Reflecting On USC Rossier’s Mission

July 10, 2018

USC Rossier’s mission “to prepare leaders to achieve educational equity through research, policy, and practice” is not just a tagline. As we grapple with educational disparities, our questions drive our work to solve the most intractable issues in education.


“Why don’t foster children get social workers that actually care about them?”

Felicia Chavez, MFT ’19: After spending most of her childhood in foster care, Chavez has a passion for youth who share a similar background. She is pursuing a career as a counselor through the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Program.

“Why was I given more resources than the students of color down the hall from me?”

Jake Roth, MAT ’18: Protests after the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri led Roth to realize his desire to invest in public education. He is pursuing a career as a teacher through the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program.

“How can it be that black students are racially profiled at their own institutions by campus police?”

Sarah Toutant, PASA ’18, PhD ’22: As a Black and Native American adoptee in a White family who grew up in a predominantly Hispanic/Latinx community, Toutant’s experiences with race have significantly impacted her. After finishing her degree in the Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA) program, she is now beginning the USC Rossier Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Education Policy (PhD) program to research the experiences of black students.

“What can we do to attract and graduate more first generation students?”

Karen Symms Gallagher, Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean: As the first person in her family to attend college, Dean Gallagher has made it her mission to increase access to education for first-generation college students.

“Why don’t we spend more time understanding who students are?”

Darnell Cole, associate professor of education: Cole and Shafiqa Ahmadi, an associate professor of clinical education, are co-directors of the USC Rossier Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice. The center researches how multiple identities such as religion, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation and disability intersect to foster shared values and democratic ideals.

“How can we better prepare our mathematics teachers?”

Yasemin Copur-Genturk, assistant professor of teacher education: Copur-Genturk’s research focuses on the mathematical knowledge teachers need to promote learning in diverse classrooms.

“How can we really make a profound difference in terms of equity?”

Alan Arkatov, Katzman/Ernst Chair in Educational Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation: After a career as an entrepreneur and innovator, Arkatov recently launched the USC Rossier Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education, which works to improve interdisciplinary collaboration to create innovation in educational engagement.

“Three out of 100 homeless youth will eventually graduate from college. Is that fair?”

William Tierney, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education: One of the nation’s leading authorities on access to higher education, William G. Tierney is a co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education. With PhD student James Dean Ward, Tierney has published a research and policy agenda to help solve the issues facing LGBT students who are homeless.

Also featured:

  • Charlie Morales, PASA ‘19: After navigating the public education and UC systems and witnessing disparities, Morales realized his deep passion to transform urban education into an environment that respects and embraces difference.
  • Elizabeth Park, PhD ’19:  A fifth-year scholar in USC Rossier’s Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Education Policy (PhD), Park studies why community colleges often have poor remediation rates, and what community colleges are doing to improve retention and advancement for first-generation students.
  • Brendesha Tynes, associate professor of education and psychology: Tynes is director of the Center for Empowered Learning and Development with Technology, a research center that promotes equity in digital learning and development among urban populations. Tynes’ work centers on improving the pipeline for Black girls interested in STEM careers.
  • Shira Korn, PhD ’20: A third-year PhD student, Korn is investigating the relationship between public transportation access and the size of the teacher workforce.
  • Shaun R. Harper, Clifford and Betty Allen Chair in Urban Leadership: Executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, Harper is the past-president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. His work focuses on confronting racial inequities on campuses and in businesses and organizations.