Among the hallmarks of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute are preparing the next generation of post-partisan leaders, engaging students in the Institute’s work, and encouraging the involvement of young people everywhere as active participants in their active participants in their community and our future innovators with the power to change the world.
“I am most proud that we will bring USC students into this mission. This is so important that they are part of it every step of the way. Let us inspire them to become a new generation of leaders. Let us harness their great power and bring them into the process. Let us embrace the potential that we see in these great young minds.”
– Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, at the Institute’s inaugural symposium
“More than ever before, this generation of young leaders must take proactive, productive steps to impact positive change at home, in their local communities and around the world. Go forth and strive to be change agents for good."
– Bonnie Reiss, Executive Director, USC Schwarzenegger Institute
The Institute views Student Engagement in two parts:
- USC INSTITUTE CLASS: The Institute is proud to have its Academic Director Nancy Staudt teaching a class on “Leadership for a Post-Partisan Age.” Engaging students in the classroom on leadership topics consistent with the Institute’s mission is an important goal.
- EVIDENCE-BASED RESEARCH: Collaborating with scholars and utilizing academic research will play an important role in the Institute’s work.
BE THE CHANGE
The Institute believes students have the power to change the world for the better. USC students and students throughout the world constantly demonstrate the power of the person to improve the lives of others and impact public policy.
The BE THE CHANGE initiative has three components:
1. Spotlight Awards – Award cash prize to UC students making a difference at USC or in their community
2. Supper Speaker Series – Presents inspiring conversations with leaders
3. Volunteer – Make a difference by volunteering with Institute’s non-profit partners
Spotlight Award Winners
Nominated by Joseph Edwards
Chris Castruita is the Vice-President of GPAC and has devoted his time as a student to furthering the experience of young professionals working inside local governments. Right after he and I were elected GPAC leadership, he was already pre-planning what he dubbed his big project of next year: a Local Government Case Challenge.
Modeled after the case challenges that Deloitte Consulting used to host at USC, a case challenge is a professional preparedness event where students who register are assigned into teams and on Wednesday evening and given an actual “case” to evaluate and present to a panel of experts by Saturday morning. They have 72 hours to come up with an idea then formulate in a professional slide show complete with findings, analysis and an eventual recommendation. On Saturday all the teams present, then some are selected to advance to the next round where they present to three lead judges who represent the city. The winners will be awarded a free admission to the Municipal Managers Association Conference (MMAC) and can present to the city’s council.
After months of reaching out and narrowing down candidates, Chris and the team of GPAC selected the city of Norwalk who had a parcel of land nearby the I-5 freeway and Firestone Blvd which has competing interests from both the city, county and state of how be re-used. Norwalk must weigh the value of different re-use proposals and prepare to defend their choice to the community. All of the information provided for students were not hypotheticals but real factors that the city faces. It is a true immersion for students to see what factors city’s and local government’s use to make decisions. Some of the judges included former city managers of South Gate and Lake Forrest, the current Vice-Mayor of Long Beach and a representative from the League of California Cities.
The Case Challenge took place on Saturday February 16th at the Tutor Campus Center. Again, as GPAC President, I and other students were involved in the logistics of securing rooms, ordering and delivering food, creating the prompts, power point slides and making sure we were on schedule – but there was no mistake, Chris was in charge.
But the main reason I nominate Chris Castruita for “Be The Change” is not just his tireless efforts for creating this opportunity, but the commitment he showed to make a community impact. After we announced the challenge on Wednesday night and participants were assigned teams, we began to see dropouts as certain students just didn’t want to commit the time. Chris reached out to them not with lecture, but with an appeal that participating will improve them as a student, as a professional, help build our school’s reputation and make a positive impact in our community. One of these students changed their mind and that team ended up the first place finisher. That is the inspiration, and that’s why Chris deserves this award.
Nominated by Melody Adesuyan
Vicken Antounian’s powerful GPA and active University involvement are an amazing representation of his drive for success. His commitment to academia is evident in his transcript, while his proactive personality and school pride are shown through his various roles in school leadership.
Through Vicken’s year and a half as a Trojan, he has accomplished more in his extracurricular activities than most students accomplish in their entire undergraduate career.
Upon Vicken’s premier semester as a Trojan, he developed close relationships with the faculty and student leaders of USC’s Italian Club. After demonstrating commitment and mastery of the Italian language and culture, he was appointed Vice President of the organization within a month of joining.
His second semester as a Trojan was defined by his victorious write-in campaign for the Undergraduate Student Government Senate. Although he understood the ambitious project of having our fellow peers write-in his name on the ballot, Vicken took on the arduous task, confident in his qualifications and persuasive personality. Overcoming the minor obstacle of having our fellow peers remember (and learn to spell) his unique Armenian name, Vicken’s efforts were successful. As the current Commuter Senator, he listens to the concerns of his constituents daily during his office hours and passes legislation weekly based on the needs of our peers. Also, as the senate representative to the Alumni Relations Committee and the Campus Affairs Committee, he serve as the liaison between the students and faculty, pursuing the best interest of the student population at all times.
His commitment to his studies is shown through his role as chapter President of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. As President, he leads the brightest Trojans who rank among the top ten percent of the undergraduate population. Although the honors organization is not new to USC, under his administration, the USC chapter has received new national accolades through Vicken’s outstanding commitment to service. This year, USC’s chapter of NSCS will receive “Gold Star Status” at the national conference, an honor reserved for the most committed members of the national organization.
Vicken’s free time is spent volunteering through USC’s philanthropic “Teaching International Relations Program,” which entails teaching a weekly government or economics course to underprivileged high school seniors from neglected neighborhoods.
Peers and employers have described Vicken Antounian as being inspirational, confident, and iron-willed. I believe he is a natural leader, ready to take charge at all times. His optimistic outlook and perseverant mindset allow Vicken to overcome any given hardship, and accomplish goals in an efficient and inviting manner. As demonstrated through his roles of student leadership, Vicken has developed his abilities to listen and respond to the needs of our peers. His heavy involvement at USC mirrors his perseverant work ethic and dedication to our University. I firmly believe Vicken IS “the change” at USC and is the perfect candidate for the Spotlight Award.