The Value of College Education
by C. L. Max Nikias
It is an extraordinary privilege for me to offer my annual address as president of USC. Faculty and students determine the quality of an institution. And USC stands among the most academically elite universities of the nation and the Pacific Rim. Your accomplishments define us, and they will continue to distinguish us.
But we should begin by considering an irony: In the past five years, we have advanced academically at precisely the
Originally published on Jan. 24, 2015 on Agenda, an online publication of the World Economic Forum.
One of the most hotly discussed topics in higher education is the role and future of online education. For the traditional university, does the emergence of online education represent a threat or an opportunity?
Like any new technology, the prospects for online education depend on where it can add value or, better yet, create it. By this measure, its greatest promise lies in continuing and executive
The Washington Post, Opinion, originally published on October 23, 2014.
“The reality is that some students with the right combination of talent, creativity and personality will not begin their academic careers at a selective private university. Many won’t apply, while others simply require more time for polish or introspection. The most academically driven will hone their skills and prove themselves in a two-year program, emerging more motivated, more mature and hungrier than ever.”
Delivered on October 9, 2014 to the USC Health Sciences Faculty
My fellow colleagues, we irreversibly committed the entire, worldwide Trojan Family, in perpetuity, to taking a leadership role in the human health revolution. Of course, in times of change, being reasonable and conventional isn’t how you become a leader. And so all of you responded with characteristic boldness and determination.
Delivered on September 2, 2014 to new student-athletes
Today I also want to affirm USC’s commitment to sportsmanship, embodied in the NCAA’s rules and regulations. They represent the guidelines to which we and our competitors have agreed to abide. They represent the foundation of sportsmanship and the foundation of our own efforts to reach greatness. You are Trojan student-athletes, who have been marked out for greatness. We will be here for you, to help you reach greatness.
Delivered on August 29, 2014 at the unveiling of the Judge Robert Widney statue on the USC campus
One simply cannot overestimate Judge Widney’s role in USC’s birth and early growth. He personally drafted the university’s articles of incorporation, which our statue now holds, and you’ll soon see. He asked and convinced three real estate partners – Childs, Downey, and Hellman – to donate the land. He was the first chairman of USC’s board of trustees. His brother, Joseph Widney, founded USC’s medical school in 1882 and later became the second president of the university.
Judge Widney donated $100,000 for the university’s first endowment fund—an extraordinary amount in that age—and he would later supervise the management of this fund. He was a dreamer, a visionary, a builder. Through force of will, he reimagined a region and the destinies of countless others who would follow here.
Delivered on May 1, 2014
Our university provides an educational experience that is unlike that found at any other university in the nation. This is a place that welcomes students interested in science and technology as well as those who are passionate about the arts, the social sciences and humanities.
In fact, USC’s student body has become a microcosm of the entire world. This rich tapestry of geographic and global diversity is evident in the fact that we currently enroll students from all 50 states and more than 115 nations.
Delivered on February 10 & 11, 2014, on the University Park and Health Sciences campuses
Let us turn our attention to the online education revolution that is getting underway. As with any other technological revolution of the past, we may see old industries disappear, while new ones rise up. Our children are inheriting a world that functions like nothing humanity has ever witnessed before.
In education, new technologies now let us reach out to faraway students where they can be immersed and fully participate in a virtual classroom experience. This, in theory, should change everything. I’m proud of the fact that USC has not been copying anyone else or chasing anyone else in this area. USC has been experimenting and exploring, and has been leading the way for others.
If you are just beginning your USC career, you should know that we at USC take the legends of the Trojans seriously. Growing up reading the Greco-Roman classics, I was inspired by the image of the Trojans as warriors who never gave up. Persistence and courage were engraved in their ethos.
When they were knocked to the ground, they always rose back up. They persevered. And they conquered, even when the odds were against them, even when they were outnumbered. Yes, even when the gods of Mount Olympus seemed to have forgotten them, they knew how to bend destiny back in their favor and to triumph. Destiny always favors the bold. Destiny always bends in the direction of those who take risks.
Delivered on October 25, 2013, to parents and family of USC students
Having served as a professor, dean, provost, and now as president of USC, I have been guided first and foremost by my perspective as a parent. In the past, it was quite helpful to see and experience USC through the eyes and hearts of my daughters and their friends. From time to time, I would have lunch with them on campus in pursuit of what was on the minds of students here.
Today, I still have an opportunity to share a meal with your children. Every year since I became president, my wife Niki and I host Thanksgiving for over 300 students at our house. I only wish the President’s House could host 3,000 students for a traditional turkey dinner! These are both domestic and international students who don’t go home for Thanksgiving. Niki and I, along with our daughters, spend the evening with them, and we love it.