Kayla Brown is finding her way around the University Park Campus, but she had no trouble adjusting to her new home in McCarthy Honors College at USC Village.
“I love coming here, and I consider this my home now,” said Brown, a Trustee Scholar. “The dynamic is energizing, and I love how passionate everyone is about their field of interest. Everyone’s proud of their intellect and I love that.”
Brown is one of 560 freshmen honors students who inhabit the new college, a living and learning space for exceptional students. One of eight residential colleges that opened at USC Village in August, McCarthy features space for honors seminars and casual collaboration.
Brown, who plans to be a pediatrician, said she’s had memorable conversations with fellow honors students who are pursuing degrees in music and computer science.
“The courtyard is an amazing place to study, relax and meet people,” Brown said. “There are always people there, even at midnight, talking about ideas. There’s always something going on at McCarthy.”
Space, studies and stimulation
An academically stimulating environment, with quiet spaces for reflection and solo studying, is what McCarthy was designed to be. Four residential life lounges on each floor are meant for individual or group study and relaxation.
McCarthy has two classroom spaces and an airy second-floor courtyard that lets students study outdoor.
“McCarthy was designed to foster connections,” said Emily Sandoval, senior director of Residential Education at USC. “Those connections are made through programming, access to Faculty in Residence, and a speaker series that will allow honors students to interact with people across disciplines to expand their awareness.”
McCarthy students moved in early so they could take part in a retreat to help them acclimate, connect with suitemates and explore Los Angeles.
In the year ahead, McCarthy events will focus on the arts and cultural connections to Los Angeles.
I get to know more and more of our new McCarthy-ans every week.
“I get to know more and more of our new McCarthy-ans every week,” said John Pascarella of McCarthy Faculty in Residence.
Pascarella offers engaging programs and growth opportunities beyond the classroom, as well as building supportive relationships with students.
“The most inspiring stories to me personally and professionally,” he said, “are those who share a common history with me — students who grew up in low-income, diverse and under-resourced communities, whose hard work and talent with the support of key adults in their lives resulted in the tremendous achievement of arriving here at USC McCarthy Honors.”
Pascarella, an associate professor of clinical education who started USC’s annual College Access Day for low-income high school students, is one of eight Faculty in Residence at USC Village.
“When I meet a first-generation honors student in McCarthy, they tell me about what they learned and experienced to get here, how their preparation for college began and why they chose USC,” he said. “First-generation or not, there is something particularly special about all of our McCarthy students — they radiate the Trojan spirit in their energy, appreciation and scholarly work ethic.”
Brown put in plenty of extra hours at her Van Nuys high school, and she started an organization to help fellow first-generation students apply to elite universities.
“I went into classes and talked about the importance of good grades and college prep,” she said. “The message came from me — not an adult lecturing them — so it was more like a friend telling them what might help. Most of the students with high test scores didn’t realize they could get into more selective research universities and get the financial aid to make it happen.”
Several of the students Brown worked with in high school are now enrolled at UCLA, Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Brown, who said Gray’s Anatomy was one of the first books she read, plans to focus her future pediatric practice on children with special needs.
For now, she’s concentrating on her first full semester and enjoying life at McCarthy and USC Village.
“There are more than 500 of us, but it still feels intimate,” she said. “You learn names and make connections with people you see in class and around campus. Besides, there’s nowhere else I can go to the gym, pick up my packages and swing by for a Cava bowl or grab some cookies at Trader Joe’s.”