University of Southern California

Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences enriches the undergraduate experience with discovery-based learning opportunities, such as research partnerships with faculty members across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Students receive generous support through USC Dornsife’s Student Opportunities for Academic Research (SOAR) and Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) programs.

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.


Steve A. Kay, Ph.D., D.Sc., Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biological Sciences, Neurology, Physiology and Biophysics

Dani Byrd, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Institutional Affairs

Steven Lamy, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Academic Programs

George Sanchez, Ph.D., Vice Dean for College Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

Donal Manahan, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Students

Charles McKenna, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Natural Sciences

Peter C. Mancall, Ph.D., Vice Dean for the Humanities

Wendy Wood, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Social Sciences

Emily Cavalcanti, Executive Director for the Office of Communication

Neil Macready, Senior Associate Dean for Advancement

Ted Budge, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Associate Dean

Kathleen Speer, Senior Associate Dean

Jane M. Cody, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Academic Programs

Wayne Combs, Associate Dean for Advancement Operations

Richard Fliegel, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs

Erin Quinn, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Science and Health

Alexis Moreno, Ph.D., Assistant Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

Karen Rowan-Badger, Assistant Dean for Admission

James R. McElwain, A.I.A., Architect

Departments and Programs

American Studies and Ethnicity


Art History

Biological Sciences



Comparative Literature

Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture

Earth Sciences

East Asian Languages and Cultures

East Asian Studies Center



Environmental Studies

French and Italian

Gender Studies



Health and Humanity


Interdisciplinary Studies

International Relations

Judaic Studies


Liberal Studies



Middle East Studies

Narrative Studies


Ocean Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

Political Science

Professional Writing



Slavic Languages and Literatures


Spanish and Portuguese

Spatial Sciences

Additional Programs Administered by USC Dornsife

American Language Institute

Freshman Seminars

General Education

Joint Educational Project

Learner Centered Curricula

Overseas Studies

Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program

Resident Honors Program

Supplemental Instruction Program

Thematic Option Program

Writing Program

Graduate Studies in Letters, Arts and Sciences

Graduate studies leading to the ­master’s and Ph.D. 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 (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) 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 B.S. 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 (B.A. or B.S. Degree)

A departmental major for the B.A. 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 B.S. degree than in majors for the B.A. degree.

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

Double Major (B.A./B.A. or B.S./B.S.)

A double major consists of two majors that allow the student to earn the same degree, either a B.A. or B.S. 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 (B.A. 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 (B.S. 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 (B.A. or B.S. 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 here).

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.