Trojans celebrate commencement; USC recognized as a leader in accepting transfer students; Biotech Park plans advance

June 30, 2017

As we enjoy summer on campus, I would like to return to last month’s glorious commencement, and once again offer my congratulations to USC’s newest alumni and their families. Our graduates are off to pursue extraordinary dreams. As they do so, we hope they will revisit the stories of this year’s esteemed group of honorary degree recipients: Suzanne Dworak-Peck, Will Ferrell, David Ho, Gary Michelson, Helen Mirren, and Mark Ridley-Thomas. These individuals’ spectacular achievements touch every realm of life, and should inspire our students with their boldness of vision, as well as the dedication they have brought to their life’s work. For their part, our honorary degree recipients were deeply inspired by our students, as well, and in this spirit, I am sharing three articles that appeared in recent weeks. These pieces highlighted the unique paths of three different USC students, all of whom stand as exemplars of our larger group of remarkably talented Trojans.

A budding public servant
Edwin Saucedo, USC’s graduating student body president, sat down with the Los Angeles Times, and described his path to campus leadership and how his experience as a first-generation college student shaped his thinking. “I don’t want to be on a pedestal for others,” he said. “I want to be the springboard for more individuals to reach higher, and do more amazing things than I did.” Mr. Saucedo plans to pursue a career in public service.

TRiO student heads to Harvard
Jorge Campos, a USC TRiO student who was previously homeless, was interviewed by our local ABC News affiliate, as he prepares to attend Harvard University this fall on a full scholarship. For 40 years, USC’s TRiO programs have provided college-access skills to local low-income high school students. Mr. Campos credits the guidance and support he received from USC TRiO for his academic success, and for the strength to help pull his family out of poverty. Mr. Campos grew up just blocks from USC, and always knew in his heart that he would attend college. “After enduring a series of hardships with my family, a renewed appreciation for education, and an admiration for knowledge and its power, emerged,” Mr. Campos explained. “The USC TRiO Math and Science Program provided the tools, and support, to feed my insatiable drive to learn.”

From foster care to the Trojan Family
People magazine highlighted the story of Felicitas Reyes, a foster youth who just graduated from USC with a 3.8 grade point average. As the story noted, Ms. Reyes beat the odds: only 3 percent of all foster youth graduate from college. “I didn’t know if I really belonged there,” Ms. Reyes said of her college aspirations. She hopes to find a job that connects foster youth with resources to succeed. As Felicitas Reyes, Edwin Saucedo, Jorge Campos, and all of our students move forward, they will do so with the love and support of the entire Trojan Family. To them, we say: Fight On!

USC welcomes community college transfers
Meanwhile, among private universities, USC’s leadership in accepting transfer students was highlighted prominently on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. At USC, one-third of recently admitted undergraduates are transfer students; the majority receive financial aid, and are the first in their families to attend college. The acceptance rate for transfers is 27 percent, slightly higher than the freshman acceptance rate, and their graduation rates are the same as the rest of our student body. As Timothy Brunold, USC’s dean of admission, told the reporter: “We can’t imagine building an institution, a cohort of students at this university, without having transfer students as part of that mix.”

Willametta Keck Day Healthcare Center
The W. M. Keck Foundation recently built on its already-stellar legacy of support at USC, providing a $10 million gift to name the Willametta Keck Day Healthcare Center on our Health Sciences Campus. This is one of USC’s largest outpatient facilities, and houses Keck Medicine of USC clinics that cover nearly all medical disciplines, from primary care to surgical specialties. With the gift, the foundation adds to the $150 million it provided in 2011 to launch the Keck Medicine Initiative, and to advance USC’s groundbreaking medical research and education.

Biotech Park plans advance
USC recently hosted an event to promote plans for a Biotech Park in the east area of Los Angeles adjacent to our Health Sciences Campus. Biotechnology is a rapidly growing industry, and we’re working hard to create a place that will attract start-ups and established companies to work collaboratively with local colleges and universities to develop lifesaving cures and devices. At the same time, this Biotech Park will create jobs and economic opportunity for our communities. Our region already has significant assets—hospitals and world-class research institutions, such as USC—but perhaps more importantly, it produces 5,000 university graduates each year in biotechnology-related fields. As it stands, these highly skilled graduates often must leave Los Angeles to begin their careers. We seek to change that!

Niki and I hope your summer is off to an excellent start, and look forward to writing again in August!