When I was younger, USC was associated solely with its Division I football team.
I knew nothing of the school’s academics, research, student life or any other of the number of things that make this university what it was.
Up until around the turn of the century, most of the country had a similarly narrow-minded view of USC.
Many viewed USC as a school for over-privileged, underachieving students with a penchant for focusing on their social lives.
If you happen to stay on campus this weekend, you might notice that image has all but perished.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books taking place this weekend indicates the intellectual culture at USC has changed for the better. This is evident not only in our rise in both national and international rankings but also by observing the campus and its surroundings.
Just this year — the first of President C. L. Max Nikias’ tenure — we have seen USC establish an even stronger foothold among the nation’s top universities.
The recent flood of large donations and its ability to attract top scholars has allowed our university to gain tremendous respect throughout the nation.
Nikias announced yesterday a $110 million donation from USC alumnus John Mork and his wife Julie to establish an endowment for undergraduate scholarships. Earlier this semester, USC received a $200 million gift, the largest single donation in university history, from alumnus David Dornsife and his wife Dana to the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.
Donations such as these play a significant role in USC’s continuing rise to the status of elite university — especially the Morks’ donation to establish a scholarship fund.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the scholarships will be merit-based and will cover the cost of tuition in addition to $5,000 in annual spending money.
At first, about 40 students each year will receive the scholarship, but that is expected to soon rise to about 100 students annually.
By establishing such scholarships, the university ensures it will continue its progress away from the old stereotype of a school full of over-privileged students.
The scholarships will allow students who might otherwise not be able to afford the cost of tuition to attend USC, bolstering the school’s economic diversity in addition to its academic excellence.
But through all this, many people still like to label USC as a rich kids’ school, giving it nicknames like “the University of Spoiled Children.”
According to the US News & World Report, however, USC is the third most economically diverse top-ranked school in the nation.
And in addition to the growing academic excellence and diversity of USC’s student body, the university is rising in prominence by becoming an even more active member of its community.
It’s precisely for these reasons that USC will, for the first and certainly not the last time, host the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, one of the nation’s largest book festivals.
Thousands of people and several prominent authors and speakers will descend upon our campus this weekend to celebrate the written word, but for those of us who are proud members of the Trojan Family, it might well feel like a celebration of our university instead.
The fact that prominent events such as the Festival of Books are choosing to partner with USC reflects how prestigious this university is rapidly becoming.
In addition to the prominence the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books offers USC, it also presents another opportunity for the university to solidify its status as an active member of its community.
Throughout the year, the university has hosted events like this — such as President Barack Obama’s visit in the fall or the Dalai Lama’s upcoming presentations in May — that allow for members of the surrounding community to come and enjoy what a school like USC has to offer.
As USC continues to strive toward even greater excellence under Nikias, we will likely witness a shift in the identity of the university.
In much the same way, current and future generations of Trojans can have the opportunity to shape it themselves.
Jared Servantez is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.