USC to offer graduate diploma in innovation

The USC Graduate School has announced the creation of a program that both encourages and serves as a symbol of innovation.

New ideas · The USC Stevens Institute of Innovation is partnering with the USC Graduate School to offer a new diploma in innovation. - Ian Elston | Daily Trojan

Beginning in the fall, graduate students will be able to earn a Ph.D. diploma in innovation through the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation. The program is the first of its kind and is meant to complement students’ disciplinary work with practical skills.

The program will be free for all Ph.D. students at USC and consists of 12 units leading to a Certificate in Innovation. Participants must maintain a 3.0 GPA and pass a qualifying exam.

The courses offered include The Innovation Process: Development, Diffusion and Leadership (GRSC 610), Legal Issues and Financing of Innovation (GRSC 612) and Disciplinary Perspectives in Innovation (GRSC 615). The 12-unit structure of the program allows Ph.D. students to still focus on their disciplinary work while gaining experience in innovation.

The idea for the certificate originally came from Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias. A group of faculty members, led by Jean Morrison, a professor of earth sciences and vice provost for academic affairs and graduate programs, then began to formulate a curriculum and to develop courses and syllabi. The entire process took almost a year.

Morrison said she thinks it is important for Ph.D. students to take classes in areas outside of their specialization and learn to think in different ways.

“I think, historically, Ph.D. education has tended to focus inward and to remain very disciplinary in nature,” Morrison said. “[The program] is meant to provide these students with a different way of looking at their disciplinary work, hoping that they’ll bring out the innovative side of whatever it is they’re going to do.”

Further, she hopes the new program will help Ph.D. students find ways to make their knowledge applicable to society.

The program, Morrison said, is the first innovation degree in the country.

“This is, as far as we know, a completely unique and new program that we don’t think exists in this configuration anywhere else,” she said.

The program has already attracted many inquiries.

“We are anticipating it being very selective,” said Nicole Hawkes, associate provost of academic affairs and the program manager of Women in Science and Engineering. “I think there’s already been tremendous interest. The program was announced on Monday and already has had a dozen inquiries from students and other faculty members.”

Z ShiHeng Guan, a graduate student studying computer science, heard of the program recently and said many graduate students are excited for the new diploma.

“They will get excited about how it’s free, and I think it will be useful,” Guan said.