Wanda Austin USC president
Wanda Austin PhD ’88 was named interim president of USC on Aug. 7. She earned her doctorate in industrial and systems engineering from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and serves as a USC trustee since 2010. (Photo/ Karen Ballard)

At the New Student Convocation, I had the privilege of addressing the incoming students of the Class of 2022. As a USC alumna and trustee, I have spent a great deal of time with our students, but this was particularly special. It was special to see the joy on their faces and to sense the pride among their parents. And it was special to welcome them in that singular moment in their lives: standing at the threshold of their own USC journeys.

For me, the day marked a beginning of my own. A little more than a week earlier, I agreed to serve as interim president of USC as we search for a new, permanent president. This decision was based on my love for, and dedication to, our great university. In times of need, Trojans fight on, and at this moment, it is my time to serve. I do so with great passion for our mission and the tremendous potential that lies within our students, faculty and staff.

I know that the last year has been challenging for our community on many different levels. Change is needed, but change does not happen in an instant. It will take time and concerted effort for us to heal and transform — we can do it. I have served as a USC trustee for eight years, and in that time, I have met Trojans from all walks of life, from incoming first-year students to Half Century Trojans. In all of them I see so much talent, creativity and enthusiasm. Our community is like no other, and I am confident in our ability not simply to withstand challenges, but to transcend them and flourish in the days and months ahead.

As we move forward, we can draw inspiration from those 3,400 new Trojans I addressed on that August morning. Filled with ambition, they are an extraordinary group of individuals, a balance of SCions and first-generation college-goers, of National Merit Scholars and volunteer leaders. They represent the next chapter in the history of our university, and, one day not far from now, they will go out into the world to lead and serve society. USC was founded to make that possible: to cultivate the mind and spirit. We must remember that. That’s our mission. That’s why we’re here.

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