Price participates in inaugural Bovard Scholars program, helps high schoolers see impact of policy, planning fields

September 8, 2017

Professor David Sloane engages with students in the USC Bovard Scholars program. (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan)
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By Matthew Kredell

Representatives from the USC Price School of Public Policy participated in the inaugural year of the USC Bovard Scholars program, which brought 50 select high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds to campus over the summer for three weeks of intensive college and career preparation. The program aims to help high-achieving high school students with financial need gain admission to and succeed at the nation’s top universities. As part of the program, Price faculty, staff and alumni showed this group of future college students how an education in policy and urban planning could lead to professional roles where they can solve an array of problems in their communities.

“Tying personal passions and academic interests to career exploration is an important and unique component to the Bovard Scholars program,” said Lisa Mataczynski, senior manager of the program. “We were fortunate that Price faculty and staff were eager to support the curriculum and provided invaluable insight into degrees and careers in public policy.”

Expanding knowledge – and opportunities

Professor LaVonna Lewis presented on food disparities in Los Angeles. (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan)

USC Price professors LaVonna Lewis and David Sloane offered a sample class focused on their joint food policy and planning research.

“It was an introduction to public policy and urban planning, and how they interact in terms of understanding access to food at the local level,” Lewis said. “We also gave examples of how people are mobilizing and being engaged in making some of those changes. I think our focus on social justice seemed to resonate well with the kids, many of whom may be coming from tough places.”

USC Bovard Scholars (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan)

Following their lecture, the professors had the students break into groups in which they discussed their own communities, how they would rate available food resources, and the key challenges to improving food options in their neighborhoods.

“From my perspective as a professor, these are very talented students — and that showed in the group discussions,” Sloane said. “They took it seriously, and I want those students in my classes at USC. As a university, we have an important legacy of diversity, but continue not to have as diverse a population of students as our society. Bovard Scholars gives us a chance to attract those students to our university and particularly our school.”

Sarah Esquivel, associate director of recruitment and admission, gave a joint presentation with undergraduate programs administrators Jim Lee and Russ Sommer that provided an overview of academic programs at the Price School, outlined the range of careers alumni pursue, and helped students navigate the application process.

The first cohort of Bovard Scholars came with an average GPA of 4.22 and a median annual household income of $25,000. Almost all will be the first in their families to attend college.

“Too often, high school students’ career ideas are limited to family members’ careers or what they see on TV,” Mataczynski said. “The field of public policy offers a wealth of career possibilities that students may not realize exist. By partnering with USC Price, Bovard Scholars were able to experience a sample college class, a workplace visit to L.A. City Hall, and engage with advisors who answered questions regarding educational and career paths in the field.”

First-hand look at local government

city hall

Los Angeles City Hall (Photo by Ling Feng)

The city hall visit was arranged by USC Price alumni Ashley Atkinson MPL/MPA ’07 and Doug Tripp MPP ’06.

Ashley Atkinson MPL/MPA ’07

Tripp introduced the students to the city’s newest councilmember, Monica Rodriguez, who took office in July. Tripp is chief of staff for Rodriguez. He also coordinated a brief stop-in from council president Herb Wesson.

While taking the students on a tour of the premises and introducing them to the many areas of public service for the city, Atkinson, a performance manager in the Department of City Planning, asked them what was one thing they would fix in their cities. She was impressed by the varied answers, from education to transportation to housing.

“I was interested in meeting with the Bovard Scholars because I think it’s critical to expose students to the range of careers in municipal government at an earlier age,” Atkinson said. “It takes young, motivated, passionate city employees to meet contemporary challenges and needs. When I was in high school, we heard a lot about elected officials and legislators, but it wasn’t until midway through college that I understood the breadth – or even the existence – of the public policy and urban planning fields, and the job opportunities available within them.”