Diversifying the pipeline of future educators

8312 https://rossier.usc.edu/news-insights/news/usc-rossier-aims-diversify-pipeline-future-educators While colleges and universities have improved the diversity of the undergraduate student body–with about 45% of students identifying as people of color, representing a gain of 30% over two decades–much work remains to be done in diversifying graduate degree programs that train future professors and leaders. Approximately one-third of undergraduates go on to pursue graduate studies, while the pipeline narrows for students of color who opt to take the next leap in their studies post-bachelor’s degree.

According to recent data from the Council of Graduate Schools, about 26% of all first-time graduate-school enrollees who were U.S. citizens or permanent residents were members of underrepresented minority groups in the fall of 2020. Financial pressure, spending excessive amounts of time in remedial education, and feeling isolated or unsupported are just some of the reasons why undergraduate students of color say they struggle and do not proceed in their studies.

Fortunately, USC Rossier faculty are applying research to practice, with the goal of better preparing universities to educate and train diverse students who intend to pursue graduate studies.

Some of the ways USC Rossier faculty are tackling the diversity problem in the professoriate pipeline include preparing undergraduates to be competitive applicants for graduate school, advocating for more equitable admissions practices, and providing resources for faculty and staff who work in graduate programs to foster a more supportive and welcoming environment for diverse students.


One of the first steps toward increasing access to graduate school is to better prepare upper-division undergraduate students for graduate study. One interdisciplinary training program that prepares underrepresented students, specifically Black and Latinx students, is the Research Institute for Scholars of Equity training program (RISE). Housed at a historically Black college, North Carolina Central University (NCCU), RISE counts USC Rossier Associate Professor Royel Johnson among its principal investigators and was the only HBCU to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Inequities for Black and Latinx students often begin with lower-quality pre-kindergarten, creating an equity gap that becomes challenging to close. RISE fellows–juniors and seniors who come from the communities impacted by these inequities–have an interest in social equity and conducting research to improve the learning experiences and academic attainment of Black and Latinx students from pre-K through the university level. The RISE training program gives these undergraduate fellows an

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Colorado River water plan could trigger unprecedented supply cuts, ripple effects on key industries

Earlier this month, the Biden administration proposed a plan to distribute cuts from the Colorado River and resolve the centurylong legal dispute between states across the American Southwest that share its water supplies.

Decades of drought and overuse have brought the river’s water levels to historic lows. States in the Lower Colorado River Basin — Arizona, California and Nevada — now must choose between one of three options proposed by the federal government.

The outcome of these talks will have far-reaching implications for agriculture and energy in the region. The Colorado River provides water for over 40 million Americans and 30 Tribal Nations, fuels hydropower resources in eight states and supports agriculture across the region.

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“Food, energy and water tend to be regulated separately, which can be problematic. You can’t change policy in one of these areas without impacting the others,” says Robin Craig, professor of law at the USC Gould School of Law.

“The Biden administration’s proposed options for dealing with the continuing Colorado River shortages capture the essential water dilemma for the West as a whole: Do we continue to honor historical patterns of water use in the West, or do we invoke principles of equity and a need to reassess what the Southwest is doing with that water?”

Option 1: Equal cuts across the Lower Basin states

Equal cuts to water allocations across the Lower Basin states would represent an unprecedented break with legal tradition that has served as the bedrock of water law in the West for over a century.

The region follows what is known as prior appropriation law, which stipulates that whoever first accessed the water and put it to beneficial use is granted senior water rights. California is the senior water rights holder on the Colorado River system and is first in line to receive its annual allotment, much to the chagrin of the other states.

“These water rights endure forever, and in the southwestern U.S., they tend to be locked up in agriculture,” says Craig. “In fact, about 80% of the water rights in the Southwest are for agriculture, and that plays into how flexible you can be in the Colorado River water distribution.

“Cutbacks across the board might work for the Colorado River itself, but within the states we will still have prior appropriation to deal with. A large pot of money to spend on transitioning the entire system seems not to be on the table.”

California officials have spoken out against this plan, arguing that it sidesteps existing water laws that respect the state’s status as senior water rights holder.

Under this plan, California farmers — particularly those in the Imperial Valley — and consumers would be hit hardest.

The Imperial Valley is the largest producer of alfalfa, or hay forage, for California dairy cows and an important source of nutrients during the winter months, explains Shon Hiatt, an associate professor of business administration at the USC Marshall School of Business. A drop in the state’s water allocation would reduce the amount of alfalfa produced since it is the least profitable crop.

Hiatt, an expert in global energy and agribusiness, says that an across-the-board cut to water supplies would mean higher prices for dairy products.

“California dairies have been struggling due to increased regulatory costs and the destruction of 60% of grazing pasture this winter due to flooding. The situation will be made worse if less alfalfa is grown and would result in higher dairy product prices in the state.”

Option 2: Cuts based on water rights seniority

Under this plan, California would retain its senior water rights to Colorado River water, with the strictest cuts imposed on Arizona and Nevada.

“In this scenario, California wins in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River — but the entire Lower Basin needs to get creative about how to free up water from agriculture without putting farmers out of business or losing food security. In other words, become more efficient about agriculture,” says Craig.

Option 3: Do nothing

The U.S. Department of the Interior lists this “No Action Alternative” as one of three options in its recent proposal.

Experts warn that doing nothing would prove disastrous for the Colorado River and the regional economy.

Regardless of how the states and federal government decide to move forward, doing nothing would mean keeping the Colorado River on the fast track to dead pool, or levels where water would no longer flow downstream and through the major dams, which generate enough hydroelectricity to power the homes of 1.3 million Americans in the region.

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USC Annenberg doctoral student named 2023 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow

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Doctoral student Jermaine Anthony Richards named 2023 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow
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Jermaine Anthony Richards, who is pursuing his PhD in communication at USC Annenberg, has received the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. The merit-based program for immigrants and children of immigrants will provide $90,000 in funding for Richards’ graduate studies.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Richards was raised in the Canarsie residential neighborhood by his mother and grandmother, who are immigrants from Jamaica. He earned a BS at CUNY York College in communications technology before completing the MA in Global Communication/MSc in Global Media and Communications dual degree program, which is offered jointly by USC Annenberg and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Now, as a Provost’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Access Fellow at USC, Richards is operationalizing his research as a cross-sector scholar-practitioner. Co-advised by Associate Professor of Communication Robeson Taj Frazier and Associate Professor of Computer Science Barath Raghavan, he is studying how transmedia storytelling animates human security politics, security cultures, and political movements.

“I am excited to understand the capacity for computer artifacts to re-present, bridge, and deconstruct social injustices and violent social interactions,” Richards said. “I am interested in rethinking and shifting people’s thinking about the importance of disseminating creative narratives and constructing information ecologies, broadly conceived, that imbue critical and conscious awareness of our world’s most pressing issues.”

Frazier emphasized the impact Richards will have within the Soros Fellows community as a contributor and steward of its mission.

“Over the short time that I’ve known Jermaine, he has demonstrated a clear sense of purpose and an extraordinary ability to will and manifest his intellectual goals and pursuits,” Frazier said. “I’m honored to support him on his journey.”

Richards has led research as a New America Fellow on Digital Transformation Opportunities and Challenges in the Lower Mekong Region, supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Cyber and Critical Tech Cooperation Program. He is also an award-winning social impact entertainment producer of the popular game Hair Nah(TM), which bolsters conversations on haptic, racial microaggressions and anti-hair discrimination laws, such as the CROWN Act, moving through the nation’s courts.

“I love communication because ‘communication’ is the core thing that all humans do; it is the one unifying aspect of humanity — the one thing we all have in common,” he said. “I wholeheartedly believe in the power of education and mentorship to be transformative gifts for any individual, which is why I have dedicated this new era of life to pursuing a Ph.D., where I can gain skills in teaching and producing research.”

Richards believes that even within limits, there are limitless pathways to social change. He hopes to continue augmenting federal policy proposal adoption and cultural diplomacy by developing interactive media experiences to ethically steer human and social development.

“Being a child of Jamaican immigrants necessitates extending their altruistic legacy,” Richards said. “As I navigate this relatively new geography to establish a personal purpose, I’m reminded that this self-defining process is ancestrally informed, which has led me to become a steward of service to those most marginalized.”

Selected from nearly 2,000 applicants, Richards was chosen for his achievements and potential to make meaningful contributions to the United States.

“I’m delighted to welcome this year’s Fellowship class,” said Co-Founder Daisy Soros. “As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of Paul’s passing, it is beautiful to see how his legacy lives on through every Fellow.”

This year’s cohort of 30 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows joins a distinguished community of past recipients. The alumni network includes US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is the first surgeon general of Indian descent and helped lead the national response to Ebola, Zika, and the coronavirus; lawyer Julissa Reynoso, who serves as the US ambassador to Spain and Andorra; Damian Williams, who is the first Black US attorney for the southern district of New York and serves as chair of the attorney general’s advisory committee; and composer Paola Prestini, who was named by NPR as one of the “Top 100 Composers in the World” and plays on major stages across the world.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts celebrates its first tenured transgender faculty member

Alexandra Billings says she’s been too busy living in the present to think about making history. But the celebrated actress of stage and screen knows that becoming the first transgender faculty member of the USC School of Dramatic Arts to gain tenure is no small thing when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation.

“I think that it speaks volumes about how far USC has come,” Billings said at a reception on Monday celebrating the school’s LGBTQ+ alumni, faculty, students and staff. “To have a mixed-race trans woman be not just faculty, but a tenured faculty member, is to say to other marginalized queer folk: ‘We want you here. We honor you here. We honor your story and your work.’ That’s extraordinary.”

More than 150 people gathered in the courtyard of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center to toast Billings, an associate professor of acting. A special School of Dramatic Arts performance of Tomlin’s stage show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe: Revisited followed inside the center’s Renberg Theatre.

“The room just changes in energy when she’s there,” School of Dramatic Arts Dean Emily Roxworthy said of Billings in her toast. “She’s an incredible teacher and trans activist who is a beacon to students who can say, ‘USC has a place for me because Alex is there.’ We were so incredibly fortunate to recruit her, and we’re really, really proud at this moment.”

Bringing authenticity to transgender roles

Billings is best known to television viewers for her recurring roles as transgender women on the Amazon dramatic series Transparent and the ABC sitcom The Conners. She has managed to carve out a prolific career despite having to watch better-known cisgender performers land transgender roles in television and movies.

Before the tide began to change in recent years, Billings was considered something of a pioneer as a trans actress playing actual trans characters on television shows such as How to Get Away with Murder, ER and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as the TV movie Romy and Michele: In the Beginning.

I make sure when I say yes to something, that it’s about creating dialogue and about being a portal for change.

Alexandra Billings

“I’m very lucky in the sense that I have a lot of really good friends in the business that are very loyal and believe that the marginalized voice is the voice of the future,” she said. “I make sure when I say yes to something, that it’s about creating dialogue and about being a portal for change.”

Billings is no longer satisfied with just having some kind of LGBTQ+ representation in a production.

“I want the queer voice to be the center story,” she said. “I want us to stop being only the supportive voice.”

Making her own way

The USC milestone comes amid a series of high points for Billings in a career where she has often had to create her own opportunities. This includes her one-person autobiographical show, S/HE & ME, which has toured to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and off-Broadway. Billings made her Broadway debut in 2018 in the play The Nap, becoming one of the first openly trans people to be cast in a trans role on Broadway. Two years later, she began playing the role of Madame Morrible in the Broadway production of Wicked before and after the closures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t tend to think about whatever I did first because that’s for the history books,” Billings said. “I feel like as long as we keep doing the thing, as long as we keep in mind that it’s the students and their artistic voice that matters, everything else will be taken care of.”

The beginning of a fruitful partnership

Reception attendees also toasted School of Dramatic Arts alumnus Jonathan Munoz-Proulx for becoming artistic director of the L.A. LGBT Center 10 months ago and for using his Trojan connections to make Monday’s performance — directed by School of Dramatic Arts adjunct lecturer Ken Sawyer and attended by Tomlin herself — come to fruition.

“To have these two worlds of USC and the center be in collaboration is such a beautiful gift and moment for all of us,” Munoz-Proulx said. “There are lots of opportunities for partnership, and we’re invested in maintaining our relationship with USC moving forward.”

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Emergence of deadly fentanyl-xylazine combo ‘tranq’ worsens the addiction epidemic

Amid a catastrophic addiction epidemic, a new drug cocktail known as “tranq” has emerged as a serious threat across the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, tranq — a mixture of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and the animal tranquilizer xylazine — has been found in 48 states. The DEA recently issued a dire warning about the potential for overdoses and severe skin ulcers that may lead to amputations.

Tranq does not respond to naloxone, the opioid-reversal drug that has averted many deaths from fentanyl. Consequently, more people who use tranq are dying. Adam Leventhal, director of the USC Institute for Addiction Science, says that the drug is an urgent threat that requires a strong response.

“People with fentanyl-use disorders might not want xylazine in their product, but suppliers are adding it to the fentanyl supply,” Leventhal said. “This drug, combined with the effects of fentanyl, creates a different type of psychoactive effect that’s a new experience for the user. Risk of overdose increases when these two powerful drugs are combined.

Addiction will always be a constantly evolving problem.

Adam Leventhal, USC Institute for Addiction Science

“Addiction will always be a constantly evolving problem. We need policy experts, public health researchers, economists and legal analysts who study the drug industry to inform policies that regulate the supply side. And we need social workers, psychologists and neuroscientists to understand the demand side: Why is a certain drug addicting? What treatments will reduce that demand?”

Tranq: Trend began on the East Coast

The tranq trend began on the East Coast and quickly moved west, according to Daryl Davies, an expert on the pharmacology and toxicology of drugs of addiction in the Titus Family Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the USC Alfred E. Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He warns that people who feel safer using fentanyl because of naloxone may be unaware of new dangers posed by the cocktail drug.

The Street Medicine Team at the Keck School of Medicine of USC is working on procuring test strips so patients can identify when their drug is contaminated with xylazine. Jungeun Olivia Lee, an associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, wants to see nonstigmatizing, developmentally appropriate messages for teens, to warn them away.

“The initiation of substance use reaches its peak during adolescence,” Lee said. “The consequences of substance use — particularly potent drugs like fentanyl combined with xylazine — can be a lot more substantial for teenagers compared to adults, given that their social, psychological and physiological functioning is still developing. …

“Prevention and intervention strategies developed for adults may not be necessarily effective for teenagers.”

Fentanyl addiction still rocking U.S., but safe sites remain unpopular

Illicit fentanyl on its own has rocked California’s cities and the nation. One proposed policy solution is the creation of drug-use site pilot programs — also known as safe injection sites — in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco where drug addicts can safely use illegal drugs while under supervision to prevent overdoses.

But the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy’s latest California Issues poll shows that a majority of Californians — 54% overall — disapprove of the sites (42% strongly disapproved and 12% slightly disapproved). Meanwhile, 36% overall supported them, with 17% saying they strongly approved and 19% saying they slightly approved.

“Gov. Newsom in 2022 vetoed a bill that would have created these drug-use pilot sites,” said Christian Grose, the academic director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute and a political science and public policy professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “While the fentanyl crisis is important, the issue of pilot drug-use sites has been politically unpalatable to Newsom. If Newsom hopes to run for president, this is an unpopular reform across the United States. And even here in California, voters are very split on the issue.”

Despite an aversion to safe-use sites, governments are increasingly active in curbing the addiction epidemic, Leventhal says. “It’s unprecedented what they’re doing recently for addiction and overdose prevention and harm reduction.

“We are aligned with the belief that keeping people who use substances alive is a human right. Everyone deserves an opportunity to get on a path to recovery.”

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Trojan trailblazer traces entrepreneurial zeal back to sports 


Editor’s note: Title IX — the landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding — was signed into law on June 23, 1972. In recognition of this anniversary, we’ll be profiling Trojan trailblazers throughout the academic year.

When Jill Kickul was a freshman at the University of St. Francis in Illinois, the school offered only one sport for women: basketball.

Kickul, now a professor of social entrepreneurship with the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business and holder of the Narayan Research Directorship at the USC Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, wanted to play soccer. And so she did, becoming the first woman to play on the school’s male soccer team.

Title IX logo“If it wasn’t for Title IX, I wouldn’t have been able to play,” she said. In the years and months that followed, other sports opened to female athletes on campus, increasing until the male and female sports programs offered equal opportunities.

For Kickul, being on the soccer team was about more than competition, recreation or sportsmanship. “Sports gave me the confidence to question barriers that are out there and think about ways to overcome them. They empowered me to think past the constraints of a particular situation and reimagine what new possibilities could be, particularly for women — if they question the status quo,” she said.

Kickul, a business administration major, took this mindset and began tackling the world of entrepreneurship, a typically male-dominated field. As a research assistant at DePaul University in Chicago, Kickul was lucky enough to work with one of the few women changing entrepreneurship at the time. Lisa Gundry — a professor Kickul worked with while pursuing her master’s and doctoral degrees and still her mentor to this day — was one of the first female professors working in the field. “She taught me about leadership and instilled in me that can-do attitude,” Kickul said.

Empowering a new generation of female leaders

After Kickul graduated, she started the first women’s entrepreneurship program at Simmons University in Boston.

“That was a time for me to be a leader in developing new curriculum, workshops, lectures series, conferences and other programming. We were on a mission to have this program be No. 1 and wanted it to be positioned differently than traditional entrepreneurship programs geared toward men,” she said. Under her direction, the program was named in the “Top 10 Innovative Programs for Entrepreneurs” by Fortune Small Business and the “Top 20 Graduate Entrepreneurship Programs” by Entrepreneur Magazine/Princeton Review.

A main goal for Kickul throughout her work in academia has been to inspire confidence and self-efficacy in the young women she’s teaching and working with, and to help them think about entrepreneurship as a viable pathway in their careers.

At USC, Kickul’s focus on diverse groups of students — many of whom are women — and pathways to helping them build sustainable businesses and careers is unwavering. Research shows that women — often lacking a sense of confidence that they are welcome in more male-dominated professions or spaces — may take themselves out of the equation.

“Most of our [Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship] students are first generation and, by majority, most of them are women,” Kickul said. “A lot of the women who come into our program have the drive and passion to bring about progress, but they might not know how to become those change agents within their communities. At USC, we’ve given them the tools, mindsets and practices to make a difference — not just with entrepreneurship, but also within existing organizations that want to have an impact.”

“After they leave here,” Kickul said, “they think differently about how to create change. They have a renewed drive, too — bolstered by a sense of confidence and knowledge of tools — to really go and make a difference within society.”

Agent of progress in longstanding institutions

Kickul has led the charge in forums to discuss the future of entrepreneurship, launching the Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference — which will celebrate its 20th year in November — and becoming president of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE).

“At the time, there weren’t too many women who took on that kind of leadership role,” Kickul said of her work with the association. “Under my leadership, we professionalized the organization by restructuring the board and bringing in a diversity of perspectives.” Milestones in this work included building a pipeline of new members in entrepreneurship education that offered USASBE a wider array of perspectives on how to effectively teach entrepreneurship to diverse groups of students.

The Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference is another gamechanger. Bringing together the largest group of social entrepreneurship researchers and social innovators, the conference, which Kickul co-founded, continues to push the field forward. This past year’s topics reflected the field’s dynamic nature, with questions of how we define social entrepreneurship today versus in the past and panels on modern issues within entrepreneurship, such as how women and people of color fare in raising capital for their ventures.

Kickul’s own research is prolific, focusing on innovation and strategic processes within new ventures, micro-financing practices and wealth creation in transitioning economies, and social entrepreneurship. She has been published in over 100 journals on entrepreneurship and management.

The next chapter of bold leadership

Looking forward, Kickul is realistic and optimistic in a remarkably balanced fashion. “Overall, we still have a long way to go,” she said, “not only within the board rooms but with women-led ventures beyond just being lifestyle businesses.”

Women-led startups still only receive less than 3% of venture capital funds. “Women need more support for getting those resources. Men can also be great allies in this work.”

Ultimately, Kickul hopes that the next generation will acknowledge the hard work that came before it and build upon this work to accelerate the achievement of true gender parity in the field.

“We need to continue to do the work that was started and create awareness for others who have really reaped benefits from Title IX and are now in great positions to teach others how to lead,” she said. “Newer generations need to continue this work in bolder and broader ways.”

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Why are COVID-19 vaccination rates among children so low?

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Why are COVID-19 vaccination rates among children so low? Parents’ worry about long-term risks, responsibility

Parents worry about potential long-term risks from the vaccine, and some fear they’ll be viewed as responsible if their child becomes sick after the vaccination, USC research finds.

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Despite efforts by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pediatric clinicians to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate among children, many remain unvaccinated due to parental concerns about the vaccine’s long-term effects and anticipated responsibility. Those are findings from a new study published in Pediatrics and conducted by the Center for Economic and Social Research(CESR) at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The researchers sought to determine the causes of low child vaccination rates. Currently, only 39% of children 5 to 11 and 68% of those 12 to 17 have received vaccinations, compared to 92% of adults.

During the Omicron variant’s spike between February and March 2022, when pediatric COVID-19 cases peaked, the USC Dornsife survey of parents in the nationally representative Understanding America Study revealed that 45% of parents believed the vaccine’s long-term risks to their child outweighed the risks of not being vaccinated.

Ying Liu, research scientist at CESR and the study lead, explained that “parents’ hesitancy may be partly driven by apprehension about the vaccine, stemming from its rapid development and the use of newer techniques.”

Additionally, 18% of parents said they’d feel a heightened sense of responsibility if their child became sick following vaccination.

“People often exhibit a more cautious approach when making medical decisions for others, including their own children, than for themselves,” Liu said. “Some tend to do nothing rather than vaccinate their child, even though such inaction could result in negative consequences.”

Said Arie Kapteyn, director of CESR and professor (research) of economics at USC Dornsife: “This research underscores the pressing need to address parental perceptions of the COVID-19 vaccine. By doing so, we believe the vaccination rate among 5- to 17-year-olds could be increased to over 50%.”

The report suggests the following ways to boost child vaccination rates:

Assure parents that side effects from the vaccine are rare and mild, whereas the health complications from the COVID-19 infection are far more common and severe.

Highlight that there is no evidence or plausible way in which the vaccine could alter a child’s genetic makeup.

Emphasize the potential and avoidable negative outcomes from lack of action when delaying or foregoing the vaccination.

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Remembering pioneering violinist Eudice Shapiro, the studio system’s first female concertmaster


Editor’s note: Title IX — the landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding — was signed into law on June 23, 1972. In recognition of this anniversary, we’ll be profiling Trojan trailblazers throughout the academic year.


In 1942, Eudice Shapiro walked through the doors of a soundstage in Hollywood for a recording session with the RKO Studio Orchestra. Her performance was exemplary, but its significance far exceeded the film music they recorded. That session reverberated with female musicians across the country. Shapiro was the concertmaster that day, or first chair — the first woman to ever be named to that position within the studio system.

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This prestigious appointment marked the start of Shapiro’s 23-year career in the Hollywood studio system, which included later positions with Paramount and United Artists. Her rise to prominence in the male-dominated industry would carve a path for future generations of female musicians, especially violinists.

“When I first became concertmaster at RKO, I got a call from a gal in New York who had been trying to break into playing stage shows,” Shapiro said in a 2007 interview as part of a commemorative book produced by the USC Thornton School of Music. “At that time, they were not hiring any women. Apparently, when an account of my appointment was published in a trade journal, she was able to break through and called to thank me for being the pioneer who made it easier for women to get musical jobs in New York.”

Shapiro, who died in 2007 at age 93, reached global audiences with her solos, chamber music performances and command of modern works. She established her career as a virtuoso soloist in postwar America, though she competed on an equal footing with her male counterparts. At the Curtis Institute of Music in the 1930s, she was the only female violin student in her class, playing alongside classical music greats such as Vladimir Sokoloff. After graduation, she traveled across the country to perform in solo recitals and orchestras before being hired as a violinist in the Hollywood studios; this was at a time when the competition was great and female violinists were scarce.

She began teaching at USC Thornton in 1956 — nearly two decades before Title IX prohibited sex discrimination at education institutions that receive federal funding. “Gabor Rejto was the head of the cello department, and he was really just forming a staff, you know, for the strings department,” she said. “He asked me if I would be interested in teaching here and I said, ‘Sure.'”

A concertmaster remembers his teacher

Countless USC Thornton musicians studied under the tutelage of Shapiro, with many having gone on to build successful careers as violinists. Glenn Dicterow is one of those musicians. A celebrated concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic for 34 years, he is now the Jascha Heifetz Chair in violin at USC Thornton.

Dicterow began playing the violin at age 8. He grew up in a musical household in Los Angeles. His father, Harold Dicterow, served as principal of the second violin section with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 52 years. Much like his father, Dicterow began as a soloist, never intending to become concertmaster of an orchestra. Before enrolling at Juilliard, he studied with many exceptional teachers, and Shapiro was a memorable force among them.

“I had quite a few violin teachers in L.A. At that time, L.A. was a magnet for the greatest talent because of the movie industry,” Dicterow explained. “When Hitler came to power, many great musicians came here from Europe trying to survive and find jobs. Superb studio orchestras played on all the film soundtracks. As a student, I remember going to see a movie produced by Paramount studios and the score, written by Andre Previn, had several violin solos, which I later found out were played by Eudice. She made some wonderful solo violin albums that I still possess, and I would listen to them feeling so proud that she was my teacher.”

He remembers Shapiro as his most unique violin instructor. According to Dicterow, she had a loving but firm teaching approach, so it is no surprise that many of her students knew her as “Mother Shapiro.”

“I studied with Eudice in 1965 and 1966. She was an extremely nurturing, very regal human being. She was the first of any teacher who didn’t let me copy her — I had to listen to recordings. Very much the opposite of Heifetz. I think that was the most unique thing about her, that she never demonstrated on her violin how to play anything. When I was studying with her, she said to me, ‘I never want you to imitate me. I want you to discover your own unique sound,'” Dicterow said. “She prepared me for a debut recital at UCLA Royce Hall, and after that I went to Juilliard. Interestingly enough, when I first came to USC in 2013 as a new professor, they gave me the same studio that Eudice Shapiro taught in, room 210 in Ramo Hall.”

Throughout her 50 years at USC Thornton, Shapiro played a significant role in the school’s development while also shaping the musical landscape of Los Angeles. She became such a valued faculty member in the strings department that toward the end of her tenure, the school allowed her to continue teaching students from her home.

Dicterow looks back on his teacher’s successful career, underscoring her rise to first chair at RKO with the reverence of a violinist who has often performed in the same studios and orchestras.

“This is very significant because at that time, working in studios and in orchestras was mainly a boys’ club. Maybe you’d get your occasional female harp player or violinist, but things changed after Eudice got the position. It was tough for women to have their careers because they were expected to have children and be at home, so some women gave up their careers to conform to the ways of those times. It’s such a shame.”

“There were no full-time contracts offered in major orchestras until the mid-1960s,” he continued. “The studios were so attractive because they paid year-round. During the 1950s, when the Los Angeles Philharmonic was not working, my father often played Broadway shows as there was no income available during the weeks the orchestra was not in season. That’s why having a studio contract was so desirable and why Eudice Shapiro, the only female concertmaster of her era, was so unique.”

Violinist, teacher and friend

When Henry Choi, who earned his master’s degree in 1994, auditioned at USC Thornton to study with Shapiro, he had no idea of the legendary history that followed her. Leading up to his decision to explore a formal music education, he earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics with a minor in music from Occidental College. The leap from mathematician to violinist happened naturally for Choi, who grew up playing music and singing in children’s choirs. After the audition, he was admitted to Shapiro’s studio to pursue his master’s degree in violin performance.

“I was very fortunate to study with Eudice. She was referred to me by one of her students who just said she was a great teacher. She never bragged about her achievements, so when I found out she was the first female concertmaster I was like, ‘My goodness, she had this incredible history,'” Choi began. “I spent a few summers with her during the music festivals for a couple weeks at a time. Manchester Music Festival in Vermont. We would spend a lot of time together, and she would coach me in my music (chamber music, orchestra, etc.). She was very easy to work with and be with, and always very energetic but very serious when it came to music-making. She was also very generous.”

Only after graduating did Choi discover his teacher’s pioneering career. To honor her 50 years of teaching and performing, and her immeasurable impact on music, he and his family established the Eudice Shapiro Endowed Violin Scholarship at USC Thornton.

“When I graduated, I found out she had worked at USC for 50 years. I thought that was really incredible, so I talked to the school to see if there was anything I could do for her before I left. I wanted to commemorate her legacy and her longevity as an educator, as a teacher. I thought endowing a scholarship in her name would benefit generations of students to come and carry on her legacy at USC.”

Toward the end of her life, Shapiro was surrounded by students for whom she was more than just a teacher — she was also a friend.

“I got to spend more time with her at her home with a few other students at the later stage of her life, and helped out around the house in Studio City,” Choi continued. “She just held up a great spirit and would always be happy to see us. I never felt that she was going to be going away any time soon.”

Eun-Sun Lee, a classmate-turned-friend of Choi’s and a music professor at Wofford College, has had similarly impactful memories of her studies with Shapiro, highlighting the generosity, motherly affection and wisdom that she was known for.

“Upon my early graduation from high school, Eudice accepted me as a full scholarship student with a stipend at the University of Southern California,” Lee said. “After a year, when I was accepted to study with Dorothy DeLay at The Juilliard School, also on scholarship, she was bitterly disappointed that I was leaving her and wouldn’t talk to me for years. Eventually, after a few years, she forgave me for leaving and, when I was meandering in New York City after graduating from Juilliard with a bachelor’s and master’s degree but without knowing what to do next, she invited me to pursue a doctorate degree as her assistant at USC. At the time … I could not have known how much impact that decision would have in my life.

“Had it not been for Eudice’s affection and generosity, I would not have held the teaching positions and enjoyed the career and family life that so many of us, especially women, take for granted today. She was such a proud mentor and ‘mama’ when she came to conduct a masterclass at a college where I was teaching at the time and, needless to say, her presence raised my stock much higher there.”

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Post-pandemic lessons: What urban planners can learn from Ho Chi Minh City

Story Headline and Deck – USC News *
Headline: What can post-pandemic cities learn from Ho Chi Minh City?

Deck: Annette Kim, director of SLAB at the USC Price School, shares lessons learned from the Vietnamese city’s handling of contested public spaces.
Body Copy *
The COVID-19 pandemic forced planners to grapple with an old but difficult question: who gets to use public space in crowded cities?

In Los Angeles, for example, the city let restaurants expand onto sidewalks during the early days of the health crisis, yet forced sidewalk street vendors to close. Meanwhile, the rise of remote work emptied downtowns and turned streets over to pedestrians. Now, drivers want those roads back.

These debates are not new to Annette Kim, associate professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and director of SLAB, a spatial analysis laboratory. In 2015, she published Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City, exploring the Vietnamese city’s handling of contested public spaces.

Cities around the world are seeking out Kim’s research as they reconsider their public spaces. At a December 2022 event celebrating the Vietnamese language version of her book, city officials met with her to start a new sidewalk governance project. Kim is also advising the Singapore Ministry of Development’s Centre for Liveable Cities about flexible use of space to accommodate diverse needs. And as San Francisco debates the regulation of its public spaces, the San Francisco Chronicle featured her work in Ho Chi Minh City.

We recently caught up with Kim to see how her research could help planners reimagine cities post-pandemic.

Why did you want to study the sidewalks of Ho Chi Minh City?

“When I lived there for a year for my dissertation fieldwork, I realized there’s something special about the way people live in Ho Chi Minh City. It had to do with the role of public space, how it connects people and you share life together. But, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So, I decided to return with a team of students and go out and map everything that’s going on.

“There’s always a lot of politics about who gets to use the space in a crowded city, so this is an issue for cities all around the world, especially since it’s the first time in human history that the majority of people live in cities.”

What did you find?

“Our mapping revealed how Ho Chi Minh City’s sidewalks support an incredible mix of different activities and people. We documented their flexible use of public space with groups taking turns over the course of the day and evening which expands the space’s possibilities and inclusiveness. We also interviewed about 240 people on the street – mostly vendors – and found lots of stories of collaboration. Even the property owners, who are usually the most vehement against street vendors in front of them, were actually helping. They would let vendors store their goods overnight, or hide them during police raids. It’s really unusual.”

How have city officials there handled street vendors?

“It’s ebbed and flowed since colonial times. The French tried to clear the sidewalks, and so did every regime after them. First, they want to clean it up, then they relent because it’s just such a widespread way of life and they have to be pragmatic.

“They tried another round of sidewalk clearance policies in 2017, but they now see that they are impossible to enforce. And the one area in downtown they have effectively cleared with immense policing is now seen as a failure because it’s a dead area now. The hardships of lockdown during the pandemic have altered the discussion. I’m hearing ‘quality of life’ and ‘livable cities’ from the cities that are contacting me. Shared public space is an important part of that.”

How has COVID-19 contributed to this discussion? What are some issues that have emerged as it relates to sidewalk activity?

“Of course, the pandemic was terrible, but it was also an opportunity to try things we would never have been able to do on such a big scale politically, like let so many restaurants use sidewalks as dining space. People get to experience and see the pros and cons of it. I think the bigger principle is that there are a lot more possibilities, if we’re flexible, with space and time. We don’t have to plan cities to function only one way, 24/7, but we can let people do different things at different times in public space.

“L.A. was sort of doing that before the pandemic. At night, a gas station might become a taqueria, or it might become a gym where people work out with weights. That space could be used for different purposes and by different people at different times of the day. As cities get denser and more diverse, we need new flexible models.”

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Fighting for gender equality within the new media landscape

Editor’s note: Title IX — the landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding — was signed into law on June 23, 1972. In recognition of this anniversary, we’ll be profiling Trojan trailblazers throughout the academic year.

On Tuesday afternoons, Professor of Communication Sarah Banet-Weiser challenges students in COMM 395: Gender, Media and Communication to examine the portrayal of gender and race across multiple media platforms. Her goal is to help them consider the ways gender is intertwined with notions of power, identity and voice.

Title IX logo“We need to learn how to recognize how images of race, gender and social class are constructed in the media,” Banet-Weiser said. “If we can understand that representations matter in the world and impact how we occupy our positions and how we organize our lives, we can also recognize that the negative constructions and expressions of gender and race are something that we made. If we made these expressions, then we can unmake them.”

With joint appointments at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, Banet-Weiser researches gender, race and media, youth culture, feminist theory and cultural studies. As the founding director of the Center for Collaborative Communication at the Annenberg schools, she is leading efforts to reimagine and potentially revolutionize how collaborative communication can be used to address complex issues, including how gender is represented in the media and the role that gender plays in interpersonal, public and cultural communications.

“To have students who are media makers and invested in transforming the media and this landscape to be more diverse and inclusive is incredible to me,” Banet-Weiser said. “I think that part of the reason why they feel like they can do it is because they’re protected by things like Title IX.”

Seeing Title IX’s impact beyond sports

As a mother of a college athlete, Banet-Weiser is still quick to remind her students that the Title IX landmark legislation has an impact well beyond sports — it’s about gender equality.

“Fifty years is not a long time, but it is enough time to actually repair some structural inequalities,” Banet-Weiser said. “We still see things like the state of Florida, which has just put forward a bill that wants to eradicate gender studies and critical race theory from higher education, and a movement across Europe where gender studies departments in universities are being dismantled. I see a very important fight coming. A 50-year anniversary can be a moment of celebration, but it also is a moment of reckoning and we need to be honest about that.”

She is inspired by the students in Florida who walked out of classrooms to protest the new bill, and the massive number of scholars standing up against inequality at college campuses worldwide. However, she still notes structural inequalities and patterns of discrimination on campus like sexual assault and the gender wage gap as room for improvement.

“Many of us at Annenberg teach that power isn’t just something that is top-down; it can be bottom-up,” she said. “It’s our job as educators to remind students that they actually have a lot of power and to give them the tools to fight back.”

It takes a village: men and women mentors

While growing up in San Diego, Banet-Weiser remembers how her mother demonstrated what it meant to overcome adversity and provide a life for her loved ones. When her father became disabled around the time she was 8 years old, her mom became the head of the household. She credits her mother with creating a context in which she felt confident in who she was and for helping her feel emboldened to make a difference. Now a mother of three, Banet-Weiser can trace how Title IX has affected all generations of women in her family.

Banet-Weiser also reflects back on her journey before becoming a distinguished faculty fellow at the Center for Excellence in Teaching at USC, the director of the School of Communication at USC Annenberg and eventually head of the Media and Communications department at the London School of Economics, and the many people who demonstrated what it meant to write and do research on topics that had the potential to make a difference.

I have been mentored by amazing people — both men and women.

Sarah Banet-Weiser, USC Annenberg

“I have been mentored by amazing people — both men and women,” she said. “When I was studying for my PhD, my adviser, Valerie Hartouni, introduced me to feminist theory as a whole new way of seeing the world in terms of gender politics. I will forever be grateful to her.”

Staying vigilant for the future of Title IX

Banet-Weiser wants students to have a sense of possibility for what they can do in the media landscape. In the evolving age of streaming and networked distribution, she believes there are opportunities to restructure and repair inequalities. Students learn how to do this by creating media like memes and zines, along with using tools such as historical and visual analysis, as avenues of expression of alternative narratives outside of what is provided by the mainstream media.

The last decade has shown her that there isn’t a linear progress to culture. It doesn’t always move in the way that is expected.

“When there are openings to discriminate and when there are openings to exclude and erase, people will take them,” Banet-Weiser said. “So we need to be watchful, and Title IX will help us stay vigilant in the years ahead.”

The post Fighting for gender equality within the new media landscape appeared first on USC News.

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