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From the Dean

In Our Nature

Growing up on the small island of Jersey, nestled alongside the coast of France, I learned to respect the sea and cultivated a very special relationship with the maritime world. With my grandfather, a commercial fisherman, I spent many hours aboard commercial lobster boats, which offered me firsthand experience of both the calm and fierce beauty of the sea.


In many ways, I believe the fabric of nature is woven into our very selves. We feel a tremendous, almost innate responsibility to protect and preserve Earth’s waters, land and the air we breathe. At the same time, we are dedicated to the advancement of our society.

With its considerable strengths across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, USC Dornsife is uniquely positioned as an epicenter for defining sustainability. Our scientists probe the structure, function and complexities of our natural systems. Our psychologists and philosophers study the behavior, motivations and ethics of individuals and societies. Our historians, economists, sociologists and political scientists analyze development, conflict and cooperation at local and global levels.

Today, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population resides in coastal cities. As population density and economic activity in these coastal zones increase, pressures on coastal ecosystems dramatically rise. So what better test bed for our pathbreaking ideas to sustain the planet than our university’s urban seaside environment in Los Angeles and the pristine habitat on Catalina Island.

This ideal setting coupled with our cross-disciplinary strengths allows us to generate new knowledge that comprehensively addresses environmental challenges such as climate change, health, and food availability and distribution. We transmit that knowledge to our students here at USC and to those in our local elementary and high schools to prepare the next generation of environmental leaders. And we translate that knowledge into public policy and economic development programs that will help L.A., the nation and the world flourish.

Steve Kay
Dean of USC Dornsife
Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair