Provost Quick discusses plans for future
Quick and to the point · In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Quick discussed his background and planned goals for the University. – Courtesy of USC NewsIn an interview with the Daily Trojan, Provost Michael Quick emphasized the importance of including student response when creating initiatives for the University. He plans to measure the effectiveness of these newly developed programs aimed at student access and opportunity.Daily Trojan: As a first-generation college student yourself, do you plan to initiate more programs or encourage more communication at USC concerning first-generation college students?Michael Quick: Yeah absolutely, not even just because I was a first generation, but it does give you a nice perspective … and we have a large number, 15 percent of any class or more are first generation college-goers. And especially at a big place like USC … I’m so proud [of] the diversity USC has. That often means we’re going to have more people from interesting backgrounds, that means we’re going to have more programs in place that allow for things to happen. I know, for example, that Professor George Sanchez in [the] Dornsife [College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences] is setting up a big program with support of the University, a program about first-generation college-goers. … I’m looking forward to meeting with a number of people and various schools because you know it’s different at every school.DT: How has your extensive science background aided you as USC’s provost and more specifically within your goals for environmental sustainability?MQ: Being a scientist, how do we think about the world and our understanding of these important topics? And then, how do we implement these kinds of plans? You’re trained as a scientist to problem solve. You know there’s a problem out there you can’t figure out how it works, and you have to problem solve and come up with hypotheses. You have to figure out: if I do this, what is the likely outcome? Then, you actually run the experiment and see what the outcome is.This is a larger question not only around something like sustainability, but in everything we do, and this comes from my science [background]. I want us to be data-driven. I want to not just do something because it’s the fashionable thing. I want to see if has real outcome and real impact. You know, that’s my training as a scientist. You put a program into place — you asked about the first generation programs. Let’s do something for first-generation college-goers, but let’s assess how they are doing before the program, and how they are after. Let’s see if there is improvement, let’s be data-driven as we make our decisions. When we were talking about some of the sustainability stuff and putting those things into place, it really became a question of, “what are things we can put into place that can have impact and how are we going to measure that impact so that it happens?” And that came from my scientific background.DT: Last April, you said you wanted to increase your involvement with the student community. How are you planning to do so?MQ: I’ve really tried to keep the door open. I’ve been meeting a lot of students. All they have to do is email me, and I’m happy to get together with them. … We’re going to have forums where I will have more opportunities to interact with different students. I’d like to do more informal things. I’ve been talking with the student government and other groups. … I am more than happy to get out there and meet people in informal settings and try to better understand what concerns them, what they like or don’t like about where the University is going — to get a real flavor for what we’re doing. I teach a class in the spring every year because I love to continue to get input, to not only teach students, but also get input from other students. It’s a neuroscience class. That’s one way I do it. But I really am open to interacting with more students and seeing more students. I want to be completely accessible.DT: Last April you said a major goal was to fix the “big problems of the 21st century.” Based on the recent resolutions to increase environmental sustainability and decrease campus racial bias, what other “big problems” need more discussion?MQ: Yeah, so those are two great ones, I’ve been using the phrase, ‘wicked problem’ — it has kind of resonated with people. I like that because these are big, in some ways, somewhat intractable problems. They are not really like easy solutions because sometimes you know if you work on this part of the problem, you create more problems over here; so that’s what makes them ‘wicked.’When I think about — and this is something we’re doing, a strategic plan right now for the University — in thinking about in the next five years or 10 years or whatever, what are we going to tackle as a university? I think there are two pieces to that. The first part of wicked problems is what are the wicked problems, and I think that’s an easier list to make … the second part though is the tougher one, which is to ask at USC — we want USC to be a leader, we don’t just want to partially tackle this problem — what’s the wicked problem USC wants to solve … and that’s what we’re going to try and figure out in talking to people over the next several months. But to give you one possibility, and one that we’re actually we’re really suited to do, is around the concept of aging. Aging is becoming a huge issue … and it becomes a question of aging and healthy aging and unhealthy aging, and if you have to think about people are living longer, but are they living well? […] It’s a social question, it’s an economic question, a question of social justice and social welfare, a question of the arts and the humanities. How do we engage people throughout their lives in being human? That’s a big problem, and it’s a big, expensive problem … that’s one we could tackle in a big way and it would have a huge lasting impact on the world. Whether we choose aging or not, I don’t know — I’m just giving that as an example — but that’s the kind of thing [where] we really want to say, “USC is working on these big hard problems and we’re making [a] huge contribution.”DT: In November, USG presented the campus climate resolution asking for $100 million to fund additional resources to increase awareness of the present racial bias at the university. How can the resolution inform students unaware of these issues?MQ: The resolution came out and I came out with my sort of immediate response, and now we’re working through it. That’s what I love about universities is you get a lot of smart people having these conversations, you come up with a really good idea of what we’re doing. All these are in place: we have the diversity committee that is having conversations, inviting people in, and getting voices. … I’ve got a meeting coming up very [soon] with the diversity liaison for every school, so that’s about to happen. So things are in motion and the conversations are going on. I think a lot of that is going really well. … What I love about what the students have been doing here — and the faculty is taking really seriously — is engaging in really intelligent conversations about how do you put this in place so that it’s going to last a long time and really have [an] impact. Then it gets back to, for me, data driven. … We can always call for this or that, but at the end of the day, is it having an impact? Whatever we put in place I want to make sure we can measure we are having an impact.