Issue: Winter 2004
By Steven B. Sample
As I took part in the opening of a Los Angeles exhibition celebrating the life and work of Albert Einstein, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times
asked for my thoughts about this 20th-century genius. Recalling the
inspiration I drew from viewing Einstein’s manuscripts for the first
time in Jerusalem, I told the reporter that I continue to marvel at
Einstein’s ability to approach complex problems by starting with a
simple question. For example, the question that led to Einstein’s
discovery of special relativity was, “How do you chase a light wave,
and if you catch up with it, what would it look like?”
new strategic plan, adopted by the Board of Trustees in late 2004, has
its genesis in the exploration of a simple question: “What should the
research university of the 21st century look like, and how can USC
become the model for this new and developing institution?” The new plan
sets forth a vision for the coming years, capitalizing on our unique
strengths in interdisciplinary research and global connections. The
plan also takes into account three distinct trends in higher education.
What are these three trends? First, we believe the 21st-century
research university must increasingly focus on meeting societal needs,
including solving such problems as debilitating diseases, computer
security breaches, and transportation gridlock, as well as advancing
human civilization through science and technology, the arts, and the
humanities. Second, in an increasingly international world, the
research university must have a strong global reach and presence.
Finally, universities must concentrate on “learner-centered” education,
which gives primacy to the needs of the students rather than those of
the institution and faculty.
The new strategic plan is not a roadmap with detailed directions and a
final destination. Rather, it’s a treasure map of possibilities for
pushing out our current frontiers in order to encourage
interdisciplinary research, lifelong learning, the strengthening of our
Pacific Rim connections, the proliferation of technology transfer, and
collaborations with industry and other universities. Inherent in the
plan is an emphasis on creativity and flexibility, in keeping with
USC’s entrepreneurial heritage.
It would be a mistake to think that the strategic plan signals a
completely new beginning at USC. It’s no accident that the plan is
being rolled out and implemented in 2005 as USC celebrates the 125th
anniversary of its founding. Our anniversary theme is “Inventing the
future, honoring the past.” Yes, we’re inventing the research
university of the future, but we’re doing so by building on USC’s core
strengths of entrepreneurship, ethics, the Trojan Family, and academic
excellence – intrinsic values that have made USC what it is today and
will determine what it will be tomorrow.
As the university prepares to implement the new plan, we should all
thank our provost, Lloyd Armstrong, who, having guided the development
of this plan with insight and foresight, will return to the university
faculty on July 1. He was the driving force behind USC’s highly
successful 1994 Strategic Plan, its update four years later, and our
new strategic plan.
I encourage you to read the plan by linking to www.usc.edu/admin/provost/strategicplan/.
The plan has the admirable quality of brevity, and it emphasizes USC’s
central mission, which is “the development of human beings and society
as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and
A bold commitment to make our great university
even greater, this plan invites each of us to “move USC further on its
journey to becoming one of the most influential and productive research
universities in the world.” I can think of no better challenge for the