Dozens of USC faculty and administrators gathered over the weekend to take stock of USC’s accomplishments as a global research institution and to help chart a course forward in the changing — and ever more interconnected — educational landscape.
USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett hosted a retreat on Feb. 28 through March 1 for key faculty members, exploring USC’s role as a global enterprise and the opportunities for international engagement.
Quoting from the university’s Strategic Vision, Garrett reminded attendees that “USC has the talent, resources and will to become a global model of the engaged research university.
“We will make a bigger difference in the world if we work with global partners, if we have a global perspective and if we challenge our students to be global,” she said.
One of the stars of the event was iPodia, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s “classroom of the future.” Strong international partnerships, cutting-edge technology and a completely reimagined pedagogy have allowed USC Viterbi to create an international educational experience that can be available to all students in their own local classrooms.
iPodia (and the collaboration of participating universities, known as the iPodia Alliance) allows students from multiple institutions to take the same class at the same time, using a video-conferencing interface that breaks students from around the world into small, interactive groups to work together to solve problems. Professors use quizzes and surveys to assess gaps in knowledge, driving each class session’s coursework and allowing the professors to connect students with different strengths to mentor one another.
By erasing the difficulties posed by distance, iPodia allows students from different countries to work together in real time — providing students with an educational experience not just from the coursework but also from the new cultures with which they interact. This, according to USC Viterbi’s Stephen Lu, is the future: “no-distance learning.”
Global strategies discussed
“Global education should be offered as the right of the many — everyone on campus — rather than the privilege of the few,” said Lu, the founder of iPodia, who presented it to his peers at the USC Provost/Academic Senate Retreat.
Lu’s presentation excited conversation about the retreat’s other participants about the possibilities for using the program within their own schools and departments. The retreat provided faculty with an opportunity to share and discuss global strategies currently in existence while generating actionable suggestions for the provost to foster future outreach.
The timing of the retreat coincided with USC President C. L. Max Nikias leading a delegation of deans and trustees to Singapore and Indonesia to strengthen ties with top universities in Southeast Asia. The president’s visit is the latest example of international outreach from a university that now boasts eight international offices.
“USC is continuing to be a leader in the global academic field, and we want to stay that way. The questions are: Where are we now, where do we want to go and how do we get there?” asked Chuck Gomer, professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and president of the Academic Senate.
USC occupies an ideal location to engage on a global level — seated in the heart of Los Angeles, the gateway between the United States and the rest of the Pacific Rim. However, Garrett reiterated that USC will not be opening campuses abroad — “We do not franchise the USC experience,” she said — instead emphasizing the importance of research and educational collaborations with universities around the world to forge meaningful international relationships for faculty and students.
For example, the USC Marshall School recently launched its World Bachelor in Business program, in which students spend a year each at USC, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy (and a fourth year at the school of their choice) — ultimately earning degrees from all three institutions.
The program provides an unparalleled international business competency to participants but was a significant amount of work to get off of the ground, requiring (among other things) for the Bocconi curriculum to be approved by the Italian parliament. It now stands as a shining success — in its first year, the program attracted 800 applications for the first 45 slots.
“Our focus was on really providing a transformational student experience,” said Debbie MacInnis of USC Marshall. “This is not a moneymaking venture. That was not what this was all about.”
USC’s global initiatives continue on the home front with the USC International Academy, an initiative launched in October to help promising international students from non-English-speaking countries who might have otherwise been turned away due to language competency issues.
The academy is a partnership between the USC Rossier School of Education and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences that is administrated by the provost’s office and USC Admissions to give those students conditional admission to USC and extra help succeeding while they’re here.
David Kang delivers keynote address
“What we’re going to do is serve as a strategic partner to all of our academic units by increasing the number of talented international students that can enroll in our graduate programs while also taking English-language courses and ensuring their success,” said Garrett, who is also senior vice president for academic affairs.
David Kang, professor at USC Dornsife and director of the USC Korean Studies Institute and the USC East Asian Studies Center, provided the keynote address at the weekend retreat.
Noting that USC has the only Korean studies institute in the United States with its own building — the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho Family House on 34th Street, home of the first legally immigrated Korean couple to come to the United States — Kang reflected on the challenges and triumphs of managing an institute in what is often an overlooked specialty in academia.
“For a lot of schools, particularly Asia is, ‘eh, you know, we know we have to do it, but that’s not where the focus is,’ ” he said. “To be able to come to a place where what I do is not just tolerated but genuinely appreciated is an awesome opportunity.”