What do universities owe their communities?

USC Rossier can lead the way in showing how universities can and should show up for their communities.

By Pedro A. Noguera, Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean

A student studies a ruler.

Autumn, a student in the Crenshaw Family YMCA’s after-school program, measures the structure she built for a bridge building challenge. (Photo/Rebecca Aranda)

Given our location in South Los Angeles, USC’s history of service to the communities that surround us has been vital to the mission and character of the university. Examination of our work reveals that our contributions may well be unparalleled. No other major private American university that I am aware of is as closely connected, or has as many community partnerships, as USC.

USC Rossier plays a leading role in this work through our training of educators and our on-the-ground research with schools, districts and community groups. We designed and developed USC Hybrid High College Prep and the other successful Ednovate schools serving historically disadvantaged communities. We train and place teachers and principals in local schools, and deploy college advisers through our USC College Advising Corps. We also support Math for America LA in providing vital resources to mathematics and computer science teachers.

Today, USC Rossier is stepping up to address profound challenges that have emerged during the pandemic. We are forming new partnerships, including several designed to address the national teacher shortage. We teamed with President Carol L. Folt to provide 20 full-ride scholarships to Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) students, many of whom will teach in USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) schools. The 20 scholarships are in addition to those already offered in partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District through our Teacher Preparation Residency program. Now, USC Rossier is able to fully or partially fund three-quarters of on-campus MAT students. In addition, math education professor Angela Laila Hasan is leading the expansion of the NAI partnership to include summer mathematics enrichment for middle schoolers, right here on our campus.

The Democracy Project is an initiative I’ve championed as a response to threats to the democratic foundations of our society. So many Americans have trouble distinguishing facts from fake news, and too many are manipulated by misinformation. Under the leadership of professors Robert Filback and Jenifer Crawford, the Democracy Project is curating course materials to help students obtain California’s new State Seal of Civic Engagement.

In higher education, Professor Adrian H. Huerta is leading a partnership with Long Beach City College to provide educational support to formerly gang-affiliated youth. And on the nonprofit side, Veda Ramsay-Stamps, a Global Executive EdD student, is expanding learning opportunities through an innovative approach to after-school education at the Crenshaw Family YMCA.

Investing and embedding our work in the needs of the community is central to our mission. Amid one of the most uncertain periods our nation has faced, USC Rossier is building on our rich history of community partnerships to use education as a force for positive change.

This story appeared in the USC Rossier Magazine Spring/Summer 2022 issue as “Dean’s byline.”