in both formal and informal meetings with our deans and faculty. They are committed to excellence in their classrooms, studios, labs and clinics.

  • Our faculty is highly regarded for their exceptional work to better our world. In recent months, professors were named to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, National Academy of Inventors, National Academy of Engineering, Royal Society of London, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Honors also included Guggenheim fellowships and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math and Engineering Mentoring.
  • Manuel Castells, University Professor and Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society, has just been appointed Minister of Universities for the newly formed government of Spain. 
  • Geoffrey Garrett has been named as the new Dean of the USC Marshall School of Business. A world-renowned political economist and professor, Geoff will leave his position as Dean of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School to join us this summer.
  • On April 15, Sarah Gehlert will take over the helm as the new Dean of the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Sarah comes to us from the University of South Carolina, where she is Dean of their College of Social Work. She is currently President of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.
  • On October 1, Charles “Chip” Zukoski became USC’s new Provost, bringing decades of extensive experience in higher education. Chip is committed to excellence and is working to advance the university’s education, research and community engagement goals.


Our students are doing remarkable work every day. Our job is to do all we can to make their lives better so they can grow and thrive at USC.

  • Three of our students recently earned Schwarzman scholarships, an international program based in China that offers fully funded master’s degrees. These recognitions are a testament to the creativity and tenacity of our community of scholars.
  • Dozens of first-year students at the Keck School of Medicine of USC have volunteered their services at the Downtown Women’s Center, L.A. Animal Services, the L.A. Regional Food Bank, the Pasadena Senior Center, the Midnight Mission, the Violence Intervention Program, St. Francis Center, Lava Mae and the Audubon Center at Debs Park.
  • Since move-in day in August, our students have been getting to know Winston Crisp, our new Vice President for Student Affairs. Winston is a visible presence on campus and a compassionate and creative leader who will always put students first. 
  • This past semester alone, students took 485,000 free rides using the USC Lyft Safe Ride Program. That is an average of over 4,000 rides per day. The service is offered at no cost to students between the hours of 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. This program, along with Campus Cruiser, provides those who work, study or take classes late at night with a safe means of transportation anywhere within a one-mile radius of either campus.


This fall, I cheered on our athletes with so many of you at our volleyball, soccer, football and basketball games. I look forward to seeing you bring that Trojan spirit to our spring events, too.

  • In November, Mike Bohn began as our new Athletic Director. His mission is to build a world-class athletics program rooted in integrity that supports student-athletes both on and off the field.
  • Freshman football quarterback Kedon Slovis stepped in at a critical time and went on to set USC completion percentage and passing efficiency records last year. With only four 2019 starters not returning, this young football team will be looking for support from the Trojan Family as they head into their first spring game on April 11.
  • With the Tokyo Olympics coming up, nine Trojans have already qualified for the 2020 Summer Games and as many as 70 others could potentially qualify. USC has had more Olympians, overall medalists and gold medalists than any other U.S. university.
  • On March 10, HBO will air Women of Troy, a documentary on how the 1983 and 1984 USC NCAA championship basketball teams revolutionized women’s basketball.

Keck Medicine and our Medical Faculty

Medical education, quality patient care and pathbreaking research have always been at the heart of our medical enterprise.

  • U.S. News & World Report ranked the Keck Medical Center of USC as 16th in the nation on its Best Hospitals Honor Roll for 2019-20. The medical center also was ranked as one of the top five hospitals in California. 
  • The National Institutes of Health awarded our medical faculty millions in research dollars last year, and they’re using the support to passionately fight diseases related to aging, teen smoking, obesity, cancer, liver disease and so much more. 
  • Our dedicated researchers recognize emerging problems like addiction, and they’ll continue to create new centers and advocate for evidence-based health policy.

Human Resources and our Staff

Our staff’s exceptional dedication is seen every day all across our campuses. They contribute tirelessly to vital areas including education, research and patient care. With dozens of schools and departments, it is critical that all employees work together to support one another.

  • For the first time, USC has a Senior Vice President for Human Resources: Felicia Washington. Felicia is implementing new strategic initiatives to help redesign and strengthen the human resources functions at USC
  • During the fall, she engaged in a listening tour to better understand the needs of university employees and how our HR systems can be responsive and human-centered.
  • In 2020, you’ll see efforts to bring in effective practices for human resources, standardized structures and solutions across the university.
  • Our goals are simple: to have a fair and well-functioning system and to attract, retain and develop our employees in a rapidly changing world
  • In September, we brought back the public transit subsidy program for our employees. Over 2,300 discounted passes have been issued for use on public transit. When we use public transit, it positively impacts our environment.
  • A special shout-out to Ramesh Patel of Transportation, who recently retired after 50 years of service. He is one of many who have dedicated decades to serving USC.

Culture Commission

Nearly 20,000 of our faculty, staff and students participated in the Cultural Values Poll in October to identify and define our unifying values.

  • The preliminary results of the poll were shared in December. Some of the commonly desired goals centered around diversity, communication and accountability.
  • From now through March, we are holding town halls to discuss the results in person and to hear from some of you who were unable to take the poll.
  • A new newsletter will cover feedback from the poll and actions we can take to further our collective goals. Email partnerforculturechange@usc.edu to be added to the list. More information about the Culture Commission can be found here.


Gifts of all sizes help USC to grow and forge new pathways in each of our 21 schools and our hospitals and athletic programs. We have thousands of people who care about USC, and their financial support is what allows our work to thrive and live on. We are deeply appreciative of their generosity and committed to using their support to impact our mission of education, discovery and service to humanity. Here are a couple of examples.

  • Last week, we announced a transformational gift from Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg to help establish a new state-of-the-art computer science building for the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The building’s name, the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Building, captures its mission to advance computer science to benefit society and to find solutions to complex societal challenges. This will be the home for computer science students, researchers and other experts from numerous disciplines across the university.
  • In November, USC was the recipient of one of the largest single donations in American higher education. The Lord Foundation gave USC and three other institutions each $260 million to fund research and teaching. A gift of this magnitude allows us to think boldly and to accelerate our research and learning. You will be hearing more about this gift as we move forward with our plans and strategic initiatives.