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A 2020 Summer Update

Updated: Oct 2

For our first blog post, we will be recapping our organization's summer in quarantine. Find out more on how COVID-19 has impacted the way we work and the steps we've taken to become a more equitable, socially-aware, and inclusive organization.



How we've adapted to COVID

Since the lockdown in March, project meetings have shifted to a virtual setting. We've traded Wednesday night meetings at Fertitta Hall for Zoom calls and skribbl.io competitions. The scenario is far from ideal, and we commend all our consultants for their flexibility and hard work in producing high-quality deliverables for our clients. The picture above shows one of our project teams last semester on their weekly call with Ian Chan, a School on Wheels program administrator.



Diversity, equity, and inclusion

The death of George Floyd and the heightened awareness towards the Black Lives Matter movement this summer gave us an opportunity to reflect on our chapter and how we operate. We came together to discuss how we can take substantive – not performative – action that causes lasting change in the way we run our chapter, as well as identify ways in which we've been complicit in systemic injustices and biases against underrepresented people in our recruiting, client onboarding, and working processes.



Through these discussions, we pledged to complete the following actions to improve diversity and inclusion in our organization:

  1. Elect a Diversity and Inclusion chair to promote and uphold diversity within and throughout our organization

  2. Increase the number of consulting engagements with POC-owned nonprofits

  3. Create The State of USC – an annual project to analyze USC’s social impact efforts for leaders to reference and take substantive action


We also crafted A Letter to USC Marshall that outlines our demands to improve the ways in which it promotes diversity and inclusion. In doing so, we hope to improve the environment of the school in which we operate, creating a trickle-down effect that catalyzes progress in every recognized student organization on campus.



The State of USC

This project was the result of myriad brainstorming sessions to identify how we – as consultants – could contribute our skillsets to be involved in making USC a more equitable and inclusive place. This project involved researching the current measures that USC is taking to ensure its social impact and formulating recommendations based on key vulnerabilities we may find.



Audience

We designed this project to cater to members of the USC administration with the ability to implement our recommendations. This may include Carol Folt, the Provost, the Marshall Deans, or even Representatives in Undergraduate Student Government (USG).


Four major research areas:

  1. Sustainability

  2. Community Outreach

  3. Student Health

  4. COVID-19 & the Equality Movement



A deeper dive into each of our research areas


SUSTAINABILITY

Climate change is one of the defining issues of our generation, and it’s crucial that we all

reevaluate our carbon footprint in an effort to curb its impending impact. USC is a large

institution with 48,000 students and its initiatives towards a more sustainable future will

contribute meaningfully towards the larger low-carbon movement.


USC has taken steps in creating a more sustainable campus since 2015, when it created the

Sustainability 2020 Plan. Since then, it has had many ongoing initiatives, such as reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 33% over 5 years, eliminating 95% of single-use, personal

consumption items in dining halls, and installing 130 electric vehicle charging stations. USC is currently creating its Sustainability 2028 Plan with students, faculty, staff, and senior

administrators to help guide and drive future green measures.


Guiding Questions:

  1. What is USC’s progress towards being more sustainable, and what are its future plans in this realm?

  2. How can USC go beyond its Sustainability 2020 Plan and other ongoing initiatives to create and sustain a truly environmentally friendly campus? This means not only lowering emissions, but being climate positive and also actively contributing to creating clean energy and other measures. For example, this is the difference between being carbon neutral and carbon zero, and can include programs such using energy from on-campus solar panels.

  3. How can USC engage and inspire its students, faculty, and staff to lower their personal carbon footprint, both on and off campus? If time allows, how can USC do the same for its local LA community and other colleges?



COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Now more than ever local business and local community partners need our help. Both

financially and emotionally, USC is an institution that must use its power as a leaning body to

benefit its surrounding community.


As of now, USC prides itself heavily on its place in the community. USC supports local

businesses through their Bridges to Business Program. USC supports local schools through the Joint Educational Project. But, with respect to time, has USC’s role as a community leader stagnated? Has USC fallen into the trap of complacency?


Guiding Questions:

  1. What new developments within the past school year has USC implemented to address the financial and emotional needs of its community partners?

  2. For USC’s long standing programs, have they continued to improve and expand upon their services to address the rapidly changing demands of our community?

  3. How does USC benchmark with other universities' interactions with their communities?



STUDENT HEALTH

Given the economic diversity of the student body, and especially in the midst of the current

crisis, USC’s ability to deal with student health concerns is critical to ensuring that the quality of education can remain relatively consistent.


Over the years, USC has been aiming to provide more mental health related support to

students, and provides a student health insurance plan that covers 90% of healthcare costs

from expenses such as medication and ER visits at USC facilities and 80% from other Aetna

healthcare providers. As a result of COVID-19, USC has been implementing Telehealth

initiatives to increase the accessibility of student health. However, how effective has this

transition to offering medical care to students online been?


Guiding Questions:

  1. How have the new Telehealth offerings impacted the student healthcare system and what will this system look like in the coming semesters?

  2. What strategies has USC implemented to improve healthcare accessibility for the student body and how have they been adapting to an increasingly diverse group of students?

  3. How does USC’s student health system compare to those of other comparable universities and what can the school take away from these other institutions?



COVID-19 & THE EQUALITY MOVEMENT

While USC will continue to experience whirlwinds of systemic and omnipresent issues, the

chaotic fluidity embedded in planetary phenomena demands social impact consultants to

readily adapt and respond to existential crises. Today, the globe struggles to surgically dissect the virulence of COVID-19 and mourns the unethical and incalculable mortalities related to histories of racial inequity and hyper-militarized police brutality. With pandemic death rates skyrocketing and racial divides aggravating, well-equipped consultants that possess intellectual fortitude, communicative delivery, and genuine empathy are vital to resolve humanity’s current struggles.


While we will continue to reevaluate USC’s commitments to sustainability, community

outreach, and student health, we believe that a section dedicated to exploring the evolving

impacts of devastating current events is paramount to providing a holistic annual

representation of USC.


Guiding Questions:

  1. How can consultants begin to stitch the tearing social fabric that COVID-19 has created?

  2. How can students engage in intellectual dialogue and grassroots organization to challenge white supremacy and spark meaningful racial progress?

  3. Which future issues will confront humanity in unexpected ways, and how can the next generation better prepare for these existential crises?




Closing Thoughts

We're really looking forward to this new semester. Although it will be virtual, we are committed to making consultants' experiences as fulfilling and interactive as possible. Looking to the future, we commit ourselves to ensuring that the equality movements that have gained traction this summer do not just fizzle out. We want to constantly examine our chapter and make decisions to improve the environment we've created through this lens of racial equality.



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