USC Hailed as Nation’s ‘Best Neighbor’

University heads a roster of 25 academic institutions that have made a positive impact on urban communities.
Kid Watch is among the USC programs that made a difference in the community.

Photo/Philip Channing
USC has topped a list of colleges that are being hailed as “Saviors of Our Cities.”

The 25 academic institutions on the list, composed by Evan Dobelle, president of the New England Board of Higher Education, are leading the way in creating policies that not only have results on campus but also impact the cities they call home.

USC earned the “best neighbor” designation because its positive contribution of strategic planning and use of resources have strengthened the quality of life in Los Angeles, according to Dobelle.

“The extraordinary efforts of these and other colleges have made higher education one of the great growth industries in America and have given a sense of confidence and hope, as well as stability, to cities that would otherwise be struggling in a world of mergers, downsizing and global outsourcing that has eroded the traditional urban economic base,” Dobelle said.

USC’s No. 1 ranking bested such prestigious institutions as the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the University of Chicago, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The schools were chosen because of their impact on urban communities in terms of revitalization, cultural renewal, economics, community service and development, both commercial and residential, according to Dobelle.

The honor is the latest to underscore USC’s impact on the community. Last year USC was named one of the “Colleges With a Conscience” by the Princeton Review, and in 2000 the university was named “College of the Year” by Time Magazine.

Inclusion on the “Saviors of Our Cities” list is based on 10 criteria such as being a catalyst for neighborhood change, faculty and student community involvement and the difference the institution has made on making college accessible to local students.

USC has a number of programs that played a role in its inclusion on the list.

Kid Watch a partnership among the university, residents, schools and law enforcement to watch thousands of children as they journey to and from school recently celebrated its 10th year.

The USC Joint Educational Project, one of the oldest service-learning programs in the country, each year draws more than 2,000 students, combining academic coursework with neighborhood outreach among more than 250 community partners.

And what started out in 1994 as an outreach and support program for five schools is still going strong and today includes 12 schools.

The list’s standards were designed to take into consideration the scale of the academic institutions in geography, student population, endowment and the population of the neighboring city.

“This list is designed to recognize 25 outstanding institutions that represent hundreds of others who every day become more and more important by providing stability in every social indices in cities across America,” Dobelle said.

Dobelle was named New Englander of the Year in 1999 for his efforts as president of Trinity College to revitalize the surrounding neighborhoods in Hartford, Conn.