USC Dornsife celebrates fifth anniversary of naming gift; Music icon Jimmy Iovine describes the vision for USC’s Iovine and Young Academy; USC ranked number one for public relations

November 30, 2016

Niki and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We continued our tradition of spending the afternoon with USC students. It was truly a joy to welcome more than 300 students to our home, and to serve them a traditional Thanksgiving meal—for many of the international students we hosted, our gathering was their first introduction to this very special American holiday.

USC Dornsife marks a milestone
Earlier this month, friends and supporters of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences came together for a special evening to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the naming gift from humanitarians David and Dana Dornsife. Their historic gift transformed USC’s academic landscape, and showed collaborative research can be a powerful catalyst for innovation that inspires social good. It also allowed us to attract a world-class faculty through endowments, and world-class students through scholarships.

The Dornsifes’ magnificent gift built on the family’s longstanding philanthropic legacy at USC. Dana and David both spoke of their affection for the university, and Dana described the special joy of supporting young scholars. “How fortunate are we—how fortunate are all of us—to be so engaged with our students,” she said, “to have positive influence on their extraordinary journey of discovery, and to inspire them to be bold and to be self-assured as they navigate the complex labyrinth of life.”

Jimmy Iovine on the “marriage of tech and the arts”
The Wall Street Journal recently published an insightful interview with music industry icon Jimmy Iovine, in which he discussed the vision behind the USC Iovine Young Academy. The undergraduate academy, which he and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young helped envision and found with a $70 million gift, offers a unique curriculum that combines art, technology, and business, and will graduate its first class in 2018. Mr. Iovine said the academy answers a very real gap in today’s workforce. “We thought what was needed was an undergraduate program that prized arts and culture and also demanded a strong ability in math, science and technology—a program where both sides of the brain are nurtured equally,” he told the reporter. In developing his thinking, Mr. Iovine drew inspiration from his late friend, Apple founder Steve Jobs.

USC ranked number one for public relations
College Magazine, a publication written by students for students, recently tapped USC as the top school in the nation for public relations. “USC students are in a prime location to step into the Los Angeles public relations world,” the accompanying article noted. “With one of the smallest class sizes (16 students), students get more one on one attention and help from their professors so they can succeed in the industry after graduation.” Our students—whose work benefits from the cutting-edge Wallis Annenberg Hall—are required to take courses on the ethics of public relations, and to closely study various successful campaigns.

USC/Los Angeles Times poll
While a number of polls have drawn criticism following this month’s presidential election, one is noted for forecasting the Trump campaign’s success: the USC/Los Angeles Times Daybreak Poll. Its methodology differed from other polls, which led one of its creators, Professor Arie Kapteyn, to suggest these surveys did not give enough weight to the possibility that people who did not vote in the previous presidential election would, in fact, cast ballots this year. “If you eliminate people who didn’t vote last time, you may have eliminated too many Trump supporters,” Professor Kapteyn said.

Innovation and education
The Wall Street Journal recently published an op-ed I wrote on how institutions of higher education will drive the next industrial revolution. As I see it, universities must foster cross-disciplinary research and collaboration, as this will lead to enduring and meaningful innovation. As examples, I offered the pioneering research of Professor Mark Humayun, who has joint appointments in medicine and engineering, and Professor Peter Kuhn, who is a founding member of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, and has appointments in medicine and engineering. Their highly imaginative work is truly reshaping the world.

On this important subject—the game-changing achievements of the USC community—I want to bring your attention to writer Rob Asghar’s USC: A Journey of Transformation – 2010-2015, which chronicles our university’s most impressive successes during those five years. This book is a magnificent testament to how far USC has come, thanks to the continued support of our Trojan Family.

Niki and I hope you are enjoying a very happy holiday season. With our warmest regards,

Yours truly,

C. L. Max Nikias