Dean’s Message

Shaping the World

A Message from SPPD Dean Jack H. Knott

Jack Knott Photo by Tom Queally

As we begin another outstanding semester at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the first SPPD newsletter of our 2010-11 academic year.

This fall, we welcome 477 new students, bringing our enrollment to the largest in SPPD’s history: 1,511 students. At a time when many schools are relaxing their standards to keep pace with the economic downturn, I am pleased to note that this year’s incoming students surpass our already high academic standards. The average GPA and GRE scores of entering graduate students in our core programs – public administration, public policy, urban planning, real estate development, and health administration – are the highest on record, at 3.36 and 1220 respectively. Students enrolled in our new Ph.D. programs in public policy and management, and urban planning and development earned one of the highest average GRE scores among all Ph.D. programs on the USC campus.

We are also proud of the ever-expanding geographic reach of our student body, with students from 31 countries and 38 states. We continue to attract an increasingly diverse student population with 42 percent from underrepresented groups. Thirty-eight percent of our students are from outside the southern California region, and 14.5 percent are from foreign countries.

I believe SPPD’s strong sense of community and worldwide reputation for applying our expertise to solve real world challenges enhances our ability to draw to us the best, the brightest, and the most committed students in our fields. I want to thank, yet again, SPPD faculty and staff for all their hard work in creating an environment that supports the best and the brightest students.

This fall, we are also saddened by the recent passing of our dear friend, colleague, and former dean of SPPD, Dr. Robert P. Biller. The loss of his wisdom, graciousness, and commitment to our great school is felt by everyone at SPPD. Our school remained very important to Bob, even after his retirement in 2001. He was generous with his time and advice, and was often seen in our halls engaging with students and faculty. Indeed, Bob’s legacy will live on through all of us at SPPD – faculty, staff, alumni, and students – as we continue to shape our world for the better. You can read about Bob’s tremendous contributions in this newsletter.

I know that Dr. Biller would be inspired, much like I am, by the work many of our students do during the summer months. I invite you to read in this newsletter about seven SPPD students who served as “Education Pioneers” in urban areas this past summer, as well as two other students who interned for the World Bank office in Beijing.

This newsletter also features recent leading-edge research conducted by SPPD faculty, including: a study by Adam Rose on new climate policies and new jobs; a report by Schaeffer Center researchers on regional variation in health care spending; and a new research paper co-authored by James Ferris examining foundations’ use of communications to advance public policy work.

In addition, this issue highlights a visit from Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment to discuss prospective collaborations in education and research; a policy briefing by Dana Goldman on the “Drivers of Health and Health Care Spending” to government, private and nonprofit health leaders in Sacramento; and a special presentation by former White House Counter-Terrorism Chief Richard Clarke at the CREATE Homeland Security Center.

I would also like to draw your attention to the numerous case studies written by SPPD MHA students featured in a recently released health management case book, and to this month’s Alumni Spotlight on Mott Smith, who strives to promote a sense of community and improve the areas he develops through his work as co-founder and principal of Civic Enterprise.

The SPPD Making the News section captures only a few examples of the many SPPD faculty contributions to current issues and public debates in the media.

Last but not least, I invite you to check out our video featuring SPPD alum and adjunct professor, Erroll Southers, who was interviewed recently on CNN about the impact of 9/11.

We are all looking forward to President C.L. Max Nikias’ upcoming inauguration on campus October 15, and to the many advances he is sure to make in bringing the University of Southern California to the next level. I know that you all join me in congratulating USC’s new president, C. L. Max Nikias.


Jack H. Knott
C. Erwin and Ione L. Piper Dean and Professor
USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development