Message to USC Ambassadors – September 2018

 

Wanda Austin and Rick Caruso
Interim President Wanda M. Austin (right) with Board of Trustees Chair Rick Caruso.

As the fall semester began, I had the privilege of addressing this year’s incoming class at New Student Convocation. This is a special group of students! USC received more applications than ever—twice as many as eight years ago—and the university’s acceptance rate lowered to 13 percent. Beyond these numbers, though, these students are special because they care about our world and are eager to make a difference. I have great faith in them.

Meeting these students and their parents also reminded me what an honor it is to serve as USC’s interim president. As I continue to speak with a range of students, faculty, staff, and community members, I am learning more and more what USC means to so many people. One of my top priorities right now is to listen. I benefit so much from your feedback, and I want to make sure that we build a strong culture in which every Trojan has a voice. We can achieve this together.

USC Student Health
During the first week of classes, Dr. Sarah Van Orman, who now heads USC Student Health as chief health officer, sent a letter to the entire USC community in which she detailed the important changes implemented at our student health center under her leadership. Dr. Van Orman is a national leader in college health, and announced the hiring of several new faculty members, including physician Erin Jones, as well as two full-time, board-certified gynecologists, Anne Michels and Deirdre Logan. I have met with Dr. Van Orman numerous times, and her commitment to our students—and to providing the very best care to our students—is clear in every discussion.

Additionally in August, we officially installed Dr. Laura Mosqueda as the new dean of our Keck School of Medicine. She is an accomplished physician, researcher, and a leading authority in geriatric medicine, family medicine, and elder abuse and neglect. Both of her parents graduated from the Keck School of Medicine—as did she. She grew up in Los Angeles, and is the perfect person to lead the school at this moment in its history. At her installation ceremony, which drew a capacity crowd, she received a standing ovation following her speech, and was congratulated by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district includes our Health Sciences Campus. The week before Dean Mosqueda’s installation, we celebrated a significant gift to support biomedical therapeutics at USC and the excellent work of University Professor Mark Humayun. This gift came from philanthropists Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg, and will fund USC’s innovative research into neurosensory diseases.

USC Bovard Scholars
I mentioned above that our incoming class broke a number of records; this also extended to areas such as diversity and access. The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education recently scored USC particularly high for engagement, which measures student interaction with faculty, as well as environment, which considers diversity and inclusion. (Overall, USC ranked 17th among the nearly 1,000 American colleges and universities). One reason for USC’s success on these fronts can be directly tied to outreach programs such as the USC Bovard Scholars. This program helps high-achieving, low-income students prepare for top universities. It brings these students to USC for three weeks in the summer, giving them a practical sense of what life is like on a college campus. In August, Edsource published a story on this program, which included a quote from Provost Michael Quick: “It is a cornerstone of this university to create a diverse community of scholars — whether here at USC or at other top universities.”

The provost’s words speak to USC’s larger mission, and I agree with his point. Meanwhile, another important way that USC advances diversity and access is by actively supporting our veteran students. This year, 10 Trojan students were the first to have access to housing specifically for veterans. One, a Navy veteran, had previously commuted two and a-half hours to school; now he has just a short walk, and can even keep his dog. Through an initiative such as this, USC gives back to those who have given so much to our nation.

Finally, as football season kicks into higher gear, I would like to update you on the renovations at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. We’re more than halfway to completion, and The New York Times published a story on our progress. This construction project was planned around this season’s football games, and once the project is finished, we will all have an even finer place to cheer on our team. These renovations will also contribute to the larger renaissance at Exposition Park, which includes the opening of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and the Los Angeles Football Club stadium, as well as the expansion of the Natural History Museum and renovations to the California African-American Museum.

The changes in Exposition Park are happening fast, and so are the changes on our own campuses. We are not here to stand in place. As the university continues its search for a new, permanent president, my goal is to move the university forward and upward, and to pass the baton as smoothly as possible. We all appreciate your continued support in these efforts. My husband Wade and I hope to see you on campus soon. Fight On!

Sincerely,

Wanda M. Austin
Interim President