Parent Perspective: A Reflection on the Trojan Family

At USC, we value the needs and experiences of our Trojan Parents. We’re excited to share a post from Thom Duffy and Moira Bailey from New York City, who have a son graduating from USC this May.










California schools weren’t on our list when our Brooklyn-raised son started the college application process in his junior year at a Manhattan public high school. Too far, we said.

But then his exploration started in earnest, with ideas about a course of study (engineering), campus tours and daunting amounts of information. In the fall of senior year, we took seats at a Discover USC event in a Manhattan hotel ballroom, gazing at pictures of palm trees but still telling ourselves this was not a geographic option even though the program seemed an academic fit.

Then we heard an admissions dean say, “we’re looking for engineers who can write” and caught a glimpse of the singular USC personality and perspective that immediately connected with our son. We also knew USC was looking for merit scholars, and, ultimately, that resulted in an application, interview and scholarship offer that made going West a real possibility.

The decision was sealed in other ways. USC, a major research university located 2,800 miles from our Brooklyn home, really got to know us as well as our son. Despite the size of USC, it is truly a community. When you first hear the phrase “Trojan Family,” you might brush it off as branding. But it has become a reality throughout the past four years, through countless opportunities to connect with the university — through parent programs, volunteer opportunities and NYC alumni gatherings. This has proven the key to our navigating the physical distance.

Starting with orientation on campus, while my son was getting class schedules sorted, I started getting a very real feel for the people who work at USC – through the seminars and parent-focused sessions reassuring us about everything on study habits to managing empty nest transitions.

Maria Riley, the assistant director of Parent Programs, was an early polestar, a constant reassuring and upbeat presence. She responds year-round to a constant stream of parent concerns via the USC Parents Group page on Facebook. The admissions team was friendly and accessible and we reconnect at least twice every year, as parent volunteers at those Discover USC events in Manhattan for admitted and prospective students from the Tri-State area.

Our initial welcome has echoed throughout four Trojan Family Weekends (I did three solo, and volunteered at the last two; my husband joined for one). With limited time and resources to travel to LA, I applied to join USC’s Parent Engagement Committee, which has involved volunteer parents in info sessions and outreach that strengthens the connection between parents and the university. I could only attend a few in-person meetings, but the committee provided video links of the gatherings with administrators and key USC personnel offering added insight and info about all aspects of USC, and asking for parental perspective and input.

We’ve attended USC events in New York, from a daylong “Global Conversation” featuring faculty experts and speakers on technology and innovation across disciplines and a USC Price gathering on New York City’s creative economy to a gathering with former USC athletic director Pat Haden at the university’s Midtown offices.

We receive email notices of some events. But we also make an active attempt at staying aware of East Coast USC gatherings. For the past two years, we’ve joined volunteers – including parents of current students – for the annual Day of SCervice events organized by the USC Alumni Club of New York. Through its Facebook page, the club also promotes Trojan game-watching events in Midtown.

From a distance, we’ve discovered how USC cares for students – from President Max Nikias and family welcoming kids for Thanksgiving dinner (our son went freshman year) to support for his student organizations, mentoring and scholarship cohorts, campus work-study jobs and research. It’s a huge help.

No, our son can’t come home on a bus, or on the subway – or bring laundry or presence on a moment’s (or day’s) notice. We’ve gotten accustomed to the sad look from fellow New York parents of East Coast students and the inevitable comment, “It must be so hard.” Their sympathy is well meaning, but it is unnecessary.

My answer has always been: I’m happier for him than I’m sad for me. And that is true. Our son has been very happy at USC, which has given him an excellent education, expanded worldview and a geographically enforced independence at a supportive school that has made it easier for us to let go. When we video chat, we see his smiling face against the blue Los Angeles sky. And we’ll be at the Discover USC event in Midtown Manhattan once again this spring, once again talking to admitted students and their parents about bridging the distance, and Fighting On.