Presidential Working Group on Sustainability in Education, Research, and Operations

Members of the Presidential Working Group on Sustainability at an environment campaign event.

The Presidential Working Group (PWG) on Sustainability was established in September of 2019 by President Carol Folt to explore approaches for USC to become a model for sustainability in its education, research, and campus operations. The PWG currently has representatives from 10 schools, the Academic Senate, the Provost’s office, the Office of Sustainability, the Office of University Relations, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), the Office of Research, the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, the Environmental Student Assembly, and student government. It has six subcommittees — DEI, education, research, operations, engagement, and students — engaging over 100 students, faculty, and senior administrators.

During its first year (2019-20), the PWG explored how to integrate sustainability into the university’s curriculum, research, and operations. During 2020-21, the various committees developed multi-year implementation plans, and the PWG integrated them into a university-wide strategy with plans that extend through 2028. During 2021-22, the committees worked with partners in various administrative offices to chart pathways for implementing PWG recommendations, and participated in the development of Assignment: Earth, USC’s plan for a greener campus and planet.

Guiding Principles

The work of the PWG is guided by three principles:  

  • USC has a responsibility to educate all USC students, faculty, staff, and friends on the causes and implications of climate change and the other growing challenges to sustainability.
  • As a premier research university, USC is committed to developing solutions to these threats, particularly solutions that redress inequities. 
  • Climate change affects all aspects of human life and natural systems, and as a result, every discipline should contribute to this education and research effort.

Major Recommendations


Ensure that USC alumni are stewards of the planet, with every USC student engaged in sustainability learning — both didactic and experiential — through courses, research, and engagement at USC.

  • Elevate the importance of interdisciplinary undergraduate scholarship at USC so that students graduate with both deep interdisciplinary expertise and broad skills in developing systemic solutions to sustainability challenges.


Elevate the breadth of USC transdisciplinary research in sustainability challenges and solutions with a suite of sustainability themes defined by the faculty and provided institutional support by the university. 

  • The multi-disciplinary Postdoctoral Fellows program is intended to focus on key sustainability challenges and solutions-oriented research 
  • A suite of thematic cluster-based faculty hires should be initiated around key sustainability challenges and solution-oriented research
  • An annual program of internal transdisciplinary, multi-investigator research seed awards should be initiated


Engage students, faculty, staff, alumni, community neighbors, the City of Los Angeles and the L.A. region, and the global community in the pursuit of sustainability and addressing climate-related inequalities. Bring the USC campuses into dialogue with the neighborhood community, business, political, and social leaders about how to pursue sustainability goals collaboratively.

  • Empower and support efforts by culture practitioners at USC and beyond to enhance sustainability awareness, understanding, and commitment
  • Make each member of the USC community aware of sustainability challenges and ensure they all have the resources and support to engage in action to address them.
  • Ensure that sustainability is integrated into USC’s public policy posture in Los Angeles, California, and at the federal level
  • Become a trusted partner and convener for community-based organizations working on sustainability issues
  • Incorporate sustainability into USC’s economic inclusion programs, comprised of small business, workforce, and nonprofit development
  • Build communication tools and networks to disseminate sustainability information and facilitate connections


Advance campus sustainability and serve the surrounding community through sustainable campus planning and construction, net zero sustainability strategies, and broad-based stakeholder engagement and outreach.

  • Achieve climate neutrality by 2025
  • Integrate the natural and built environments across the campuses and into the surrounding communities
  • Advance human wellbeing, ecological health and biodiversity, and promote a healthy and natural built environment

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Mitigate and adapt to the challenges of sustainability which will require acknowledging and responding to inequities in society though all sustainability activities of the university.

  • USC will use an evaluation framework that enhances transparency and accountability in reporting on the role of the University as an anchor institution in addressing sustainability and inequities
  • Include in all university sustainability activities metrics on the extent to which they result in mitigating adverse effects on the natural environment and social and economic inequities


  • Dan Mazmanian – Chair; Professor of Public Policy and Emeritus Dean, USC Price School of Public Policy
  • China Adams – Assistant Professor of Teaching, USC Roski School of Art and Design
  • Paul Adler – Harold Quinton Chair of Business Policy and Professor of Management and Organization, Sociology, and Environmental Studies, USC Marshall School of Business
  • Jan Amend – Divisional Dean for the Life Sciences and Professor of Earth Sciences and Biological Sciences, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Joe Árvai – Director, Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies; Dana and David Dornsife Chair and Professor of Psychology, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Christina Bellantoni – Director, USC Annenberg’s Media Center; Professor of Professional Practice, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
  • Marlon Boarnet – Professor of Public Policy and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis, USC Price School of Public Policy
  • John Cadiz – graduate student; Co-Chair of the Student Committee of the Presidential Working Group
  • Mick Dalrymple – Chief Sustainability Officer
  • Finley Davis – undergraduate student; Chair of Sustainability and Campus Infrastructure, Undergraduate Student Government
  • Ellen Dux – Associate Director, USC Office of Sustainability
  • Hannah Findling – Project Specialist, USC Office of the President
  • Sam Garrison – Senior Vice President, University Relations
  • Elizabeth Graddy (ex officio) – Executive Vice Provost, USC Office of the Provost
  • Jennifer Gribben – doctoral student; Presidential Working Group Research Assistant
  • Howard Hu – Chair and Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences and Flora L. Thornton Chair in Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Monty Hughes – undergraduate student; Co-Chair of the Student Committee of the Presidential Working Group
  • Marty Levine – Vice Provost and Senior Advisor to the Provost, USC Office of the Provost
  • LaVonna Lewis – Associate Dean of DEI and Teaching Professor of Public Policy, USC Price School of Public Policy
  • Rebecca Lonergan – Professor of Lawyering Skills and Associate Director of Legal Writing and Advocacy Program, USC Gould School of Law
  • Colin Maclay – Research Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism; Executive Director, USC Annenberg Innovation Lab
  • Christopher Manning – Vice President and Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer
  • Rob McConnell – Professor of Population and Public Health Science, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Mahta Moghaddam – Co-Director, USC Center for Sustainability Solutions; Ming Hsieh Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering-Electrophysics and Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, USC Viterbi School of Engineering
  • Juliet Musso – Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management and Vice Dean for Academic Programs, USC Price School of Public Policy
  • Ishwar Puri – Vice President, USC Office of Research
  • Jon Reuter – Chief of Operations, Keck Hospital of USC
  • Bhavna Sharma – Assistant Professor, USC School of Architecture
  • Gale Sinatra – Professor of Psychology and the Stephen H. Crocker Professor of Education, USC Rossier School of Education
  • Barbara Sladeck – Assistant Vice President, USC Auxiliary Services
  • Andy Stott – Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Dean of the Graduate School, USC Office of the Provost; Professor of English, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Tracy Poon Tambascia – President, Academic Senate; Professor of Clinical Education, USC Rossier School of Education
  • Effie Turnbull Sanders – Vice President of Civic Engagement and Economic Partnerships, USC University Relations
  • Kathleen Verendia – undergraduate progressive degree student; Co-Executive Director, Environmental Student Assembly
  • Alicia Vogelaar – doctoral student; Director of Sustainability, Graduate Student Government
  • Detlof von Winterfeldt – J.A. Tiberti Chair of Ethics and Decision Making and Professor of Systems Engineering, USC Viterbi School of Engineering; Professor of Public Policy, USC Price School of Public Policy; Executive Director, USC Center for Sustainability Solutions
  • Charles Zukoski (ex officio) – Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Committees Members