USC Price School of Public Policy

International Labs for USC Price Students

USC Price’s ongoing relationships with organizations that span the globe enable the school to offer students unique, multi-faceted labs every year.

Dr. Eric Heikkila
Professor and Director of International Initiatives

In the International Labs, students integrate scholarly knowledge with professional practice by providing consulting services in a setting outside the United States.

Teams provide professional-level consultation to real clients from the country abroad where the lab takes place. Local agencies and firms often sponsor a laboratory to obtain valued studies in research, design and analysis. Community groups seek assistance from laboratory/workshops to obtain analytical data, information and recommendations otherwise unavailable to them.

Lab participants work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams to address a particular project identified by the client in the host country. Students analyze information pertinent to the project and its context, then produce a set of recommendations for accomplishing project objectives. This usually takes the form of policy recommendations, a suggested plan or alternative plans, databases, background information, various maps and graphics.

As participants transition from the classroom to a real-world international setting, they gain direct experience with translating professional practice in a cross-cultural context. While some background research and preparation is necessary prior to leaving the U.S., the bulk of the assignment is undertaken on an intensive basis in the field. The on-site work culminates in a presentation to the client.

The International Labs are designed as integrative professional experiences across the Price School of Public Policy; students from all USC Price graduate programs are welcome to participate. The labs provide students with an opportunity to build their credentials and experience while extending their network of professional contacts.

Learn more about USC Price’s International Labs:

China International Lab, 2014

rice students in Hong KongView more photos »

Price students in Hong Kong
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Location: China (Hong Kong)

Dates: May 26 – June 6, 2014

Partner: Hong Kong American Center

Instructor: Professor Eric Heikkila

Topic: “One Metropolis; Two Systems”

Description: The USC Price School has conducted its China Lab each year for the past decade, with a range of clients and collaborating institutions. This year the Lab collaborated with the Hong Kong America Center and other institutional partners in the region, including the HK University of Science and Technology, East West Bank, Civic Exchange, World Green Organization, Policy Research and Advocacy of Hong Kong Council of Social Services.

The Lab was structured to address various aspects and challenges that Hong Kong, the metropolis, is facing. Issues discussed include:

  • Economy
  • Housing and Social Service: Hong Kong real estate is an attractive investment for many Mainlanders seeking a safe place to “park” accumulated financial capital. Consequently, housing prices in HK have sky-rocketed.
  • Environment: water and air pollution know no borders, so the obstacles to effective coordination and action are indeed formidable
  • Transportation: Cross-border flows of people and goods continues to grow exponentially, placing considerable strain on transportation infrastructure linking HK to the PRD.

During the two-week intensive class in Hong Kong, students met with scholars, policy practitioners and business experts from various institutions as well as conducted site visits. Students’ final report, titled “One Metropolis, Two System”, a contextual policy recommendation report for enhanced metropolitan cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, was well received among panelists who were invited to the final presentation.

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Ireland International Lab, 2014

Price students in Dublin, IrelandView more photos »

Price students in Dublin, Ireland
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Location: Ireland (Dublin)

Dates: May 26 – June 6, 2014

Client: Dublin City Planning Department

Partner: University College Dublin and Dublin City Council

Instructor: Professor Dora Kingsley Vertenten

Topic: “#SmithfieldSays: A Comprehensive Campaign and Strategy to Facilitate Public Realm Conversations Using Social Media”

Description: The USC Price International Lab is a flagship overseas study program which attracts USC Price students from different majors. There used to be two Price International Labs each year. This year we have offered three. We have expanded our footprint to Europe in Dublin, Ireland. The Lab offered there focused on leveraging social media to help mobilize local citizens and stakeholders in civic space revitalization.

Students met with Dublin city council members, city manager, city chief planner, scholars from University College Dublin and public policy team members at Google. During the Lab period, the US Embassy invited our students and hosted a meeting on site.

Approximately sixty participants such as city officials, scholars and local practitioners attended students’ final presentation on social media demonstration project. In addition to the presentation, students produced a more than 300-page report, incorporating a mixed methodology (literature review with communications modeling and case studies), smart practice review and social media campaign. The report also included semi-structured interviews along with the documented results from both the Twitter campaign and the “ground” campaign of public engagement. The social signage for #SmithfieldSays demonstrated the influencers and engagement obtained with the Dublin City Council and @USCinDublin Twitter campaign.

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Brazil International Lab, 2014

Price students in Sao Paulo

Price students with Prof. Richard Green in Sao Paulo
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Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Dates: January 2-10, 2014

Partner / Client: Empresa Paulista de Planejamento Metropolitano (EMPLASA—the metropolitan planning agency representing the State of Sao Paulo)

Instructor: Professor Richard Green

Topic: Housing Provision for Working Class Paulistanos

Description: The Sao Paulo Lab was structured accordingly to address various aspects of land use. Issues that were addressed include:

  • Municipal Structure – Are land use and housing plans better developed at the metropolitan level or at a more devolved level of government.
  • Bulk requirements – How much density should Sao Paulo strive for? How tall should buildings be? What should floor-area-ratios be? How large should units be?
  • Infrastructure finance – Should Sao Paulo use value capture methods? As valorem property taxes? Impact fees? User fees? Other taxes?
  • Formalizing housing – Why do so many people live in the informal housing sector. Should Sao Paulo strive to formalize it? Provide better services to it? Encourage people to leave it?
  • Housing and access to employment – Do people live near jobs? If not, is it better to encourage people to move or jobs to move?

Students were divided into five teams to address such issues, drawing on cases studies from New York, Chicago, Singapore, Hong Kong and Seoul and presented final presentations on housing policies to EMPLASA.

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China International Lab, 2013

Location: China (Hong Kong)

Dates: May 27 – June 7, 2013

Partner: Hong Kong American Center

Client: Better Hong Kong Foundation

Instructor: Professor Eric Heikkila

Topic: “One Metropolis; Two Systems”

Description: The students in this year’s International Lab in Hong Kong undertook a rather creative twist on the traditional Lab format. Rather than producing a written report to present to the client, their final “deliverable” was in the form of a film documentary. This was made possible because one of the students, Mark Wolf, is a professional film documentary producer, having worked for the White House, the Governor’s office in Hawaii, and elsewhere. The students worked in six teams, corresponding to the key sectors impacted by the “One Metropolis; Two Systems” issue in Hong Kong. These six teams undertook reviews of relevant academic literature, interviewed experts in HK and elsewhere, and did on the ground field research while in HK. The also compiled relevant video clips of related materials. Each team then wrote a script that was narrated into a “voice over” for the film. We worked as a group to design the overall architecture of the documentary, and then Mr. Wolf took the assembled materials and made it into a reality. The “world premier” of this film was then presented to our client, the Better Hong Kong Foundation, on the final day of the Lab.

Brazil International Lab, 2013

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dates: May 27 – June 7, 2013

Partner: Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), Rio de Janeiro

Instructors: Professors Frank V. Zerunyan, Jonathan Speier

Topic: The Porto Maravilha Development

Description: The project for the 2013 Brazil Lab builds on the previous year’s lab, which analyzed the issues and challenges facing the city of Rio de Janeiro as officials preparing to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games.

The purpose of this year’s Brazil Lab was to generally look at the infrastructures of the City of Rio de Janeiro and explore innovative methods of rebuilding Rio for the 21st Century. 2013 Brazil Lab focused on governance vis-à-vis the forms of interactions across public, nonprofit, and for profit sectors.

Students were asked to consider the following key dimensions in developing a strategic framework to guide Rio de Janeiro’s redevelopment: finance, transportation, social services, environment, safety and security, and development of a lasting legacy with an eye toward how Rio can market itself in coming years to increase international interest in visiting the city. They presented a final presentation to the client, called “Porto Maravilha Development”. Students also finished a written paper, which studies five areas within Porto Maravilha that offer prime opportunities to integrate principals of transit-oriented development. The five areas include: 1) Rodoviaria bus terminal, 2) Central do Brazil regional train station, 3) pedestrian access in the Uruguaiana shopping district and central subway stations, 4) Waterfront Access & Water Transit, and 5) cruise ports. Each of the areas includes precedent case studies that further the argument for greater TOD implementation.

China International Lab, 2012

Location: China (Ningbo)

Dates: May 27 – June 8, 2012

Partners: Port of Ningbo; Port of Zhoushan; Ningbo University of Technology; Zhoushan Ocean University; Meisha Ocean University; Meisha Island Administrative Committee; Port of Long Beach

Instructor: Michael Vanderbeek

Topic: International Trade and Local Development: Comparing Benefits and Impacts on Both Sides of the Pacific

Description: The 2012 China international lab helped students to:

  1. Understand first-hand the different benefits and impacts associated with international trade and global goods movement as well as where, how and to whom these benefits and impacts are distributed in two entirely different international contexts.
  2. Gain experience in researching and gathering data relevant to international policy, planning and development, and in using the findings to diagnose real-world problems and recommend meaningful solutions.
  3. Understand and be able to compare and contrast the role that two of the world’s premiere port complexes play in the development and path dependency of the economies of their respective regions and identify best practices that each can learn from the other.
  4. Gain a working knowledge of the various sectors and agencies of government in both the U.S. and China that drive and/or dictate international trade policy, and how private-sector interests interact with government agencies to influence and implement such policy.
  5. Understand the unique opportunities and special challenges that port cities/regions face in the areas of policy, planning, and development – specifically land use, economic development, and environmental policy and planning – and contribute ideas that can help shape practical solutions for future improvement for both U.S. and Chinese trade-impacted regions in terms of increased system efficiencies, mitigated impacts, more sustainable operations and improved local quality of life.

2012 China Lab syllabus

Brazil International Lab, 2012

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dates: May 21 – June 1, 2012

Partner: The Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE), the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV)

Clients: Alberto Gomes Silva, Special Advisor to the President, CDURP, Companhia de Desenvolvimento Urbano da Região do Porto do Rio de Janeiro (Urban Development Area of the Port of Rio de Janeiro)

Instructors: Professors Frank V. Zerunyan, Jonathan Speier

Topic: Revitalizing Port Maravilha

Description: The 2012 Price School International Lab to Brazil was a two-part course. During the spring semester, the class met weekly at the Price School to develop research, hone presentation skills, and prepare for a consulting project in Brazil. During this time, students explored the known facts about the clients’ project, the Porto Maravilha redevelopment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They used policy and urban planning examples from cities around the globe, anticipating both shortcomings and opportunities for port redevelopment in Rio. The Olympic Games upcoming in 2016 is a milestone for which Porto Maravilha stands to be a legacy. With that, the students surveyed redevelopment efforts of host cities of mega-sporting events.

The summer session was a hands-on, two-week lab in Rio de Janeiro. Teaming up with Brazilian university FGV, students learned from a host of local experts, politicians, and social welfare advocates. They developed further insight into the Porto Maravilha project – as well as it’s context within Rio and Brazil – from lectures, continued research, and on-site field work. USC Price students also had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Brazilian master’s students interested in the policy and planning work; students who shared with us local perspectives. They presented their findings and recommendations to the Director of the Porto Maravilha project. An ongoing collaboration continues between the project, FGV, and USC.

2012 Brazil Lab final presentation
2012 Brazil Lab syllabus

China International Lab, 2011

Location: China (Hong Kong, Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta)

Dates: May 23-June 3, 2011

Partner: The Party University of Shenzhen

Client: The Public Administration Institute of Shenzhen

Instructor: Professor Mark Pisano

Topic: Policy Options for Transitioning away from Export-Lead Growth in Southern China’s Pearl River Delta

Description: Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta are two of the most productive regions in China. Shenzhen is considered a key center of the export economy of the country. For this year’s project, the client in Shenzhen requested that the International Lab developed a set of policy options to promote regional cooperation in transitioning from an industrial manufacturing base to one that is more diversified and expedites the process of expanding the domestic market. A side-benefit of these strategies was that it was expected that decreasing the manufacturing base would lower demand for energy and consumption of natural resources and improve air quality and the quality of life.

2011 China Lab final presentation
2011 China Lab report (“Sustainable Economic Development in the Pearl River Delta”)
2011 China Lab syllabus (PPD 613a)
2011 China Lab syllabus (PPD 613b)

Brazil International Lab, 2011

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dates: Late May and early June, 2011

Partner: The Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE), the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV)

Client: The Special Secretary for World Cup 2014 and Olympics 2016 (the Municipal agency responsible for the two Mega Sporting Events in Rio) represented by Mr. Ruy Cezar

Instructors: Professors Frank Zerunyan and Jonathan Speier

Topic: 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Description: The project for the 2011 Brazil Lab was built on the previous year’s lab, which analyzed the issues and challenges facing the city of Rio de Janeiro as officials prepare to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Students in last year’s lab assessed the experience of seven previous Olympic cities weighing the positive and negative consequences and formulated a set of lessons learned that could be useful to Rio’s city officials. Students in this year’s Lab developed a strategic framework to guide Rio de Janeiro’s preparations to host the 2016 Olympic Games and to manage effectively the influx of hundreds of thousands of international visitors coming to Rio before, during, and after the Games are going to be held. Students discussed nine key dimensions in developing a strategic framework to guide Rio de Janeiro’s preparations: finance, transportation, social, environment, safety and security, basic needs, information, administrative, and development of a lasting legacy with an eye toward how Rio could market itself in coming years to increase international interest in visiting the city.

2011 Brazil Lab syllabus

China International Lab, 2010

Location: China (Hong Kong and Foshan)

Dates: May 24 – June 4, 2010

Partner: Hong Kong American Center

Client: Foshan Municipality

Instructor: Professor Eric Heikkila

Topic: Comprehensive remediation of the Fengjiang River

Description: The class advised local government officials in Foshan on implementation issues arising in the context of Foshan’s ongoing efforts to undertake comprehensive remediation of the Fengjiang River, including implementation of recommendations.

The class organized itself to address five principle challenges that Fengjiang River was facing:

  1. Administrative structures
  2. Mobilization of stakeholders
  3. Organization capacity
  4. Monitoring & evaluation
  5. Socio‐economic context

Students learned about the processes of urban development in China, the workings of various sectors of government, how opportunities for private sector involvement and investment are structured, the role of the World Bank in development projects, and the role of professional non-governmental organizations

Through the collaborative efforts, students gained a greater understanding of how to function as part of team and how to resolve organizational issues within the team as well as gain insights into their individual strengths and what they can contribute to a team effort.

2010 China Lab syllabus

Brazil International Lab, 2010

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dates: May 31-June 11, 2010

Partner: Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE), the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV)

Client: Special Secretary for World Cup 2014 and Olympics 2016 (the Municipal agency responsible the two Mega Sporting Events in Rio)

Instructors: Professors Peter Robertson and Jonathan Speier

Topic: Planning for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Description: The project for the 2010 Brazil Lab focused on Rio de Janeiro’s preparations to host the 2016 Olympic Games and to manage effectively the influx of hundreds of thousands of international visitors coming to Rio before, during, and after the Games are going to be held. In the 1-unit spring preparatory class, student groups conducted research on the steps taken by seven previous Olympic cities to prepare for the Games, as well as the positive and negative consequences of the actions implemented. In Rio, students heard presentations pertaining to most of these issue areas, from a wide variety of academics and practitioners with knowledge of and experience in Rio government and/or business sectors. The students also took field trips to a number of sites of existing and yet-to-be-developed Olympic venues. Given the results of their background research and the information gleaned from the speaker presentations and site visits, the students organized their subsequent analysis to address the issues of transportation, housing, the environment, security, and social development. Their recommendations in these areas were guided by the overarching goal of using the Olympic Games to leave a positive long-term legacy for the city of Rio de Janeiro as a whole.

The students’ final presentation, “Rio Olympic Legacy,” was delivered to the clients in a three-hour session at the end of the Lab. Many of their recommendations were seen by the clients as intriguing and viable, and thus potentially worth implementing.

2010 Brazil Lab presentation
2010 Brazil Lab report (“Rio de Janeiro, From World Games to World City”)
2010 Brazil Lab syllabus (PPD 613a)
2010 Brazil Lab syllabus (PPD 613b)

China International Lab, 2009

Location: China (Hong Kong and Foshan)

Dates: May 25-26, 2009 (in Hong Kong); May 27-June 5, 2009 (in Foshan, China)

Partner: Hong Kong – America Center

Client: Foshan Municipality, Guangdong Province, China

Instructor: Professor Eric Heikkila

Topic: Fengjiang River

Description: Foshan invited the Price International Lab students to assist the Municipality in preparing for an international roundtable forum later 2009, organized by the Pacific Rim Council on Urban Development (PRCUD). During the Lab, students prepared briefing materials that were distributed in advance to international and domestic experts who participated in the PRCUD 2009 Foshan Forum. Before students arrived in Foshan, students had examined case studies featuring river restoration projects from the United States and elsewhere in the 1-unit preparatory course during the spring semester. In this year’s lab, students studied five key issues:

  1. International experiences regarding river control and urban transformation
  2. Fenjiang River and socio-economic transformation
  3. Ecological restoration of the Fenjiang River area
  4. The potential role of land markets in effecting transformation of the area
  5. Reconciling renovation and cultural preservation in the Fenjing River area

2009 China Lab report
2009 China Lab syllabus (PPD 613a)
2009 China Lab syllabus (PPD 613b)

Brazil International Lab, 2009

Location: Brazil (Rio de Janeiro)

Dates: June 3-15, 2009

Partner: Brasilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE), the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV)

Client: Dr. Marilene de Oliveira Ramos Múrias dos Santos (Dr. Marilene Ramos), President of SERLA – Órgão Gestor de Recursos Hídricos do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (the Managing Organ of Water Resources of the State of Rio de Janeiro)

Instructors: Professors Peter Robertson and Jonathan Speier

Topic: The Complexo Lagunar de Jacarepaguá

Description: 2009 Brazil Lab focused on the Complexo Lagunar de Jacarepaguá, a system of three interconnected lakes in Barra da Tijuca, a growing suburban region in Rio de Janeiro. The project investigated how the quality of water in these lakes could be improved in the near term, while also considering how the long-run development of this area could be conducted so as to insure that the lakes serve as a useful resource to local inhabitants and tourists visiting the area. Students helped address four primary themes:

  1. Restoring the lakes
  2. Regional development
  3. Organization and governance
  4. Recreation and tourism

2009 Brazil Lab presentation
2009 Brazil Lab syllabus

China International Lab, 2008

USC Price group with South China University of Technology students

Location: Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Foshan, China

Dates: May 26 – June 6, 2008

Partner: South China University of Technology

Clients: The City of Foshan represented by Vice Mayor Deng and the Foshan Environmental Protection Bureau represented by Mr. Yang Yongtai

Topic: Water quality of the Fenjiang River in the Pearl River Delta region

Description: China’s unprecedented growth over the past decade has resulted in many benefits, as well as negative environmental impacts to the region. USC Price lab participants collaborated with South China University of Technology students to study the impact of the rapid urbanization of the region and the increased demands from industry on the declining water quality of the Pearl River Delta (PRD). Students researched professional and scholarly journals; reviewed available reports and statistics from the World Bank and others; and conducted numerous briefings and interviews in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Foshan. Then, they prepared and submitted a formal report to the City of Foshan and the Foshan Environmental Bureau entitled: “A Clean Water Future for Foshan: How the City of Foshan Can Promote Water Quality through Sustainable Land Use Development.” The report assessed the Fenjiang River’s water quality in the PRD region, and suggested means to counteract and reverse the negative trend.

Brazil International Lab, 2008

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dates: June 16 – June 27, 2008

Partner: The Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV)

Clients: Secretaria Municipal de Urbanismo and Secretaria Municipal do Habitat (municipal departments of the city of Rio de Janeiro)

Topic: Improved integration of Rio de Janeiro’s squatter settlements

Description: Plagued by drugs, poverty and violence, Rio de Janeiro’s “favelas” (squatter settlements) represent 20-30 percent of the city’s urban population. Participants of the 2008 Brazil Lab analyzed the “slum to neighborhood” or “Favela-Bairro” projects, in which Rio’s municipal government has tried to improve the favelas living conditions by integrating these settlements into the fabric of the city.

Student teams conducted field research and made recommendations on fundamental issues pertaining to the city’s current Favela-Bairro program:

  • Reduction of violence and the increase of citizen security
  • Operation and maintenance of the water and sewage services
  • Control of the urban expansion of the favelas

Student presentations were made and well-received by officials of different city departments and by professors from the Fundacao Getulio Vargas.

China International Lab, 2007

Location: Beijing, China

Dates: May 19 – June 1, 2007

Partner: Beijing University School of Government, Peking University

Client: The Chinese National Committee on Aging (CNCA)

Topic: The impact of China’s social and economic change on the elderly

Description: China is undergoing rapid transformation. The country also has one of the fastest growing aging populations and one of the largest aging populations. Lab participants conducted field research in three urban Beijing neighborhoods to study the lives of China’s elderly. Students sought to answer the question: “What are the intrinsic characteristics of a Chinese elder-friendly community?”

Twenty-seven students from Gerontology, Health Administration, Planning, Public Administration and Public Policy teamed with thirteen students from Peking University to conduct the study. Students worked closely with the World Bank China, the China Research Committee on Aging (CRCA), and the China National Committee on Aging (CNCA), the organization that advises the Chinese government on strategies to address the needs of the aging. Students reviewed policy briefings from the World Bank China, the CNCA, and directors of programs serving the elderly. Students also met with elders as they socialized, shopped, exercised and conducted other daily activities. Upon completion of their field research, participants presented their findings in a final report to officials from the Chinese National Committee on Aging.

Brazil International Lab, 2007

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dates: June 3 – June 15, 2007

Partner: Brasilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE) at the Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV)

Client: Dr. Marilene Ramos, president of SERLA

Topic: Water quality and sustainable growth on the Complexo Lagunar de Jacarepagua

Description: The project for the 2007 Brazil Lab focused on the Complexo Lagunar de Jacarepagua, a system of three interconnected lakes in Barra da Tijuca, a growing suburban region of Rio de Janeiro. Lab participants investigated how the quality of water in these lakes could be improved in the short-term and how long-term development could be conducted to insure the lakes serve as a useful resource to local inhabitants and tourists visiting the area. Students addressed four primary themes:

  • Lake restoration ― approaches that could reduce lake pollution and improve existing water quality
  • Regional development ― plans that support sustainable development in the region
  • Organization and governance ― suggestions for the development of effective inter-organizational, cross-sectoral governance mechanisms to better facilitate lake restoration
  • Recreation and tourism ― recommendations on how to build tourism in a way compatible with the principles of sustainable development

Students presented their findings and recommendations in a final report and presentation to SERLA, the agency responsible for projects intended to protect the state’s rivers, canals and lakes.

International Labs, 2004-2006

Between 2004-2006, USC Price held International Labs in a variety of locations, including Chongqing and Beijing, China, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Professors Heikkila, Banerjee, Woo, and Speier lead these intensive, field-based, educational experiences. Students were challenged to conduct research and analysis of critical issues that the settings faced, then provide professional-level consulting to address these issues. The labs helped develop the students international awareness while strengthening alliances between USC Price and other international entities.