The fall 2018 practicum “SDGs in LA: Sustainable Solutions to Los Angeles’s Wicked Problems” invites select USC students to address the human and social aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Launched by the United Nations, the SDGs are the guiding development framework of our time. This USC Wicked Problems Practicum, supported by the Office of the Provost, provides invaluable experience to explore these issues from the community to the global policy level.

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Focusing on health, inequality and sustainable cities, students will:

  • act as “consultants” to LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, the United Nations and community stakeholders to assist the city’s SDG plan.
  • work with United Nations partners.
  • explore career options and build professional relationships.
  • gain skills and work experience in community engagement, research, data visualization, communication strategies, public speaking and networking.
  • learn to engage in collaborations across disciplines.
  • participate in a city-wide culminating SDG event at USC, involving political leaders, experts, celebrities, activists and students.

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SDGs in LA: Sustainable Solutions to Los Angeles’s Wicked Problems



What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

In 2016, world leaders at the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to support all levels of government in all regions of the globe to eliminate some of the world’s most wicked problems. The SDGs, the guiding development framework of our time, aim to end poverty and inequality and mitigate climate change, while supporting prosperity and enabling equitable global growth by 2030. The SDGs provide goals, targets and indicators to address the social, political, economic, environmental, cultural and health systems challenges around the world. World leaders, from mayors to presidents, must prioritize actions on national and sub-national levels. With specific indicators outlined for each of the 17 goals, the SDGs require local engagement and tailored implementation.

Who facilitates the practicum?

  • Sofia Gruskin, JD, MIA | Director, USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health; Professor of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC; Professor of Law, Gould School of Law
  • Laura Ferguson, PhD, SM, MA | Director, USC Program on Global Health & Human Rights; Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Darren Ruddell, PhD, MSAssociate Professor (Teaching) of Spatial Sciences, Spatial Sciences Institute, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Doe Mayer, MAMary Pickford Professor Of Film And Television Production, Annenberg School Of Communication & Journalism; School of Cinematic Arts

When is the deadline to apply?

The deadline to apply (see application form below) is July 17. Student selection will be complete by Aug. 6. (USC’s deadline to register for the fall 2018 semester is Aug. 17.)

Who is eligible to apply and enroll?

Up to 18 graduate and undergraduate students—from on-campus USC degree programs—who are eligible to enroll in independent study and/or directed research are permitted to register. We are looking for students to contribute from across schools and in a wide variety of domains including photography, digital shorts, policy translation to diverse communities, policy briefs, legal and programmatic research, community health, and data analysis and visualization. Contact for any queries.

How many credits is this practicum?

This practicum is flexible. Units may vary depending on students’ needs and degree programs, and can continue into the spring.

When will this practicum meet?

Students will meet on some Wednesdays at USC University Park Campus, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Most work will be conducted off-site, including at LA City Hall. Students must be available December 9 – 10, 2018 for a culminating event.

What is the format of this practicum?

Prior to the beginning of the semester, coursework will be clearly defined in dialogue with community partners, the United Nations and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office. Coursework may vary across academic units. Individual research plans will be developed at the beginning of the semester with students to outline the requirements, units, timeline and deliverables for each student. In the fall, students will primarily be working with the mayor’s office in preparation for the Dec. 9-10 events. Students have the option to complete some course requirements in the spring. Students may be expected to work individually or in small teams.

What will the practicum entail?

Components of the course may include:

  • SDG and Human Rights Research Training Workshop:  Organized by faculty with input from the mayor’s office and the UN, students may be trained in SDG data sources, analysis and community-based interview methods, including human subjects training. The workshop may occur early in the fall semester to introduce the mayor’s office remit and scope of work to the students and build necessary research skills for implementation.
  • USC SDG Resolution: Students may participate in drafting a resolution to be presented to the USC Academic Senate regarding holistic SDG implementation at USC and the naming of USC as an SDG university.
  • Community-Based Research: Students may conduct field interviews and synthesize findings from their desk reviews and field interviews with community stakeholders into needs assessment reports for the mayor’s office. The reports will detail gaps in SDG indicator data and challenges on the ground. 
  • Tip Sheets: Students may develop one-page tip sheets for community stakeholders. The tip sheets will describe relevant SDGs, including targets and goals, as well as synthesize research findings and describe how the stakeholder efforts contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.
  • Final Project: Students will have flexibility in choosing their final projects to enable the most appropriate strategy for their educational and professional goals. Individual final projects and recommendations will be developed with guidance from faculty to help address needs or gaps identified through research.
  • Culminating Event:  Students will be involved in a two-day event taking place December 9 and 10, 2018. This global summit at USC will bring together local and international political leaders, experts, celebrities, activists, students and the public to set a course for human rights in the context of the SDGs.

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This application has now closed.


If you have questions or need clarification, please contact