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Southern California to Expand its Collegiate System

— The University of Southern California has had a partial residential college system for a number of years, overseen by some of the most distinguished faculty members on the Los Angeles campus. In today’s issue of the Daily Trojan, the USC student newspaper, undergraduate Joanna Lin reports that USC president Steven Sample is considering an expansion of the residential college system as the university brings more of its students on campus:

USC may turn residential

President Sample sees USC moving away from being a ‘commuter’ university.

There is a “metamorphosis” taking place right now at USC, President Steven B. Sample said Wednesday, as the university is transforming from a commuter campus to a residential university.

“The fact is, this university is changing … Now there is an absolutely insatiable demand for housing on or near campus. Students spend more time on campus,” Sample said to about 100 students and faculty members at the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching’s faculty forum.

Sample identified the change in two ways: physical and academic, both of which focus on nurturing “the face-to-face relationships” between professors and students “that are at the heart of this university.”

Through new and revamped facilities and academic programs, USC will be able to take advantage of “new learning initiatives, which could never have taken place on a commuter campus,” he said.

The university is also investing in facilities to “pay attention to students’ recreational needs,” he said, including $1 million for a new, “long overdue” student center “to ensure students will have a gathering place that’s among the finest in the nation” and coffee houses and common places for students and faculty to socialize in research buildings.[…]

The shift toward becoming a more residential university will “strengthen and increase opportunities for peer-to-peer learning,” Sample said. He expressed enthusiasm for modeling future housing after USC’s current residential colleges, which all have their own resident faculty members.

“I’ve witnessed the dramatic increase in intellectual vitality when a faculty member is in charge of the programming for that residential college,” he said.

Sample said the university, through its First Contact Initiative, is trying to “increase communication outside the classroom” between faculty and students. Doing so helps student retention and the overall college experience, he said.

Student retention rates have soared to above 80 percent now and are comparable to similar universities, he said.[…]

Sample said in transitioning into a residential university—and fostering faculty-student mentor relationships along the way—USC could help to set the pace and lead the way. “It’s a challenge we do poorly, but better than any of our competitors.”

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