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.

USC has not shied away from this challenge. Indeed, our central mission has long been “the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit.” As members of a highly international student body and through our programs, USC students begin to appreciate the breadth and variety of the universe around them, and the many issues confronting us in the 21st century. Through traditional study abroad programs and unique experiences such as “Maymester” and “Problems Without Passports,” our students have multiple opportunities to expand their worldview. Through Visions and Voices, the Fisher Museum of Art, and the Pacific Asia Museum, our students draw upon arts and humanities programming to put their lives into context. Through participation in physical education programs and intramural sports, and through our highly popular USC Mindfulness program, our students learn to care for their bodies and their minds. And through programs like the Joint Educational Project and other outreach programs, our students learn the value of giving back.

And now, with the completion of the $700 million USC Village project, we are presented with a historic opportunity to transform the undergraduate experience. The opening of USC Village allows USC to commit fully to a residential college experience for undergraduates. Spearheaded by the founding of our new Kathleen L. McCarthy Honors College, our residential colleges will be the nest from which our students fledge, spread their wings, and launch into the world. Led by residential faculty, a cadre of faculty fellows, and Student Affairs, we will pursue four objectives: cultivating the life of the mind, the life of the body, and a life of service, and fostering a sense of belonging. We will provide countless opportunities for screenings, recitals, speakers, performances, symposia, new courses, exhibitions, panels, and more. We will serve as gateways to explore the cultural and arts landscape of Los Angeles, not as tourists, but as young citizens eager to learn, contribute to, and serve society. And, most importantly, we will use the residential colleges as the training ground for the ideals put forth in this strategic plan: developing ethical human beings imbued with entrepreneurial, inclusive, and convergent spirits, ready to impact the world, and fully prepared to engage the challenges and opportunities life brings through their USC experience.