USC President C. L. Max Nikias USC Village Construction
USC President C. L. Max Nikias signs a beam during the spire-raising ceremony marking the halfway point of USC Village construction. | PHOTO BY GUS RUELAS

At the heart of the new USC Village stands a single, grand oak—a tree that, for centuries, has symbolized strength and endurance across cultures. Several months ago, we lowered it into the ground, allowing its roots to find their place long before the first class of 2,500 students moved in to the site’s eight residential colleges. As their classes began, the oak sat firmly settled, ready to flourish in the coming decades.

So much about this project relied on forethought. In conceiving USC Village, we had many goals, but chief among them was our students’ personal growth. Their time at USC—those years between ages 18 and 22—is profoundly transformative, so we created a world-class living and learning environment, a place that would help them realize their full, extraordinary potential. With USC Village, we made a tremendous investment in student residential life, one that would pay dividends not only for our students’ intellectual, creative and social development, but for our local communities as well.

Indeed, USC Village serves our surrounding communities. It provides much-needed retail and dining options, including a Trader Joe’s and Target. It stands as the largest economic development project in the history of south Los Angeles. At the peak of construction, 550 construction workers reported to the site each morning, and most were local; 20 percent lived within five miles of the project, 38 percent lived in the city of Los Angeles, and the vast majority—74 percent—lived within the county.

Who could have imagined the scope of their work? They laid 1.2 million miles of wires, coursing with electricity and data, and poured 110,000 cubic yards of concrete—more than enough to pave a sidewalk to San Francisco. Their work produced the Central Piazza— three times the size of Hahn Plaza—at the center of USC Village, one that, for generations, will serve as a meeting point in which our students can interact, collaborate and dream.

And this is a dream USC shares with its neighbors. We will forever recall that historic morning when 1,100 community members converged at City Hall to voice their support. Many had lived in the area for more than three decades, and knew that USC Village would bring neighborhood enhancements, as well as jobs and businesses. Their passion—harnessed by our local elected officials—advanced approvals for this project.

We thank them wholeheartedly, and we thank our extraordinary benefactors. Kathleen Leavey McCarthy led the way in naming McCarthy Honors College, along with David Bohnett, Jessie and Charles Cale, Ray and Ghada Irani, and Shelly and Ofer Nemirovsky. They all provided naming gifts for the residential colleges, as did two anonymous donors—one of whom named a residence hall in honor of A.C. Cowlings.

Thanks to these and other benefactors—as well as the dedication of our entire Trojan Family—USC created a home away from home for our students, a community that will prove the value of a campuscentered education. It will surely become the envy of American higher education.

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