Undergraduate Admission Blog

Follow the Official USC Undergraduate Admission Blog for information, advice, and a behind-the-scenes look at our process

February 21, 2019

Somerville Place

At USC we value diversity. It’s in our mission statement, we believe that diverse experiences will increase the experience of all students in the classroom. But what happens outside of the classroom? How do students find community?

At USC our Residential Life Education program provides various special interest housing. Previously, I wrote about the Rainbow Floor. USC Residential Education and USC Housing is proud to offer students the opportunity to live in a variety of living-learning options, thematic residential colleges and gender inclusive housing.

One of our oldest special-interest housing options is Somerville Place. Somerville celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2015, and the first residents moved in during the 1995 Fall semester. Since then, Somerville has served more than 500 students. The floor is named after John and Vada Somerville, who are the first black students to graduate from the USC Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry.

At USC we value diversity. It’s in our mission statement, we believe that diverse experiences will increase the experience of all students in the classroom. But what happens outside of the classroom? How do students find community?

At USC our Residential Life Education program provides various special interest housing. Previously, I wrote about the Rainbow Floor. USC Residential Education and USC Housing is proud to offer students the opportunity to live in a variety of living-learning options, thematic residential colleges and gender inclusive housing.

One of our oldest special-interest housing options is Somerville Place. Somerville celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2015, and the first residents moved in during the 1995 Fall semester. Since then, Somerville has served more than 500 students. The floor is named after John and Vada Somerville, who are the first black students to graduate from the USC Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry.

John Somerville’s favorite quote was, “Do not wait for your boat to come in, row out and meet it.” The floor has stayed true to its namesake’s mission of being proactive within the black community and working to carve out a safe space for students of color at USC. I recently sat down to speak with two first-year students about their experience living in Somerville.

Jaya Hinton from Silver Springs, Maryland is currently a Business student. You may recognize her from the @uscadmission Instagram takeover she did with the Center for Black Culture and Student Affairs (CBCSA). She initially started at USC as a Health and Humanities major but decided that it was not a fit for her after her first semester. Jaya learned about Somerville during an Explore USC event for admitted students where she had a chance to speak with Dr. Theo, Assistant Director of CBCSA. Choosing to live in Somerville made a lot of sense for Jaya, she has made some of her closest friends on the floor and considers them family. When I asked her what made Somerville special, she mentioned the summer retreat, where students are able to learn about the strength of the Black community at USC. For example, Jaya learned that Verna and Peter Dauterive (VPD) Hall, is one of the first buildings named after black trustees at USC. Dr. Verna Dauterive was a double Trojan, earning both her Masters and Education Doctorate at USC, and an influential educator in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The most influential lesson she learned from the summer retreat is that other Black Trojans have come before her and while college might be tough, you are not alone.

Jaya sees the opportunity to live in Somerville as an appreciation for her and her suitmates’ experiences. She gets to be authentically herself in her own home.

I also spoke with Sabrina Pierre from Sierra Vista, Arizona. Sabrina is pursuing a degree in Health and Human Sciences, has a pre-med emphasis and a minor in Occupational Sciences. It was exciting to catch up with Sabrina on campus as a first-year student after meeting with her over summer while she was a prospective student. Sabrina participated in the Bovard Scholars program. USC established Bovard Scholars to empower “motivated, economically disadvantaged high school students with a rigorous college preparation program in their efforts to gain admission to USC and other top universities” according to USC Provost Michael Quick. Sabrina told me that Bovard Scholars was part of the reason she chose to attend USC. According to Sabrina, she feels like very few universities have summer programs that are all expenses paid and allow you to experience college life. It can be difficult to imagine yourself at a college far away from your home, but communities like Somerville become even more important when you are looking for a home away from home.

When I asked Sabrina why she chose Somerville, she explained that for her, Somerville was a place to connect with the other half of her identity. Sabrina identifies as biracial. Her mother raised her in a predominately Mexican-American community. Sabrina chose to apply to live in Somerville because she believed the floor would offer her the opportunity to form a group of friends that would help her identify and discuss not only what it meant to be Mexican, but also Black.

The importance of community is also echoed in Sabrina’s advice to future Trojans. “You should never be afraid to put yourself out there because just like you, everyone is looking to find a community to be a part of or find a group of friends for a lifetime. This does not just go for whenever you come to USC, but for where you currently live and where you may find yourself in the future.”

Leave a Reply

Submissions are moderated.