SPPD Celebrates Its 80th Anniversary
Dean Jack H. Knott says the School of Policy, Planning, and Development remains dedicated to advancing academic theory and making an impact in the world.
The event – “Working Across Boundaries to Solve Public Problems: What Are We Learning and Where Are We Headed?” – consisted of a series of panel discussions focusing on current social issues such as governance, changing demographics, sustainable development and building healthy communities.
According to Dean Jack H. Knott, the conference celebrated the school’s distinctive past, while providing a forum for experts to address the significant challenges facing local and global communities.
SPPD is strongly committed “to producing knowledge that advances academic theory, but also makes a significant impact in the world,” he said.
USC Provost and Executive Vice President C. L. Max Nikias opened the conference, commenting on SPPD’s tradition and its place within USC.
The school’s history dates back to 1929, when it opened as the School of Citizenship and Public Administration – just the second school of its kind in the nation and the first public administration degree program. From the beginning, the school embraced an interdisciplinary approach to public problem solving – an approach that reflects the core of USC’s mission, Nikias noted.
“For eight solid decades, the school has been a powerful force in the field, tackling critical issues facing the country and the world,” he said. “We all look forward to seeing how SPPD will continue to promote innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems.”
Nikias added that SPPD is an integral part of USC’s cultural fabric, and it “enhances the university’s academic reputation” with its nationally ranked degree programs and leading-edge research.
And, through its active public involvement, the school has gained an esteemed reputation within the community as well. Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member and SPPD Board of Councilors member who served as a presenter during the anniversary event, commended the school for its work on improving “public policy, civic engagement and trying its best to increase the civic IQ.”
In addition, the conference featured two keynote speakers: Karen Bass, California state assembly speaker; and Robert Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment.
Bass, who delivered the morning’s plenary address, focused largely on the urgent need to remedy California’s staggering fiscal condition, in particular closing the multibillion dollar budget shortfall.
“After I was sworn in as speaker (last May), I had to jump straight into our state’s fiscal crisis,” she said.
“To solve (a deficit of) $42 billion, there will be deeper cuts, there will be several types of taxes that are raised, there will be borrowing and there will be money from the federal government.”
Ross delivered the afternoon’s keynote remarks, sharing his leadership experiences as head of the California Endowment, a private health foundation that aims to improve the health of underserved communities and populations.
He explained how embracing diversity can be very effective in coalition building and in achieving a shared goal.
“There’s a great lesson that if we want to get things done, we have to do a better job of building bridges and getting out of our silos,” Ross said.
He added that, often, the challenge is not the lack of social innovation, but rather “scaling-up” – using funding in a more meaningful way – after finding a strategy that actually works.
During the anniversary event, Knott honored several of the school’s former deans who were in attendance – including Bob Biller, Ross Clayton, Alan Kreditor, David Mars and Jane Pisano – along with members of the emeriti faculty.
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