Former British Prime Minister speaks at USC; USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative praised; Strong USC presence at World Economic Forum

February 28, 2017

Earlier this month, we welcomed former British Prime Minister David Cameron to our campus, as part of the USC President’s Distinguished Lecture Series. This was a rare opportunity for our students to spend an evening in the company of a world leader who recently presided over a period of historic changes in his country. Mr. Cameron’s remarks touched on a range of contemporary issues, including the enduring relationship between our two nations, the outcome of the Brexit vote, and the future of journalism in an evolving political landscape. Bovard Auditorium was filled to the rafters, and USC Professor Jacob Soll, who earned a MacArthur “genius grant” for his research on early modern Europe, moderated the exceptionally informative discussion. Our students concluded the evening with a series of thoughtful questions, and one playfully followed up by asking Mr. Cameron if he is a fan of the television series The Crown. (The answer was an ardent yes!)

Neighborhood Academic Initiative
The Chronicle of Higher Education recently highlighted our award-winning Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) among the four college-access programs that include a parent-education component, and which stand as role models for other community programs around the nation. For NAI, which is a seven-year program that prepares students for college and includes Saturday seminars, parents elect a leadership governance board, attend field trips, and raise money to support the initiative. The article pointed out that 99 percent of students who participate in NAI attend college, and we’re very proud that 41 percent of these graduates have chosen to attend USC.

Stem Cell Day draws local students
USC was proud to host a Stem Cell Day of Discovery on our Health Sciences Campus earlier this month, drawing 500 local middle and high school students. These students, who came from schools in our neighboring east Los Angeles communities, explored the laboratories and equipment that our researchers use at the USC Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, USC Norris Cancer Center, and Keck Hospital of USC. Professor Andrew McMahon, who directs the USC Broad Center and is an internationally distinguished scientist, encouraged students to embrace their curiosity. “Don’t be shy,” he said. “Ask our scientists questions. Ask them about their science, but also ask them about their personal journeys that led to where they are.” The event was a wonderful opportunity for these students to see what daily life is like for world-class scientists, and to familiarize these students with the professional world these scholars inhabit.

USC in Davos
Last month, I had the privilege of attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and was so pleased to discover once again a very strong USC presence at the gathering. The speakers included our trustee, Marc Benioff, who is the chief executive officer of Salesforce; Professor David Agus of our Keck School of Medicine and USC Viterbi; and Professor Tracy Fullerton of our School of Cinematic Arts, who discussed her highly acclaimed game, Walden, at two different sessions. I also hosted a reception for USC alumni, faculty, and friends in attendance. The entire gathering was an outstanding opportunity to hear innovative ideas, and to share USC’s extraordinary work with an international audience.

In memoriam: Kevin Starr
The Trojan Family mourns the passing of University Professor Kevin Starr, who passed away on January 14 in San Francisco. Professor Starr was a dear friend among our faculty, a beloved teacher among our students, and a USC treasure—but he truly belonged to the world. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal, and a former California State Librarian, Professor Starr became renowned for his inspired and illuminating works on the history of California, collectively known as Americans and the California Dream. We will come together to celebrate his life from 3 to 5 p.m., on April 7 in Town and Gown, and invite you to join us.

Next month, I will report on our USC delegation’s recent trip to Taiwan, during which we advanced a number of mutually beneficial partnerships in that country. In the meantime, Niki joins me in sending you warm regards.

Yours truly,

C. L. Max Nikias
President