Dec 02, 2023  
USC Catalogue 2016-2017 
USC Catalogue 2016-2017 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences




The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences enriches the student experience with discovery-based learning opportunities, such as research partnerships with faculty members across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Working in the laboratory of Dean’s Professor of Biological Sciences Peter Kuhn, undergraduate Sophie Wix analyzes blood samples from cancer patients in an attempt to find new ways to treat the disease. Photo by Mira Zimet.


The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the academic heart of the University of Southern California. The oldest, largest and most diverse of USC’s academic divisions, USC Dornsife is composed of approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and nearly 800 faculty. The breadth and depth of USC Dornsife is vast with more than 30 academic departments and programs across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, and dozens of research centers and institutes.

USC Dornsife fosters the liberal arts ethos of small classes and close working relationships between students and faculty within the context of a great research university, where internationally recognized scholars are constantly pursuing new ventures. Undergraduates select from more than 150 courses of study as well as explore opportunities such as overseas studies, service-learning and internships. With more than 75 doctoral degree and master’s programs administered through the USC Graduate School, USC Dornsife not only trains the next generation of scholars, but also ensures that America’s research enterprise remains competitive.

By immersing its students in deep scholarship and discovery-based learning opportunities, USC Dornsife prepares its graduates to become tomorrow’s leaders, prepared to succeed in any field or advanced degree program.


Amber Miller, PhD, Dean

Steven Lamy, PhD, Vice Dean for Academic Programs

George Sanchez, PhD, Vice Dean for College Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

Donal Manahan, PhD, Vice Dean for Students

Charles McKenna, PhD, Vice Dean for Natural Sciences

Peter C. Mancall, PhD, Vice Dean for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Emily Cavalcanti, Executive Director for the Office of Communication

Eddie Sartin, Senior Associate Dean for Advancement

Stephen Mackey, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Associate Dean

Kathleen Speer, Senior Associate Dean

Vance Ito, Chief Finance Officer and Associate Dean

Jane M. Cody, PhD, Associate Dean for Academic Programs

Richard Fliegel, PhD, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs

Erin Quinn, PhD, Associate Dean for Science and Health

Mary Ho, Assistant Vice Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

Karen Rowan-Badger, Assistant Dean for Admission

James R. McElwain, AIA, Architect

Graduate Studies in Letters, Arts and Sciences

Graduate studies leading to the master’s and PhD degrees are available within most departments of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Candidates for graduate degrees must complete both the departmental requirements listed for each degree and the general requirements set by The Graduate School .

Undergraduate Programs

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences awards the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS) in a number of disciplines. Each degree requires a minimum of 128 units.


Students in the college may major in a single discipline or combine several interests in an interdisciplinary program.

Selecting a Major

A major may be chosen because the student is especially interested in a subject, because of particular abilities in certain areas, or because it is an especially fitting preparation for a profession. The choice of a major may thus become part of planning for a career. But a choice in the college does not limit the student to a single career or line of work. Liberal arts majors are unusually adaptable; they are suitable preparations for many careers.

A student may declare a major at any time, but is expected to record his or her major in the Office of Academic Records and Registrar at or before the beginning of the junior year or completion of 64 units. This allows sufficient time to fulfill the course requirements of the major in the student’s third and fourth years. For some majors, however, and especially for a major in one of the natural sciences aiming for the BS degree, it is advantageous to declare the major sooner, so the program can be spaced over the full four years.

Changing a Major

If, after a major has been declared, the student wishes to change to a different field (or add another field of study to the existing one), a Change of Major form must be filed. The form may be obtained in the Dornsife College Advising Office or the Office of Academic Records and Registrar in John Hubbard Hall. The form must be completed and returned to the Office of Academic Records and Registrar. When a major is changed, the new department adviser must sign the form.

Types of Majors and Major Requirements

Departmental Major (BA or BS Degree)

A departmental major for the BA degree consists of specified lower-division courses and, generally, not less than 24 or more than 32 upper-division units in a single department or discipline. A greater concentration of units in a single discipline is usually required in majors for the BS degree than in majors for the BA degree.

The specific requirements for each department major will be found in the departmental sections of this catalogue.

Double Major (BA/BA or BS/BS)

A double major consists of two majors that allow the student to earn the same degree, either a BA or BS degree, within the college. The student must complete the requirements for both majors and whatever other course work is needed to complete 128 units. Combinations of interdepartmental and department majors are also possible. See the Undergraduate Degree Programs   page for rules governing the overlap of courses allowed for a double major.

Interdepartmental Majors
Humanities or Social Sciences Major (BA Degree)

A humanities or social sciences major consists of not less than 32 upper-division units within departments in the humanities or departments in the social sciences. Of the 32 required upper-division units for the interdepartmental major, 20 are typically taken in one department, and the additional 12 units are taken from applicable courses in the area in which the department of concentration is housed. See the departmental listing for more specific requirements for the interdepartmental major, including lower-division requirements.

Physical Sciences Major (BS Degree)

The departments of chemistry, earth sciences, and physics and astronomy, cooperating with one another, offer a physical sciences major in the natural sciences and mathematics. The major requires specific lower-division courses in chemistry, earth sciences, mathematics, physics and 28 upper-division units of major courses in the four departments. Of the 28 required upper-division units, at least four units must be taken in each of the four cooperating departments.

Program Major (BA or BS Degree)

A program major consists of designated courses and not less than 24 upper-division units chosen from the list of courses which make up the program. The college has a number of special programs, many of which offer majors.

Because programs are often organized around the study of a region or a topic, and hence are not specific to any single discipline, or because two or more disciplines have joined to deal with a common problem, program majors are interdisciplinary. An interdisciplinary major offers unusual range to students who have topical interests. Specific requirements for all program majors are listed under the program titles.

Dual Degree

A dual degree is one that has course work from two schools or two different degree programs within the same school which has been organized into a single program. Listings of graduate dual degrees can be found here. The student receives two diplomas.

Progressive Degree Program

A progressive degree program enables a USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences undergraduate to begin work on a master’s degree while completing requirements for the bachelor’s degree. The progressive degree may be in the same or different departments, but should be in a closely-related field of study. Students in a progressive degree program must fulfill all requirements for both the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree except for the combined number of units for the two separate degrees. The master’s degree may be awarded at the same time as, but not prior to, the bachelor’s degree. The student receives two diplomas. Further details about progressive degrees can be found on here.

Second Bachelor’s Degree

A second bachelor’s degree requires a minimum of 32 units beyond the number required for the first. If the first bachelor’s degree was earned at USC, a minimum of 32 units for the second must be completed at USC. If the first bachelor’s degree was earned at another institution, a minimum of 64 units toward the second must be completed at USC. (See the policy on residence requirement for a second bachelor’s degree.)

For some degrees, more than the 32 units beyond the first bachelor’s degree will be required because all requirements for both degrees must be met. The student receives a separate diploma for each degree upon completion.

The first and second bachelor’s degrees may be completed at the same time but there is no requirement that they be.

Substitution for Major Requirements

If a student wishes an adjustment to the major requirements in his or her department or program, the department adviser may, with the support of the department, substitute a comparable upper-division course for a required one. Substitutions and waivers of USC or transfer courses for upper-division requirements for programs are to be limited to a combination of 25 percent. Lower-division courses cannot be substituted for upper- division requirements.

Unit Limitation

No more than 40 upper-division units in the major may be applied to any degree under the jurisdiction of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. A student wishing to exceed this limit must obtain the - approval of the major department and the dean of undergraduate programs.


The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences offers a wide array of minors that can provide unique breadth and complement or enhance the major field of study. Many of the college minors themselves are interdisciplinary and combine classes in two or more college departments or work in college departments with classes or internships in one of USC’s professional schools.

Basic Requirement for a Degree from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

For those undergraduate students earning a degree in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, a minimum of 104 units applicable to the degree must be earned in college academic departments. For students graduating with a minor or a second bachelor’s degree, this minimum is reduced to 96 units. Other exceptions will be considered by the dean of undergraduate programs in Dornsife College.

Students who are completing major degree programs in a professional school, but whose degree is conferred by Dornsife College, are exempt from this policy.

This policy also applies to transferable courses (see Course Work Taken Elsewhere ).

Units Required Each Semester

The student is expected to complete about 16 units each semester; 18 units are generally considered to be the maximum number in a manageable program. If the student wants to enroll in more than 18 units, he or she may do so, but should consult first with the academic adviser.

Grade Point Average Requirement

A grade point average of at least C (2.0) on all units attempted at USC is required for undergraduate degrees. The college requires a minimum 2.0 grade point average in upper-division courses applied toward the major. Some departments require grades of C or higher in specified courses. A grade point average of at least B (3.0) on all units attempted at USC is required for master’s degrees. A grade point average of at least B (3.0) on all units attempted at USC is required for doctoral degrees.

Advising and Academic Services

Dornsife College Advising Office
College Academic Services Building,
Room 120
(213) 740-2534
FAX: (213) 740-3664

The Dornsife College Advising Office provides a wide range of advising services and programs that integrate students, faculty, staff, academic disciplines and curricula into a meaningful educational experience. Academic advisers work closely with students to help familiarize them with the academic life of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, choose or change their majors and fulfill core requirements so they can graduate in a timely manner.

Academic advising is mandatory for all students entering the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences until they have completed 32 units at USC. Students without declared majors are required to receive academic advising every semester. All students in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences are strongly encouraged to seek individual academic advisement at least once each semester until graduation. Guidance regarding academic requirements, policies and program planning is available in the Dornsife College Advising Office by appointment or on a walk-in basis. Advising in major course requirements is available within the department of the student’s major.

The services of a college ombudsman are available to students who have academic concerns that cannot be adequately addressed by the usual mechanisms of consulting instructors, department chairs or other university offices. The ombudsman can be particularly helpful in the case of grade appeals that are complex in nature. The ombudsman functions as an intermediary between the student, the faculty and other offices on campus.

Advising for Pre-law Programs

Students who are interested in going to law school consult one-on-one with academic advisers in the of Dornsife College Advising Office who specialize in this area. Pre-law advisers assist students in crafting an undergraduate academic program designed to lead to law school admission and success. Pre-law students are supported in all aspects of the law school application process, including how to write an effective personal statement and how to request appropriate letters of recommendation.

Pre-law advisers also help students target the most appropriate law school, put students in contact with pre-law societies and notify students of relevant pre-law and law-related events. Pre-law students are also invited to subscribe to an email listserv sponsored by the Dornsife College Advising Office in order to connect with pre-law resources.

Pre-graduate School Advising

The pre-graduate school adviser assists USC undergraduates and alumni interested in applying to all graduate programs other than law and medicine. The adviser helps students determine when and if they should apply to graduate school and guides students in the process of researching and choosing appro priate schools and programs. Students can expect support in such areas as navigating the admissions process, writing statements of purpose, requesting letters of recommendation, exploring test preparation resources, and identifying and pursuing sources of funding.

Studying Abroad

The Office of Overseas Studies provides semester and year-long opportunities for students to study in other countries. Eligible students can choose between 51 academic programs in 29 countries and study for one or two semesters. The Office of Overseas Studies is located in the College House, Room 201. For more information, call (213) 740-3636, email or visit

Dornsife College also offers short-term course work abroad in several different formats. For more information, contact the associate dean at (213) 740-8555 or Overseas Studies at (213) 740-3636.

Washington D.C. Semester Program

The Washington, D.C. Semester Program provides a unique, semester-long opportunity for Dornsife students to study and work in the nation’s capital. The immersive program capitalizes on the D.C. experience. Courses are drawn from areas with direct policy relevance such as foreign policy, politics and the political process and economics. All students complete an internship with one of Washington’s many policy-focused organizations, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups, think tanks, consulting firms and congressional offices. The Dornsife D.C. program is open to students from all majors while maintaining a focus on practical policy, both domestic and international.

Office of Pre-Health Advisement

Office of Pre-Health Advisement
3641 Watt Way, HNB 120
(213) 740-4844
FAX: (213) 740-5653

Director: Kenneth Geller, MD, MSEd

The Office of Pre-Health Advisement serves all current USC students, alumni and post-baccalaureate students who are interested in pursuing a career within the health professions (e.g., medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, etc.). Pre-health advisers are committed to providing an array of student-centered advisement services and support tools tailored to meet the individual needs, interests and goals of pre-health students. The program values a sense of community; meaningful relationships with students, staff and faculty; academic excellence; leadership; wellness; and learning through community service, clinical exposure, laboratory research and campus organizations.

Pre-health students are supported in all aspects of the health professional school application process, including how to write an effective personal statement and how to request appropriate letters of recommendation. The office also offers pre-health curriculum planning; assistance with major and minor selection; workshops, events and opportunities for clinical, research and volunteer activities. The office encourages involvement in the campus community and pre-health student organizations.

Advanced and Professional Programs

3501 Trousdale Parkway
Taper Hall 355
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0355

The Office of Advanced and Professional Programs administers the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences multidisciplinary graduate programs not housed in traditional departments or units.

Master of Professional Writing

(213) 740-3252
FAX: (213) 740-5775

Director: Brighde Mullins, MFA

The program is designed for individuals pursuing writing as a career in fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, television writing and theatre. See here for course requirements.

Multimedia Scholarship

Honors in Multimedia Scholarship

This program offers qualified undergraduate students an opportunity to approach their discipline(s) of study through the critical application of multimedia expression and scholarship. The student experience will be characterized by smaller classes taught by leading faculty members and enriched by a program of lecture series, visiting scholars, symposia and conferences. For complete program requirements, see the USC School of Cinematic Arts  section.