Interim president establishes culture commission

Lillian Zeng | Daily Trojan

Interim President Wanda Austin sent a memo to the USC community Tuesday announcing the launch of the President’s Culture Commission, which will oversee campus culture initiatives and improvements.

Austin will lead the commission, which comprises 13 students, faculty and staff, including Keck School of Medicine Dean Lauren Mosqueda and Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Dean Willow Bay. Undergraduate Student Government President Debbie Lee and Graduate Student Government President Joycelyn Yip will represent students on the commission.

“They represent a broad range of perspectives from our university community,” Austin wrote.

Lee said that she is excited to serve on the President’s Culture Commission.

“I’m excited to … delve deeply into the university’s collective values,” Lee said. “I hope to be able to honestly evaluate where we are now and see how we can meaningfully act to build a thriving USC culture.”

In the memo, Austin expressed gratitude to the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness, which has been meeting for the past 18 months to develop recommendations regarding ways USC can improve campus culture.  

“This group … has dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy to exploring how a large, diverse organization such as USC can become more connected and better aligned in its mission, vision and values,” Austin wrote. “The President’s Culture Commission will consider the Task Force’s recommendations on the best partners and tools to conduct such an assessment, and will keep the community informed in the process.”

The Task Force recommended that the commission conduct a transparent “values assessment” to help the University address its collective strengths and opportunities.

Paul Rosenbloom, professor of computer science and co-chair of the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness, will serve on one of the commission’s faculty positions.

“The Task Force has always considered itself to be a short-term body that was to be followed up by something more permanent,” Rosenbloom said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “The just-announced President’s Culture Commission is one important piece of this follow up that, with President Austin as chair, truly emphasizes how important the process of culture change is to our future.”

In the memo, Austin introduced the “Change Progress Dashboard,” a new website used to track the University’s progress and commitment to change. Website visitors can view the status of University initiatives regarding “Accountability,” “Transparency” and “Wellness/Culture.”

“This dashboard, which we will populate over time with new information and details, will track key change initiatives, including our culture improvement work,” Austin wrote.

According to the dashboard, one of the Culture Commission’s first initiatives to redraft the University’s Code of Ethics.

“Culture change is a journey and not a simple fix, and demands a sustained focus on genuine listening, open dialogue, and meaningful follow up,” Austin wrote. “Our work on culture and values will help us become stronger as a Trojan Family.”