Summer Scholars Program exposes international students to policy studies in US

August 8, 2017

USC Price hosted its inaugural International Summer Scholars Program this past July. (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan)
More photos available on Flickr »

By Matthew Kredell

Five students made their first visit to the United States to take part in the International Summer Scholars Program, a new offering from the Office of Global Engagement at the USC Price School of Public Policy, designed to introduce foreign students to graduate-level policy coursework in the U.S.

“The program provides international students valuable exposure not only to living and learning in the U.S., but also to the unique student experience at USC,” said Professor Eric Heikkila, director of Price’s Office of Global Engagement. “At the same time, we’re able to build relationships with some of the very best international students, who get a chance to take a look at the Price School and all that goes on here.”

Participating in the two-week intensive program were Yuan Gao, a freshman at Peking University, Songyuan Teng, a sophomore at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Ren Fang, a junior at Xi’an Jiaotong University, Zhehao Liao, a senior at Shanghai Lixin University of Accounting and Finance, and Leomir Araujo, who is completing a master’s degree in public administration at IDP in Brazil.

“We had a relatively small group this time because it was our inaugural class,” Heikkila said. “In some ways, it was ideal for really being able to focus on delivering a high-quality program for the participants, and it enabled us to give a lot of individual attention to each participant.”

Wide-ranging lessons

A student group delivers a presentation at Lewis Hall on its policy memo project. (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan) More photos available on Flickr »

The program was designed to give international students a broad overview of all the different focus areas available at the Price School.

Photo by Deirdre Flanagan

Heikkila led a discussion on environmental issues; Professor Shui Yan Tang spoke on governance; Professor Marlon Boarnet focused on urban planning; Professor LaVonna Lewis addressed diversity and equity; Professor Michael Harris spoke about health administration; and Assistant Professor T.J. McCarthy discussed public policy. Students also received guidance on applying to graduate school at U.S. universities from Sarah Esquivel, associate director of recruitment and admission.

“Our faculty colleagues were very generous with their time and support, which bodes well for the future of the program,” Heikkila said. “I think they really understood the potential of this kind of program, and could see how good it is for students, and how it helps to connect the Price School to a wider audience, including potential future students.”

USC Price Associate Dean for Student Affairs Carol Rush even hosted a dinner reception for the cohort at her home.

“It was a very warm, harmonious environment,” Songyuan said. “The professor and Dean Rush spoke about their life experiences and gave us some advice. My policy memo was to found an environmental audit firm to provide stricter supervision of corporations in Asia, which I think is quite bold but Professor Heikkila gave me confidence to pursue it. One thing I will bring back to Hong Kong is to be more confident in exploring my ideas.”

Experiential education

Students tour Los Angeles City Hall. More photos available on Flickr »

Lewis also invited the group join her on the USC Diversity in Healthcare Leadership Initiative Summer Enrichment Program for site visits to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Public Health and the Downtown Women’s Center.

Students gaze at Griffith Observatory during a group hike.

Ren noted her favorite part of the trip was an environmental-focused hike in Griffith Park, including seeing the observatory, taking in the sweeping view of Los Angeles, and learning about the park’s history and environmental protections.

Other site visits included a tour of L.A. City Hall and a classical musical performance at the Hollywood Bowl. Each of the lectures and site visits provided input for the students to form a policy memo to bring back to their homelands.

“I’m working on an environmental project at my university, on air quality management in China, so I was able to make that [topic] my policy memo and gain some insight into the work from Professor Heikkila,” Ren said. “I wanted to know more about environmental public policy and how it works in L.A. and in the United States.”

The students received certificates for their participation, and the program administrators are hoping to see some of them back at USC Price in a few years.

“The program lays a strong foundation for them to pursue a masters or Ph.D. degree here,” said Ginger Li, the Office of Global Engagement’s deputy director, who herself came from Shanghai to complete an MPA degree at USC Price in 2011.