Black Faculty Give Advice About How to Succeed at USC

Even though Black History Month has past, my colleagues and I sat down with several African American faculty members to ask them for advice they would like to offer to offer future Trojans. Much of what these professors had to say will be helpful to all USC students, whether they are looking forward to starting next Fall or are approaching their graduation.

d. Sabela grimes teaches hip hop, dance history and improvisation in the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. His advice (beyond encouraging you to sign up for one of his classes) is to “engage with coursework, faculty, staff, and students who challenge you”. Professor Sabela grimes says that “increased engagement with topics and viewpoints that might stress you out” is what challenges us to grow and ultimately succeed at whatever assignment needs to be done.

Likewise, Dr. Todd Boyd, with the School of Cinematic Arts, encouraged students to keep a curious mind. “Stay open to being challenged and being momentarily uncomfortable,” Dr. Boyd says. A willingness to expand your mind will empower you to thrive as a student at USC. Dr. Boyd continued, “Adversity can be beneficial and rewarding. Nobody wants to encounter adversity, but it happens and it’s really about how you deal with it. Setbacks are really good ways to comeback.”

And for the times you are stressed out and being invited to grow, Carmen Lee, a professor in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said her first piece of advice is to “Breathe!” Second, Professor Lee gave great advice for any student:  Be sure to read. “And I’m not just talking about the textbooks. Read the syllabus thoroughly, read the assignments, read the descriptions. There’s a lot of information there that would help you and alleviate some of the struggles that you have just by reading through the entire assignment.” Lastly, Professor Lee urges you to take advantage of all the opportunities USC has to offer. She says, “If ever there was a time to try new things and change your mind, then this is the best place for it.”

Professor Lee was echoed by Dr. Sharoni Little, a professor in the Marshall School of Business, who wants you to recognize the balance of the educational experience at USC. She’s right when she says that “even though learning is at the center of your purpose here exploring personal clubs and goals, being engaged in something that is extra-curricular” can help you shape you into who you want to be. Professor Turner reminds us that “a hallmark of USC is service to the community.” It makes sense that one of the oldest and most participated in clubs here is Troy Camp, where current Trojans mentor elementary, middle and high school students in the local schools. Professor Turner alluded to Dr.  Martin Luther King when she said that all members of the Trojan Family need to recognize the “fierce urgency of now” to be advocates for themselves and the community.

“Education is a lifelong process,” highlights Miki Turner, another professor in the Annenberg School of Communication. “Learn to apply yourself early, focus early, cultivate those relationships and your networks.” Professor Turner mentioned that she has not only given speeches but makes time to go hang out at the USC Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs (CBCSA) She describes it as an “oasis” and says that it’s nice to be in a place where people look like you and might have a similar mindset. To celebrate Black History Month, the CBCSA has unveiled a new art exhibit that celebrates community and history, hosted a spoken word performance and panel discussion, as well as held a film festival featuring works made and produced by black students.

One piece of advice all of these faculty members brought up was the necessity to make every month Black history month. Dr. Little stated that, “It really should be something that is vital and integrated into our daily lives beyond a week or a month and a year.” Dr. Boyd emphasized that Black history is American history. Professor Lee encourages you to take advantage of resources on campus, but also the diversity available to all of us in Los Angeles to research and learn more not just about Black history but your own culture and where you come from, all year-round.

As a member of the USC community, your unique identity and background enriches the Trojan Family. We hope you succeed at USC. We hope you’re challenged to grow. We hope you become the person you want to be.


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