Folt presents 2024 State of the University

The president celebrated advancements in athletics, sustainability and the arts.

President Folt said that her goal is to double the yearly expenditures on research and create more lab space for more research opportunities. (Shruti Shakhthivel / Daily Trojan)

From Nobel Prize winners, astronauts and Olympians, President Carol Folt began her 2024 State of the University address Tuesday morning at Bovard Auditorium by highlighting USC’s diverse population and wide array of talent.

“The truth is, there’s more ‘firsts’ than you could ever count in the work that everyone does here,” Folt said. “When you think about that, that crucible, that wonderful world we live in, that is truly the state of our University … the people that are here, the things they do and the impact they have.”

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Much of Folt’s speech reflected on the University embracing change in 2024. 

One of the University’s largest architectural projects was the remodel of the Student Union’s fourth floor to provide a larger space for cultural and resource centers along with a brand new Sustainability Hub. Folt said that the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs lounge alone has seen an increase in attendance from around 1,000 yearly visits to over 9,000 yearly visits.

The University also remodeled Galen Center and is preparing for the ribbon-cutting of the new School of Dramatic Arts building Thursday.

USC Athletics is undergoing a major change as well: the move from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten. Folt said that this could produce an extra $50 million to $70 million annually. 

Folt also discussed how the arts have changed. Under the leadership of Josh Kun, USC’s first vice provost for the arts, art programs have been able to grow, Folt said. 

“The idea is to enhance the arts everywhere,” Folt said. “We have such amazing schools and their ideas of things that they could do even better in collaboration is so exciting for all of us.”

In the spirit of change, Folt introduced an array of new faculty and staff: Andrew Guzman, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Franita Tolson, interim dean of the Gould School of Law; Melissa Just, dean of USC Libraries; Gaurav Sukhatme, inaugural director and dean of the School of Advanced Computing; Brett Steele, dean of the School of Architecture; and Jennifer Cohen, director of athletics.

Although the research budget has remained steady from last year, Folt said that the research engagement across the University is strong and remains a priority for years to come. She cited a few of over 3,300 proposals that have made an important impact: improvement of the Los Angeles Channel, a digital literacy and mental health platform for young students; and blood tests to detect breast cancer.

Looking forward, Folt said that her goal is to double the yearly expenditures on research and create more lab space for more research opportunities. She also said that one of the most important reasons that research thrives is interdisciplinary collaboration.

Among inflation, legacy litigation and post-pandemic life, the University’s budget has faced unprecedented challenges. To combat these, Folt said USC is attempting to rebuild its federal reserve, which may mean the delay of certain projects.

The two things that have remained unaffected by the budget are financial aid and increased compensation. Folt said she has a goal of all full-time employees receiving a salary of at least $75,000.

Folt outlined her priorities for the year ahead: global conflict, academic freedom, freedom of speech, workforce unions, graduate debt, athletic regulation, and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

To conclude her address, Folt returned to the note on which she began: the community.

“Our size and our scale give us immense impact,” Folt said. “We’re doing so much good for the world and we have to continue to keep that thrust going forward. As complicated as the world is, we always know that that’s when we’re needed most.”

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