Message to USC Ambassadors – October 2018

The prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, on campus.

As many of you know, my background is in aeronautical engineering, and so I was particularly excited by the release of the film First Man, which focuses on one of USC’s most illustrious alumni: Neil Armstrong.  Our Viterbi School of Engineering hosted a special screening of the film in downtown Los Angeles, and I participated in a panel discussion, an event that brought together so many points of pride for our university.  All three of my fellow panelists were distinguished USC alumni: our trustee Charles Bolden, who is a former NASA administrator; Garrett Reisman, a rocket scientist from SpaceX; and Anita Sengupta, an aerospace engineer.  The event, therefore, showcased accomplished Trojans—and the breadth of their impact on our nation’s space program—while also reminding everyone that our trustees are active and engaged in the life of our university.  The evening was especially meaningful thanks to the presence of many of our Neighborhood Academic Initiative students, who joined our own Viterbi students and saw what is possible with a solid education in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math.  In a number of ways, this event showed USC’s work at its very best.

Change at USC
Shifting gears, I want to take this opportunity to update you on the university’s progress in the area of culture change, which you can continue to follow at change.usc.edu.  Since last month’s letter to USC Ambassadors, we announced that the Office of Professionalism and Ethics is up and running on both campuses.  It is a centralized hub that receives, monitors, and coordinates all complaints of misconduct, and then tracks the subsequent investigations.  Meanwhile, the President’s Campus Culture Commission is fully engaged, and the new USC Office of Ombuds Services will have a presence on both campuses by the spring semester.  These changes are key, and are just part of the actions we are taking to initiate a culture shift at USC.

World leaders visit USC
Earlier this month, two world leaders visited USC to speak to our students.  The prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, delivered the President’s Distinguished Lecture to a capacity crowd in Bovard Auditorium.  Although our state’s historic and cultural ties with Spain date back nearly half a millennium, this was the first visit to California by a sitting Spanish head of government.  Prime Minister Sánchez reminded our students they are “the change makers” of our time, and warned them against complacency.  That same week, the president of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, addressed students in Town and Gown.  She spoke about her country’s embrace of digital platforms, pointing out that 99 percent of Estonia’s transactions are done online.

A business program for veterans
Business Insider recently published a wonderful story on USC’s Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) program, a one-year executive MBA program that is specially designed to transition students from military to professional life.  In the story, James Bogle, the program’s head and an Army veteran himself, talked about three things missing in the lives of people who leave the military: serving a higher mission, camaraderie, and a distinctive identity.  USC’s program provides its students with emotional support and career opportunities; given its need in society, we hope it inspires other universities to create similar programs.

Trojan athletes Fight On!
There are so many great stories among our Trojan athletes.  We all still recall the four women who ran the 4×400 meter relay at last summer’s NCAA Track and Field Championships, and their Fight On! spirit.  They inspired us, as has Jake Olson, a long snapper on our football team who is blind.  Every time he plays in a game, the world is reminded of the Trojan spirit, and the will to overcome life’s biggest challenges.  He has truly defied the odds, and the recent story in The Wall Street Journal is an excellent tribute to his determination.

Before closing, I would also like to share a brief interview I did with the Los Angeles Sentinel, in which I offer some thoughts on USC’s future.  I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for taking the time to share our university’s important work with others.

Sincerely,

Wanda M. Austin
Interim President