University of Southern California

USC Student Affairs and Campus Life

Strategic Plan

Enhancing Student Learning:
A Strategic Plan for the Division of Student Affairs

Strategic Initiatives:
I. Fostering an Intellectually Centered Student Culture
II. Preserving and Advancing the Unique USC Student Experience
III. Inventing the Future of Student Services
IV. Promoting Local and Global Citizenship
V. Creating a Culture of Evidence
Strategic Planning Project Teams Proposals:
I. The Renaissance Challenge
II. SCitizen
III. The Freshman 15
IV. Transfer and Commuter Student Resource Center


The Central Mission of the University of Southern California is the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit.

Student Affairs is devoted to creating an integrated learning experience that helps students reach their educational, personal, and professional aspirations. We help create a campus community where students are prepared to contribute to a changing world.

To do this we:

USC’s Plan for Excellence (PDF)

Over the past two years, The Division of Student Affairs has engaged in a process of self assessment and reflection. This process has laid the foundation for the development of the Student Affairs strategic plan. This plan is designed to align our work closely with the University’s vision for the future. That vision has the University’s future resting on three pillars:

The University’s new plan, USC’s Plan for Excellence: Building Strategic Capabilities for the University of the 21st Century, states that to realize the vision of the future we must reinforce our core values though an emphasis on following four strategic capabilities:

  1. Span Disciplinary and school boundaries to focus on problems of societal significance
  2. Link fundamental to applied research
  3. Build networks of partnerships
  4. Increase responsiveness to learners

The Division of Student Affairs will play an integral role in reinforcing the core values of the university. The Division’s plan emphasizes student learning as the primary outcome of our work. It also stresses the importance of assessment and planning being conducted simultaneously. The necessity of continuing and strengthening our partnerships with faculty, academic departments, alumni, community members, parents and students both graduate and undergraduate is of critical importance in realizing our strategic plan as a division.

The Student Affairs plan sets forth five strategic initiatives/principles that will guide our work for the next several years. They are:

Strategic Initiatives

I. Fostering an Intellectually Centered Student Culture

Intellectual engagement is a core value of a university educational experience. Research indicates that student-faculty interaction is strongly related to a number of important educational outcomes, including intellectual engagement, and that student faculty interaction outside of the classroom is of critical importance in achieving intellectual engagement. Given the Division’s role and purview for facilitating student learning and experiences outside-of-the classroom, more explicit focus on intellectual engagement in co-curricular programs and activities will enable USC as an institution to realize our maximum potential for enhancing the total learning environment for USC students.

The Student Affairs Division already contributes to creating intellectually centered experiences for students by partnerships with faculty (e.g., Academic Culture Initiative; residential college and resident faculty programs; faculty mentoring programs, etc.), and by sponsoring activities (honor societies; academic recognition programs; Spectrum series, etc.) which keep intellectual and academic achievement as our central focus.

Our objective is to increase the intellectual component of student life through their co-curricular experiences. Special attention will be given to enhance interaction with faculty outside of the classroom for Graduate and Professional students also while strengthening the overall intellectual experience for undergraduates. Current programs and activities will be reviewed for potential faculty participation and partnership, as well as for introduction of more explicit intellectual and academic content and learning outcomes. New programs will be explored as resources permit and core functions make relevant. All our programs and activities will be assessed for effective learning outcomes related to intellectual development.

a. Specific Learning and Other Outcomes for Students:
Students will:

b. Sample Activities1 :

II. Preserving and Advancing the Unique USC Student Experience

Every institution has its unique culture its students and faculty; bricks and mortar; traditions; and “just the way we do things here” perspective — which in sum total makes University X different from University Y. “Institutional culture shapes, and is shaped by, the ongoing interactions of people on and off campus; is reflected in interactions among history, traditions, organizational structures, and the behavior of current students, faculty, and staff; and is revealed through espoused and enacted values and the core beliefs and assumptions shared by institutional leaders, faculty, students, and other constituencies, such as alumni and parents.” (Kuh and Whitt, 1988)2.

USC’s particular culture is characterized by its engaged student body; urban location; proximity to the Pacific Rim; large international student community; diversity; alumni loyalty; and the esprit de corps of the Trojan Family. As a Division, we are committed to providing all students, both graduate and undergraduate, a positive and distinctive experience through reinforcing USC’s core values of free inquiry; caring and respect for individuals; appreciation of diversity; team spirit; strong alumni networks, and a commitment to service. These values define “what is USC” and provide a sense of cohesiveness, between current students, alumni and parents — connecting us to our past and to our future — one of the important elements of the University’s Plan of Excellence.

As USC continues to increase its profile as one of the most prominent universities, key to our ability to continue to attract the best and the brightest students is to preserve and advance the unique USC experience. To achieve this goal, we will encourage and expand student participation and exploration in the arts, in university leadership experiences; maintain, celebrate, and create the spirit and form of university traditions that are the hallmark of USC; enhance social and recreational opportunities, particularly those that maximize student health and safety; and ensure that all members of our wonderfully diverse student body and their significant others feel a part of the Trojan Family.

We also believe that critical to achieving our goal of preserving and advancing the USC student experience is that USC students be part of a community rooted in interpersonal relationships, supported by quality facilities, advised and supported by educated staff who are informed in best practices, marked by programs that are regularly assessed to assure that students receive a quality experience.

a. Specific Learning and Other Outcomes for Students:
Students will:

b. Sample Activities:

III. Inventing the Future of Student Services

In discussing the strategic capacity on “increasing responsiveness to learners,” the university’s strategic plan recognizes the role and importance of responsible and flexible student services at learner-centered institutions. Efficient and high quality student services, from streamlined registration processes to effective student health care delivery, are important in creating a successful learning environment. The Division of Student Affairs plays a significant role in the delivery of these services.

Our grand challenge is to invent the future of student services through the effective use of technology, while also maintaining the personal touch which currently characterizes our work. Division-wide responsiveness to the diverse and dynamic needs of students and parents is a determining factor in our ability to meet this challenge. In addition, effective coordination and collaboration with campus colleagues are crucial in this regard.

a. Specific Outcomes for Students:
Students will:

b. Sample Initiatives:

IV. Promoting Local and Global Citizenship

Citizens of the world are becoming increasingly interdependent and cross cultural. For students to function in this “world community”, the university must promote responsible and ethical local and global citizenship. The Division of Student Affairs is uniquely positioned to achieve this objective because of its oversight responsibilities for residential education; student organizations and leadership programs; volunteer and public service; international student programs; ethnic and cultural centers; and other programs that bring diverse groups of students together.

Our goal is to infuse the campus culture with an understanding of our place and purpose as a university and campus community in a conflicted yet interdependent world. Students will engage each other in meaningful discussions and activities designed to combat self-centeredness and complacency. A key aspect of this goal requires that students continually engage in ethical behaviors and develop emotional competencies that lead to good decision-making.

a. Specific Learning and Other Outcomes for Students:
Students will:

b. Sample Initiatives:

V. Creating a Culture of Evidence

Basing strategically-important decisions on verifiable evidence requires that such evidence be collected in a systematic manner. The development of a comprehensive program of assessment (a ‘Culture of Assessment’) is a necessary prerequisite to the establishment of a ‘Culture of Evidence’. Developing a Division-wide program of assessment will provide:

a. Specific benefits for students:

b. Specific benefits for the Division of Student Affairs (Bresciani et al., 2004):3

c. Specific benefits for the University:

d. Assessment Plan:

e. Sample Activities:

1Each section provides a list of sample activities to meet the learning outcomes for each strategic initiative. These activities are provided as examples only and not as limitations to the ideas that may be generated through our strategic planning discussions.

2Kuh, G. and Whitt, E. (1988). The Invisible Tapestry: Culture In American Colleges and Universities. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1. Washington, D.C.: Association or the Study of Higher Education. p. iv

3Bresciani, M.J., Zelna, C.L., & Anderson, J.A. (2004). Techniques for Assessing Student Learning and Development: A Handbook for Practitioners. Washington, D.C.: NASPA, Inc.

4Upcraft, M. L. and Schuh, J. H. (1996). Assessment in student affairs: A guide for practitioners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

5Astin, Trudy W. Banta, K. Patricia Cross, Elaine El-Khawas, Peter T. Ewell, Pat Hutchings, Theodore J. Marchese, Kay M. McClenney, Marcia Mentkowski, Margaret A. Miller, E. Thomas Moran, and Barbara D. Wright (1993). Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning.