6 notable USC Dornsife alumni that made the news in 2022
Alumni spanning decades and academic disciplines outdid themselves in 2022. (Composite: Letty Avila. Nwodim photo by Iliana Garcia; Others courtesy of each person photographed.)

6 notable USC Dornsife alumni that made the news in 2022

From winning elections to opening a poetry library to donning a Miss California sash, these alumni had a remarkable year of achievement.
ByMargaret Crable

What have your fellow USC Dornsife alumni been up to this year? Getting elected to the United States House of Representatives, winning Miss. California, opening a poetry library and quite a bit more. Read on to see highlights from another year of alumni accomplishments.

Alumna makes history with a $15 million gift

Elizabeth Van Hunnick donated $15 million to the USC Dornsife history department, which renamed the department the Van Hunnick History Department and will fund research and graduate fellowships. The gift is in honor of her parents, who immigrated to Southern California from the Netherlands, and who encouraged their daughters to prioritize higher education and fostered an enthusiasm for ancient cultures.

“I agree with the Greeks that in order to be a well-educated person you should study many, many different things,” said Van Hunnick, who received her degree in history from USC Dornsife. “It’s not just taking a course to get a job. That’s fine, but it’s important to be, I guess the old-fashioned term is ‘well-rounded.’”

Descendant of slaves becomes U.S. Representative

Political science major Sydney Kamlager ’14 remembers her great-great-grandmother with much admiration. Her “Gram” was born enslaved but was eventually freed by Abraham Lincoln and was alive until Kamlager was 3 years old. Gram was one of the inspirations for Kamlager’s work as a state senator in California’s 30th District, where she introduced a bill that would outlaw all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude in the state. In November, Kamlager was elected to the United States House of Representatives for California’s 37th district.

New poetry library opens doors thanks to English alumnus

In a small building in Inglewood, California, you’ll find an unexpected richness of literature. The Sims Library of Poetry is home to nearly 8,000 books of poetry, most by poets of color. Hiram Sims, who received both a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in professional writing from USC Dornsife, opened the library this year for readers and writers of verse to find inspiration.

“Sometimes when you tell people you want to write poetry, they act like it’s kind of trivial. But then you come into a space like this and you see there are people who take it seriously,” he says. “So, to me, I think places like this validate the part of you that has a desire to do it.”

War Chief Turned Peace Chief

Joseph Medicine Crow ’39, who died in 2016, had already made history a number of times. He became the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation’s last war chief in recognition of his heroic actions while fighting for the U.S. Army during World War II, and he was the first in his tribe to earn a master’s degree. Now, he’s acquired a permanent place in USC campus history as the namesake of the Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow Center for International and Public Affairs.

Recent graduate wins Miss California

Catherine Liang ’21 spent last summer working as a CEO after winning a prestigious internship at The Adecco Group, which put her in the executive chair for a month. This summer, she’s been touring the state as Miss California after winning the title in June.

This isn’t her first time wearing a crown. Liang, who majored in international relations and global business, previously nabbed the tiara for Miss Chinatown Los Angeles as well as Miss San Francisco. When she’s not competing in pageants, she’s working full-time as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs.

Comedian at commencement

Ego Nwodim made her name in acting and comedy after graduating from USC Dornsife in 2010 with a degree in biological sciences. After stints with Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and an acclaimed one-woman stage show, she landed a spot as a featured player on Saturday Night Live, where she is now a regular cast member.

“What I really think is great about comedy, and why I’m so fulfilled by performing comedy, is that it certainly brings joy to people while at the same time illuminating social issues,” she said.

Nwodim delivered the 2022 commencement address during USC Dornsife’s satellite ceremonies.