“Nearly two-thirds of USC’s undergraduates receive significant support made possible by a financial aid budget that includes more than $300 million in USC’s own contribution.”
Leading Through Transformation
Audacity has been a defining characteristic of USC, and one of the many reasons for our rapid ascent. But equally important has been daring to transform our university – to honor, embrace, and learn from our past, but not let the past constrain or restrain us. If we are to lead in the 21st century, we must apply the same combination of creativity and commitment embodied by our students, scholars, artists, and athletes. As we invent the future, we must simultaneously reinvent ourselves.
Reimagining a University Education
Our rapidly changing world demands new mindsets and new complements of skills and talents. To meet the challenges of the 21st century, university graduates across all disciplines, and all degree types, will need to work in teams with those who are differently trained and differently situated. They will need to be equipped with literacies and the competencies necessary for a high-tech, digital, and connected world. They will need to judge the validity, relevance, and reliability of the massive amounts of information to which they have access, as well as how to organize and deploy those data effectively. They will need to develop the fluency to communicate with many audiences using multiple means, and to be translators across disciplines, cultures, and languages. And they must be eager to lead in both public and private spheres – through elected office, military and community service, nonprofit work, and private philanthropy. They will need to understand that values are as important as vocation, and that the path to a meaningful life is less about the what and the how provided by science and technology, and more about the why provided by an embrace of the arts and the humanities.
Reimagining Access and Opportunity
All global universities are committed to principles of diversity and recognize the importance of cultural engagement. However, that is not enough. Nor is it enough for universities to open their doors and welcome a range of students with diverse backgrounds. Leading universities will be those that commit to fully embracing access and opportunity; that is, actively seeking out different voices, building a rich cadre of diverse students, and providing all learners with the resources, financial and otherwise, to succeed.
Higher education has been one of the most reliable paths to a prosperous life. The economic advantages of obtaining a bachelor’s or advanced degree are well documented. Most recently, there has been much discussion of whether this is still true, and whether the higher education path is worth the investment. Much of this discussion centers around the cost of higher education, but the cost of getting a degree must be balanced with the value that the degree provides to individuals and to society.
Reimagining the Undergraduate Experience
Universities and colleges have both the privilege and responsibility of transforming young people, just six years out of sixth grade, into engaged adults who leave enriched and eager to lead meaningful lives. Creating an institution that can do this well is challenging. Large research universities are the innovation engines that will transform society, but they often fail to focus on undergraduate students; liberal arts colleges are tremendous in their focus on undergraduates, but often lack the vast resources and expertise to allow students to engage fully in knowledge production, innovation, and creative expression.