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USC College 2020 — Now, for the Future

Dean Howard Gillman Announces Funding for First Set of College 2020 Research Clusters

USC College 2020 — Now, for the Future

Creating the college of the future is the impetus behind "College 2020."

In Fall 2009, Howard Gillman, dean of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, invited faculty to work across existing departments and programs to identify a set of themes that will be of great societal relevance and importance in years to come. These College 2020 thematic research clusters will serve as the basis for investments in new research initiatives and related academic programs for undergraduates and Ph.D. students.

Eighteen ambitious proposals were submitted to a College faculty review committee. “I was very pleased to see such a high level of interest in this opportunity by faculty members from across the College,” Gillman said. “The challenge of building the College of the future has engaged faculty from across all the disciplines. More than 200 faculty members were listed as co-investigators in the proposals that were submitted.”

College 2020 will build upon the ground-breaking research already taking place across the many College departments, research centers, and institutes by providing faculty with a chance to engage in bottom-up, peer-reviewed strategic planning around important themes. 

“There is no doubt that we must maintain strong foundations in basic disciplinary knowledge and in the fundamental questions of the human experience,” Gillman said, “but we must also be prepared to demonstrate — to our students, to our colleagues across the university, to our supporters, and ultimately to society as a whole — the ongoing relevance and importance of our scholarship and academic programs.”

The College 2020 thematic research clusters chosen this year are Science, Technology & Society, led by Andrew Lakoff, associate professor of anthropology, sociology and communication; Climate Change in Southern California, led by Douglas Capone, William and Julie Wrigley Chair in Environmental Studies and professor of biological sciences; and David Hutchins, professor of biological sciences; and Genocide Resistance, led by Wolf Gruner, Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and professor of history.

The Science, Technology & Society research cluster seeks to foster individual and collaborative inquiry into the production of scientific knowledge and the societal impact of technological innovation.

The research cluster Climate Change in Southern California will create an opportunity for the College’s many internationally recognized experts in marine, environmental, and social sciences to build a new vision by synthesizing the scientific aspects of rapid coastal climate change with the equally dynamic changes in human cultural and political institutions.

The cluster Genocide Resistance will systematically investigate why certain individuals, groups or societies do or do not follow the path of mass violence and genocide.

The research clusters will receive a total of $1 million in funding over three years. In addition to research support, funding will lead to the creation of new general education courses, undergraduate majors and minors, graduate certificates; interdisciplinary seminars; and post-doctoral, pre-doctoral, and undergraduate fellowships.

Criteria used by the faculty review committee in the selection process included a preference for proposals that:

  • Seek to address global challenges of special importance and complexity;
  • Contribute to positioning the College in a leadership role within a particular area of study;
  • Enhance the team’s opportunities for external funding;
  • Involve teams with broad College faculty participation;
  • Articulate a plan of action that enhanced Ph.D. education and promoted the quality placement of Ph.D. students;
  • Engage undergraduates in the activity through research opportunities or innovative academic programming; and
  • Propose teaching innovations that are scalable across a variety of academic programs.

Gillman was so impressed by the quantity and quality of proposals submitted this year that he has decided to put out another call for proposals in Fall 2010. “I look forward to receiving new proposals in addition to revised proposals from this year’s submissions,” he said