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.
Among research universities, USC has long been a leader in providing educational access and opportunity to distinct voices, both at USC and elsewhere. USC students created the Topping Scholars Program, begun in the 1970s and continuing to this day, by voting to have a portion of their yearly fees fund scholarships to diversify USC’s student body. Every year, USC welcomes more than 800 community college transfer students to USC. More recently, USC has created the Bovard Scholars College Preparatory Summer Program, the USC Pre-College Summer Scholarship for Military High School Students, and has been the only California outpost for the Warrior Scholar Project. In addition, we are proud that Foshay Learning Center, located less than one mile from our University Park Campus but a world apart from what many associate with elite private education, is USC’s top feeder school for freshman for the second year in a row. In addition, over 3,000 underserved local schoolchildren participate annually in USC TRiO college access programs and in preschool Head Start programs. And, for creating one of the most high-impact college access programs in the country, USC has been rightly hailed for its Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI), a seven-year college preparatory program for students from South and East Los Angeles. Since its first graduating class in 1997, nearly 1,000 students have completed the program with nearly 100 percent college enrollment and 83 percent enrollment at four-year universities, including 35 percent enrollment at USC.
In the coming years, we will leverage our expertise in supporting diversity and undergraduate college access to ease the path to postgraduate studies, and to postdoctoral, residency, and fellowship programs. We will invest in programs that recruit and sustain senior underrepresented faculty leaders and cohorts of underrepresented junior faculty, and invest in current underrepresented senior faculty. We will prioritize identifying resources that will allow us to expand our NAI program, increase the number of scholarships to attract distinct voices to USC, and help us provide experiential parity for all USC students, so that financial considerations never limit a student’s ability to enjoy a rich college experience. We will create training programs and boot camps that help diversify the student body in particular areas, especially the STEM fields. And we will use online technologies to reach unique populations of postgraduate learners, enrich lifelong learning for our Trojan Family and others, and respond to urgent workforce needs.