March 31, 2017
As this month’s letter reaches you, the USC community is celebrating a very special milestone: the wonderful news that we have exceeded the original $6 billion goal for our fundraising campaign—18 months ahead of schedule! We have generated so much optimism, and so much momentum surrounding the work that we’re accomplishing, as well as for the important goals we have set for undergraduate scholarships, medical research, faculty programs and research, and other areas. To maintain this pace, we have decided to extend the campaign’s duration for five additional years, allowing us to achieve new ambitions in the sciences, engineering and medicine, as well as the arts and humanities, while working to expand access for lower and middle-income students.
When officially launched six years ago, our campaign—Fas Regna Trojae, or Destined Reign of Troy—was the largest in the history of American higher education, and its success allowed USC to create one hundred new faculty chairs, as well as 19 new research centers and institutions. USC has more than doubled the university-funded financial aid pool to $320 million, a figure that currently stands as the largest in the United States. This makes a USC education more affordable to students from every background. This is what our Trojan Family has accomplished together, and future generations of Trojans will always be grateful for the hard work we are doing now. Our shared success—and the realization of our original goal—has generated significant news coverage, including stories in The Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and the Los Angeles Times.
USC’s impact on California economy
The Los Angeles Business Journal recently reported on a study that found that every year USC generates $8 billion in economic activity. The article described USC as “one of California’s strongest economic engines,” with capital projects and employee wages driving that impact. Our university currently supports 53,000 jobs in California, with 42,315 jobs in the Los Angeles area alone. This impact will only increase with the opening of the USC Village in August.
USC delegation visits Taiwan
Last month, I led a delegation of USC trustees, deans, faculty, and senior academic leaders to Taiwan, where we bolstered our ties with that nation’s top universities, and strengthened our connections with our already-solid base of alumni and friends there. Taiwan is USC’s fourth-largest source of international students, and more than 6,000 Trojan alumni currently live and work there. Our trustee, Daniel Tsai, who is chairman of Fubon Financial and of Taiwan Mobile, graciously hosted our delegation, along with his wife, Irene, who is a USC alumna.
During our week-long trip, we met with Chen Chien-jen, the vice president of Taiwan, as well as several partners in government, industry, and academia, with formal visits to the Ministry of Education and National Taiwan University. We also hosted a reception that drew more than 400 friends and supporters, as well as local heads of schools and academic partners. Capping a great deal of media coverage on our delegation, The China Post published two excellent stories during our time in Taiwan. The first covered our new partnership with the Ministry of Education. As I told the writer, “We honestly want USC to become the intellectual and cultural engine of the Pacific Rim nations and of course the United States.”
Leadership lessons from the ancient classics
For the second story, the writer interviewed me regarding the central importance of the humanities in building a solid educational foundation for students. This story dovetailed with many of the ideas I shared in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, which was published during our time in Taiwan. In this piece, I argue the importance of the ancient classics: “The most powerful and timeless lessons about what motivates effective leaders, what allows them to succeed, and what lures them to failure have been tested by time, over centuries. And they still speak today with certain voices to guide us.” Each year, I have the privilege of discussing these ideas with USC’s students, as I teach an undergraduate course, “The Culture of the Athenian Democracy.” These students often help me see these enduring questions in a fresh light!
Festival of Books at USC
Before closing, I want to remind you that USC will host the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 22-23. This is the largest book festival in the country, and always a wonderful weekend on our University Park Campus. Thousands join us for readings, panel discussions, musical performances, cooking demonstrations, and other creative events. This year, we’ll welcome a number of celebrated writers, including Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Chuck Palahniuk, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, as well as USC’s own luminaries, including T.C. Boyle and Viet Thanh Nguyen. We hope to see you there! In the meantime, Niki joins me in sending you warmest regards.
C. L. Max Nikias