The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences enriches student experiential learning opportunities across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. At the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, Natalie Kra and Jacqueline Hernandez (at right) help build a closed ecosystem approach to food production that combines fish rearing with plant cultivation. 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 over 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students and nearly 900 faculty. The breadth and depth of USC Dornsife is vast with more than 40 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 approximately 50 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 and Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair
Peter C. Mancall, PhD, Divisional Dean for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Stephen Bradforth, PhD, Divisional Dean for Natural Sciences
Steven Lamy, PhD, Vice Dean for Academic Programs
Donal Manahan, PhD, Vice Dean for Students
Jane M. Cody, PhD, Associate Dean for Academic Programs
James R. McElwain, AIA, Architect
Richard Fliegel, PhD, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs
Mary Ho, Assistant Vice Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives
Vance Ito, Chief Finance Officer and Associate Dean
Stephen Mackey, Vice Dean for Administration and Finance
Karen Rowan-Badger, Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Services
Eddie Sartin, Senior Associate Dean for Advancement
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 .
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 and the skills learned prepare students for any career they choose.
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 USC Dornsife 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.
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, offer a physical sciences major in the natural sciences and mathematics. The major requires specific lower-division courses in chemistry, earth sciences, mathematics, physics. In addition, students must take 28 upper-division units that apply to the major from one of 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)
The college has a number of special programs, many of which offer majors. A program major consists of designated courses, which include not less than 24 upper-division units chosen from the list of courses which make up the program.
Programs are often organized either around the study of a region or a topic that is not specific to any single discipline, or around two or more disciplines that have joined together to deal with a common problem or issue. Program majors are interdisciplinary and offer unusual range to students who have topical interests. Specific requirements for all program majors are listed under the program titles.
A dual degree is one that includes course work from two schools or two different degree programs within the same school that have been organized into a single program. Listings of graduate dual degrees can be found under Programs, Minors and Certificates . 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 requirement of a specific 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 here.
Second Bachelor’s Degree
A second bachelor’s degree requires a minimum of 32 units beyond the number required for the first bachelor’s degree. If the first bachelor’s degree was earned at USC, a minimum of 32 units for the second degree must be completed at USC. If the first bachelor’s degree was earned at another institution, a minimum of 64 units toward the second degree 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 it is not required.
Substitution for Major Requirements
If a student wishes to make 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 are to be limited to 25 percent. Lower-division courses cannot be substituted for upper-division requirements.
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.
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. They may also combine with internships or classes 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 USC Dornsife, 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 USC Dornsife.
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 their 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
USC Dornsife Advising Office
Grace Ford Salvatori 315
FAX: (213) 740-3664
- Environmental Science and Health
- Environmental Studies
- Forensics and Criminality (minor)
- Health and Human Sciences
- Health and Humanity
- NGO’s and Social Change
- Philosophy, Politics, and Law
Kaprielian Hall 357
- American Studies
- Art History
- Central European Studies
- Comparative Literature
- Contemporary Latino and Latin American Studies
- East Asian Languages and Cultures
- Global Studies
- Middle East Studies
Hancock Foundation Building 107
- Biological Sciences
- Human Biology
USC Dornsife 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 advisors work closely with students to help them integrate into the academic life of USC Dornsife and provide curricular guidance so students can graduate in a timely manner.
Academic advising is mandatory for all students entering USC Dornsife until they have completed 32 units. All students in USC Dornsife 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 by appointment or on a walk-in basis.
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 advisors in the Dornsife College Advising Office who specialize in this area. Pre-law students are supported in all aspects of the law school application process, including writing an effective personal statement and requesting appropriate letters of recommendation.
Pre-law advisors also help students target appropriate law schools and inform students about pre-law and law-related events and student organizations. Pre-law students are also invited to subscribe to an email listserv sponsored by the Dornsife College Advising Office to stay connected with pre-law resources and information
Advising for Graduate School Programs
The pre-graduate school advisors assist USC undergraduates and alumni interested in applying to all graduate programs other than law and medicine. The advisors help students determine when and if they should apply to graduate school and guide students in the process of researching and choosing appropriate schools and programs. Students receive support in navigating the admission process, writing statements of purpose, requesting letters of recommendation, exploring test preparation resources and identifying and pursuing sources of funding.
Off-Campus Programs and Studying Abroad
Office of Overseas Studies
Mark Taper Hall of Humanities 341
FAX: (213) 740-2265
The Office of Overseas Studies provides opportunities for students to study abroad for a semester or a year. Eligible students can choose among 55 academic programs in 29 countries. The 8-week summer Pembroke-King’s Programme at Cambridge University is also offered through this office. Financial aid and scholarships may be applied to the cost of semester and year programs.
USC Dornsife Academic Programs
Grace Ford Salvatori 320
USC Dornsife also offers short-term academic programs in several different formats in the United States and abroad. Unique programmatic opportunities, such as Problems without Passports and Maymester courses, extend undergraduate learning outside the walls of the university to just about anywhere in the world. Students will gain research experience, participate in problem-based learning courses, study in a foreign country, and add a unique boost to future resumes.
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
Hedco Neurosciences Building 120
FAX: (213) 740-5653
The Office of Pre-Health Advisement serves 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 advisors 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 promotes 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 writing an effective personal statement and requesting appropriate letters of recommendation. The office also offers pre-health curriculum planning; assistance with major and minor selection; and workshops, events and opportunities for clinical, research and volunteer activities. The office encourages involvement in the campus community and pre-health student organizations.