Nikias leads his first USC delegation to Sacramento
USC president C. L. Max Nikias led a delegation of university trustees and administrators to Sacramento — his first official visit to the state Capitol as president — to meet with lawmakers on May 16.
During an hourlong meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown, the governor expressed support for the recent approval of a lease that would place the university in charge of the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The governor told Nikias he had noticed the university was recruiting new transformative faculty and asked how USC was able to attract such notable scholars from other world-class universities. Nikias in turn advocated for continued support for state college scholarships for low-income students, called Cal Grants, which have been targeted for a proposed 44 percent funding cut.
While USC believes its pool of university-funded aid to be the largest of any private university in the country — the university will hand out $235 million in aid this fall — Nikias said the state has a great interest in ensuring that “elite education is available to the best young people of every walk of life.”
Nikias, Board of Trustees chairman Edward P. Roski Jr., USC trustee David Dornsife ’65 and USC senior vice president for University Relations Thomas S. Sayles met with a number of prominent government officials on the issues of state financial aid and the university’s redevelopment efforts. The day included meetings with Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency Anna Caballero and Assembly Speaker John Pérez.
USC’s Office of State Government Relations organizes a visit to Sacramento each spring to bolster ties between the activities at USC and state policy being shaped in the Capitol.
Nikias spoke with legislators about USC’s proposed redevelopment project, The Village at USC, which would create 12,000 new jobs and revitalize retail and student housing near the University Park campus. The project is the largest economic development project ever to be proposed for South Los Angeles.
He also sought state support to approve key conditions of a lease agreement agreed to by USC and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission that would place the university in charge of managing the stadium while committing USC to at least $70 million in renovations.
A lunchtime meeting brought the USC contingent together with Los Angeles-area legislators, including Assembly member Gil Cedillo, Sen. Kevin de Leon and Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs Peter James Gravett, MPA ’77. USC Sol Price School of Public Policy dean Jack H. Knott attended along with distinguished USC Price faculty, including Juliet Ann Musso, Houston Flournoy Professor of State Government, and Chester A. Newland, who joined the university as a professor in 1966.
At the lunch, Assembly member Mariko Yamada MSW ’74, also a proud USC parent, praised USC for its innovative Military Social Work program tailored to train students to provide services for returning military veterans and their families.
Asked about USC’s historic acquisition of its two affiliated hospitals in 2009, Nikias said that innovations in the 21st century largely will be driven by advances in biology and medicine. Nikias spoke of USC’s aggressive plans for the expansion of the Health Sciences campus and hiring of transformational medical faculty. He pointed to USC’s recent hire of Harvard scientist Andrew McMahon, who this summer will bring a team of his Harvard colleagues to USC, where he will lead the university’s regenerative medicine and biology efforts while teaching undergraduates at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
The day ended with a reception for the trustees, Sacramento-area alumni and several California legislators, including Assembly members Ricardo Lara, Mike Davis, Rich Gordon and Katcho Achadjian.
Nikias spoke to the crowd of nearly 200 about the university’s achievements of the past year, including a stellar pool of freshmen admits, of which 22 percent come from underrepresented minority groups and 14 percent will be the first in their families to attend college. In speaking of the university’s ambitious $6 billion fundraising campaign, he recognized and thanked David Dornsife and his wife, Dana, who gave $200 million to name USC Dornsife.