Initiative on Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion


Dear Price Community,

I am very pleased to announce the formation of a school-wide initiative: The Initiative on Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion, which builds upon and expands the important activities the USC Price School already has underway that address this set of interrelated issues facing our society and the world.

Dean Jack H. Knott

USC Price School Dean Jack H. Knott

Internationally, there is a growing intolerance, extremist ideology, and hatred that fuel violence, war, and repression of human rights. In our own country, the repeated acts of racism, violence, and intolerance taking place in cities, including our hometown of Los Angeles, are unacceptable and a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. And like so many other universities calling for an end to on-campus discrimination, we have experienced blatant acts of racism on our own campus. Further, growing inequality in wealth and opportunity, combined with disparities in health care, concentrated poverty, and discrimination in the criminal justice system continue to characterize our society and economy.

As a policy school, we have a responsibility to respect and embrace our differences and advocate for social justice. The Price School’s Initiative on Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion will work to further advance these values throughout our classrooms, in our research, on the USC campus, and in society more generally. Our efforts are focused in at least five areas: 1) hire diverse faculty and staff by an inclusive approach that reaches out beyond the traditional advertising outlets to specific departments, colleagues, and institutions, including the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU); 2) recruit a diverse student body through outreach, scholarships, and partnerships; 3) foster a supportive climate and environment for diversity in the school through mentorship programs, leadership role models, and professional development; 4) make diversity a key policy issue of academic, educational, and scholarly interest; and 5) support outreach activities that engage the school in shaping the public dialogue and policy on these issues.

The Initiative will be coordinated and implemented by a school task force comprised of faculty, staff, and students. The task force is charged with providing leadership in the school on these issues and with the specific, initial following activities:

  • Lead faculty and staff training sessions on addressing issues of race, discrimination, and identity in the classroom and on campus
  • Develop a formally adopted statement on social justice and diversity at the Price School. This statement will be available on the school’s website and incorporated into other branding and identity materials
  • Integrate additional content on diversity, social justice and inclusion into our academic curriculum, at both the graduate and undergraduate level
  • Expand our efforts to recruit students of diverse backgrounds through summer workshops and other specialized programming opportunities
  • Facilitate seminars and workshops for our students, faculty, and staff on issues of diversity and inclusiveness on campus, in our society, and globally

The task force will work with faculty, USC Price Student Affairs, the student associations, the Dean’s Office, and others in and outside the school in achieving these goals. The members of the task force include:

  • Faculty Members LaVonna Lewis (Chair), Juliet Musso, Lisa Schweitzer, Antonio Bento, and Mike Thom
  • Staff Members Sarah Esquivel, Mary Peralta, and Carol Rush
  • Students Christina Gutierrez (MPL/MPA) and Felix Huang (MPP)
  • Alumni Shane Swerdlow (MPL) and Pernell Jones (MHA)

The Initiative on Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion stems, in part, from a yearlong planning process among the faculty in the school to develop a new Strategic Directions document to guide school priorities and investments over the next 3-5 years. I discussed the initial ideas for the strategic directions with the faculty at two Faculty Council meetings and at a school-wide Faculty Meeting in Fall 2014, which included a strategic priority on diversity, social justice and inclusion. This strategic priority was then included as one of the major panels at the USC Price School Faculty Retreat in January 2015. The faculty adopted the Strategic Directions document at the Faculty Meeting in September 2015.

The work of the task force also builds upon the important, already existing activities in the school, which include:

  • An Annual Students of Color and Allies Policy Forum (SCAPF), organized in spring 2014 and 2015 by USC Price and USC School of Social Work students
  • Ross Minority Program in Real Estate in the Lusk Center for Real Estate
  • Diversity in Healthcare Leadership Initiative Summer Enrichment Program for students interested in diversity in health care leadership, management and policy
  • Student recruitment videos (MHA, MPA, MPL, MPP), which emphasize the importance of diversity issues and our impact on the community
  • Summer diversity workshops for prospective students interested in the Ph.D. program and the master degree program in urban planning
  • One full Leadership in Diversity Fellowship per program (MHA, MPA, MPL, MPP, NLM) available to all students who apply with an interest in promoting diversity and social justice
  • USC Price and Millennium Momentum Foundation Scholarships
  • USC Latino Association Scholarships

Research studies conducted by Price faculty also focus on diversity and social justice. An abbreviated list of Price faculty research topics include “food deserts” and nutritious food in urban neighborhoods, environmental justice, public transportation, social service networks for homelessness, the effect of housing on school performance, population diversity and racial equality, segregation and educational access, immigrant entrepreneurs and the growth of the U.S. economy, and the intergenerational issues between the white older population in California and the much more diverse younger population representing our future. Additionally, Price School research centers convened a national conference on Innovating to End Urban Poverty on the 50th anniversary of the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty and a national conference that examined placed-based efforts by foundations, nonprofits, and government to support urban low-income neighborhoods. Our centers also work with diverse urban communities to help generate the solutions needed to create jobs, build affordable housing, and improve our health care system.

Several faculty, staff and students have been involved in leading, planning, and implementing these activities, and I thank each of you for your initiative and commitment to this issue. Starting the first of the year, we will provide regular updates on our activities, including current diversity related curriculum issues, research and fundraising.

Our school has a profound moral responsibility and special opportunity to advance social justice, reduce poverty, and promote human rights in our research, teaching, learning, professional practice, and all that we do. Issues of diversity, social justice and inclusion are directly tied to our school’s commitment to improving the quality of life for all people and their communities, and I look forward to working with everyone on this important endeavor.


Jack H. Knott, Dean
C. Erwin and Ione L. Piper Chair and Professor
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

Photo Captions:
1 – MHA alumna Crystal Diaz (left), assistant administrator of the Edward R. Roybal Comprehensive Health Center, leads a site visit with Professor LaVonna Lewis (center) and students as part of the USC Diversity in Healthcare Leadership Initiative 2015 Summer Enrichment Program (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan)
2 – For more than 20 years, the Ross program has helped to increase diversity among leaders in the real estate industry. (Photo by Tom Queally)
3 – USC Price and Social Work students hosted the second annual Students of Color and Allies Policy Forum on April 3, 2015. (Photo by Tom Queally)
4 – Students work on a housing development project during the 2015 USC Price Diversity in Planning Program workshop. (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan)