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Community Engagement

USC Dornsife’s students and faculty are continually present in community engagement activities to make positive change in the community. Whether through research that solves community problems or students taking the lead to better their communities with their volunteer time to support our local schools and hospitals—students and faculty commit themselves to a variety of community initiatives, research and programs to ensure that we strengthen the community.

Through these partnerships and capacity building, our investments in the community serve to remind us that we are developing a cadre of civically minded students and faculty who are committed to linking their research to practical solutions to the most pressing community problems. Check out how USC Dornsife students and faculty are making a difference!



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The Writer in the Community

Professors Aimee Bender and Cecilia Woloch in the English department teach a "Writer in the Community' course where undergrads go into community schools to teach students poetry and fiction.

Video by Mira Zimet

Students Mentoring Students

USC Students mentor local high school students as part of the partnership between the Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI) and JEP.

Video by Mira Zimet

Joint Educational Project

Each year JEP places approximately 2000 students from Dornsife courses into the neighborhood as mentors, mini-course instructors, translators, and assistants to teachers and other…

Video by Mira Zimet

JEP 40th Welcome

Tammy Anderson, Executive Director of the Joint Educational Project welcomes alumni to the site in preparation for their 40th anniversary celebration this year.

Young Scientists Program: Energy and Motion

Allyson Brown '12, joined by students from USC Dornsife and Viterbi visited 32nd Street School as part of the Young Scientists Program.

Video by Mira Zimet

JEP: Young Scientists Program

The Young Scientists Program, part of the Joint Educational Project (JEP) and in association with Nadine Afari, Viterbi professor visit local elementary schools to work with…

Video by Mira Zimet

Edison Challenge 2010

Students from Oak Park High School, Santa Monica High School and Amargosa Creek Middle School talk about their projects for the Edison Challenge.

Video by Mira Zimet

Quick Science Challenge

QuikSCience is a partnership between the University of Southern California Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and Quiksilver, Inc. to improve science education through…

Video by Mira Zimet

Featured News:

Trustee's gift widens the reach of USC's Neighborhood Academic Initiative

USC Trustee Joan Payden has donated $5 million to expand the university’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative.

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Climbing the STEM of Success

A paid summer research internship program created by professors in USC Dornsife’s chemistry department is proving successful in motivating academically at risk community college students to major in STEM subjects at four-year universities. 

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Texas prep students deep in the heart of USC

High school chemistry teacher and USC alumna Alex Rios ’11 was thrilled to receive a $1,000 school grant…Rather than buy school supplies or plan a special lab project, Rios decided to take her students, 80 percent of whom had never traveled outside of Texas, on a trip to their dream school—USC.




Programs, Institutes and Centers at USC

International Relations

• The Center for Active Learning in International Studies, run by the School of International Relations, has built strong civic engagement programs that have taught 25,000 youths in grades 9-12 about world issues.

• The Teaching International Relations Program, founded by Vice Dean for Academic Programs Steven Lamy in 1933, has guided more than 2,500 USC students in international courses to teach in local high schools and serve as mentors.


• The Behavioral Employment Program, founded by Stan Huey (psychology, and American studies and ethnicity), is a pilot intervention program that examines the relationship between employment and gang involvement with gang-affiliated youth in Los Angeles.

• The USC Center for Urban Youth, directed by Fayla Margolin (psychology), works to improve the lives of urban youth in myriad ways, such as, assessing and treating learning and behavioral problems to counseling victims of violence to addressing obesity. 


• Partnering with Quiksilver, Inc. and the Quiksilver Foundation, the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies created the Quiksilver Foundation, a competition for teams of middle school and high school students who create projects and portfolios on an ocean science subject. It is designed to spark student's interest in science and to develop their capacity for leadership.


• The Edison Challenge is a joint project of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and Edison International. It brings together teams of teachers and middle and high school students to create "hands-on" environmental studies projects.

• The Going for the Goal Program, led by faculty adviser Margaret Gatz (psychology, gerontology and preventive medicine), teaches life skills to adolescents through 10 workshops taught by USC students to middle school students. Read More

• Founded in 1972, the Joint Educational Project (JEP) offers USC students the opportunity to combine academic coursework with experiences in the community surrounding the campus. More than 70,000 students have logged in more than 1 million service hours.

• The Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CRCC), directed by Donald Miller (Leonard K. Firestone Professor of Religion, and professor of religion and sociology), received two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities totaling $305,000 to support the expansion and development of the International Mission Photography Archive with the Digital Library as well as video essays by scholars. CRCC also received a $500,000 grant from the California Endowment for the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement to train faith-based and community leaders in four neighborhoods/cities.

• The Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII), directed by Manuel Pastor (American studies and ethnicity) and Ange-Marie Hancock (political science and gender studies), received approximately $400,000 in grant funding from the Carnegie Corporation, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, and USC Dornsife 2020. CSII also successfully planned a series of four community scholar events featuring academics and community leaders on issues of immigrant integration.

• The Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, directed by Bill Deverell, professor and chair of history, received grants from the Rose Hills Foundation, the WHH Foundation and William Randolph Hearst III to support elementary and high school curricular and educational projects centered around California and Los Angeles history and literary conferences about California literature.

The Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), directed by Manuel Pastor (American studies and ethnicity), received nearly $400,000 in grant funding from agencies including The California Endowment, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, the Liberty Hill Foundation, and the Panta Rhea Foundation. PERE also organized the “From the Ashes: The 1992 Civil Unrest and the Rise of Social Movement Organizing” conference reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles.