Discover USC: 15 Fun Facts About University of Southern California

Updated on December 1, 2023
University of Southern California fun facts

Established in 1880, the University of Southern California (USC) has a rich history intertwined with the growth of Los Angeles. From its modest beginnings with just 53 students, USC now boasts a community of over 44,000.

Known for its significant contributions to the Olympics and Hollywood, USC has shaped not just academic excellence but also cultural and athletic milestones globally.

Exploring these fun facts about the University of Southern California will further illuminate the diverse and dynamic legacy of this esteemed institution.

1. USC’s Origins: A Humble Start in 1880

USC opened its doors on October 6, 1880, with a mere 53 students and 10 faculty members. Founded by Judge Robert Maclay Widney, USC was established during a time when Los Angeles was a small town of approximately 11,000 people.

This marked the beginning of higher education in Southern California, paving the way for Los Angeles’ transformation into a major metropolis.

USC’s first building

USC’s first building. Image:

2. The Trojan Mascot: More Than Just a Symbol

In 1912, USC adopted the Trojan as its mascot, a decision made by Los Angeles Times sports editor Owen Bird. The choice was inspired by the ancient Trojans, who were known for their bravery and determination against overwhelming odds.

The iconic Tommy Trojan statue, erected in 1930, has since become a symbol of USC’s enduring spirit and commitment to excellence.

Tommy Trojan statue


3. USC’s Cinematic Impact: A Hollywood Haven

The USC School of Cinematic Arts, established in 1929, is the oldest film school in the United States. Its alumni, including George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis, have collectively won over 500 Academy Awards and Emmy Awards.

This school’s relationship with Hollywood has been pivotal in shaping the global film industry, with USC recognized as a leader in cinematic education and innovation.

USC School of Cinematic Arts facilities


4. USC’s Olympic Legacy: A Medal-Winning Tradition

USC athletes have been a dominant force in the Olympics, having won 309 medals as of 2023, including 153 golds. This impressive tally would rank USC 16th in the world if it were a country, surpassing many nations.

The university’s contribution to Olympic success highlights its emphasis on athletic prowess and global sports leadership.

USC Olympians and their medals


5. The Historic Doheny Library: A Treasure Trove of Knowledge

The Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library, opened in 1932, stands as a centerpiece of USC’s intellectual life. It houses over 4 million volumes and a vast collection of rare books and manuscripts. The building, a blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles, was named in honor of oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny Jr.

This library is not just a repository of books but a symbol of USC’s dedication to preserving history and fostering academic exploration.

Doheny Library

Image: Kaplan Chen Kaplan

6. USC’s Marching Band: Renowned Performers with a Unique Twist

The USC Trojan Marching Band, known as “The Spirit of Troy,” has a reputation that extends beyond the college football field. Established in 1918, this band is famous for its high-energy performances and has appeared in numerous movies, TV shows, and even the Olympics.

They are known for their signature sunglasses and innovative musical arrangements, embodying the vibrant spirit of USC and Los Angeles.

The USC Marching Band

Image: Wikimedia Commons

7. Innovative Research: USC’s Pioneering Achievements

USC is a hub for groundbreaking research, with significant advancements in diverse fields like medicine, engineering, and the arts. The university spends over $700 million annually on research and owns numerous patents. Notable achievements include the development of the Domain Name System (DNS) and pioneering work in earthquake research.

These contributions underscore USC’s role as a leader in innovation and scientific discovery.

USC researchers at work


8. USC’s Alumni Network: A Roster of Notable Names

USC’s alumni network is a testament to the university’s impact. This network includes leaders in various fields, such as astronaut Neil Armstrong, filmmaker George Lucas, and business magnate Elon Musk.

USC alumni have made significant contributions in their respective domains, cementing the university’s reputation as a breeding ground for talent and leadership.

Famous USC alumni

Forest Steven Whitaker, class of 1982. Image:

9. The Spirit of Volunteerism: USC’s Community Impact

USC is deeply committed to community service, with students and staff contributing thousands of volunteer hours annually. Programs like the Joint Educational Project allow students to engage in service-learning, benefiting local schools and communities.

This spirit of volunteerism reflects USC’s dedication to making a positive impact in the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond.

USC students engaging in community service projects


10. USC’s Global Influence: A Hub for International Students

USC is a global academic hub, attracting students from over 135 countries, making it one of the most international universities in the United States. As of 2023, nearly 23% of USC’s student body consisted of international students. This diversity enriches the educational experience, fostering a global perspective among the Trojan community.

USC’s commitment to international inclusivity is evident in its numerous study abroad programs, global research partnerships, and international alumni chapters.

International students at a USC campus event


11. Unique Courses at USC: Learning Beyond the Ordinary

USC offers an array of unique and innovative courses that push the boundaries of traditional education. Examples include “The Science of Superheroes,” exploring the physics behind superhero powers, and “Learning from YouTube,” which examines the impact of digital media.

These courses, blending academic rigor with contemporary relevance, demonstrate USC’s commitment to pioneering new ways of learning.

Unique Courses at USC


12. USC’s Campus Architecture: A Blend of History and Modernity

USC’s campus architecture is a harmonious blend of historical and modern designs. Landmarks like the Romanesque-style Doheny Library contrast with contemporary structures like the cutting-edge Fertitta Hall.

The campus’s architectural diversity mirrors the university’s evolution over the years, embodying a respect for tradition alongside a drive for innovation.

USC architecture


13. Sustainability Initiatives: USC’s Green Commitment

USC is committed to sustainability, with initiatives like the “Zero Waste” program and solar panel installations. The university aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. Its comprehensive sustainability plan focuses on reducing waste, conserving energy, and promoting sustainable transportation.

These efforts reflect USC’s dedication to environmental stewardship and its role in addressing global environmental challenges.

Green initiatives on USC


14. USC’s Athletic Achievements: Beyond Football

While USC is renowned for its football legacy, its athletic prowess extends to numerous other sports. USC athletes have excelled in sports like track and field, swimming, and water polo, contributing to the university’s impressive tally of 131 NCAA team championships.

This diverse athletic success highlights USC’s comprehensive sports program and its commitment to excellence in all arenas.

USC athletes competing


15. Cultural Festivals and Events: USC’s Diverse Celebrations

USC’s calendar is rich with cultural festivals and events, celebrating the diversity of its community. Events like the annual International Food Fair and the Festival of Books bring together students, faculty, and the local community to share in a variety of cultural experiences.

These festivals highlight USC’s role as a cultural hub and its dedication to fostering inclusivity and understanding among its diverse population.

Festival of Books: USC



What major is the University of Southern California known for?

The University of Southern California (USC) is renowned for several majors, but it’s particularly famous for its programs in Film and Television through the School of Cinematic Arts. This school has a prestigious reputation, having produced many successful filmmakers, screenwriters, and industry leaders. Other prominent majors at USC include Business, particularly through the Marshall School of Business, Engineering, and Communications. These programs are known for their rigorous curriculum, distinguished faculty, and strong industry connections.

Is University of Southern California worth the money?

Determining whether the University of Southern California is worth the money depends on individual circumstances and career goals. USC is known for its high-quality education, extensive alumni network, and strong connections to industries, especially in film, business, and engineering. However, it is also one of the more expensive universities in the United States. Prospective students should consider factors like the unique opportunities USC offers, the potential return on investment in their chosen field, and financial aid options when deciding if USC is the right financial decision for them.

What is University of Southern California ranked in the world?

The University of Southern California held a high ranking among global universities. It is often ranked within the top 100 universities in the world in various global university rankings. Specific rankings can vary by year and by the criteria of the ranking organization, but USC is generally recognized for its academic excellence, research output, and the quality of its programs, particularly in areas such as film, business, and engineering.

Is a degree from University of California Southern respected?

A degree from the University of Southern California is highly respected, both nationally and internationally. USC is known for its rigorous academic standards, innovative research, and strong industry connections, especially in fields like film and television, business, and engineering. Graduates from USC are often highly sought after by employers, and the university’s extensive alumni network provides valuable connections and opportunities in various professional fields. The respect for a USC degree is reflected in the university’s consistent high rankings and the success of its alumni.

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