Wanda Austin Becomes University Of Southern California’s First Woman And African American Interim President


August 29, 2018

Photo credit: USC Photo/Steve Cohn

Recently, the USC Board of Trustees appointed engineer and businesswoman Wanda Austin as interim president, making her the first woman and African American to lead the university. 

Austin, who is a University of Southern California alum, is the former president and CEO of The Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit organization that focuses on issues affecting the nation’s space program. In the organization’s 57-year history, Austin was the the first female and African American to serve in that role.


Up until January 2017, Austin worked on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology where she advised President Barack Obama on the role science, technology and innovation play in forming effective U.S. policies.

She’s served on the USC Board of Trustees since 2010, and was awarded earlier this year with the USC Presidential Medallion. She tells the school’s news site that she believes all of her career experiences thus far have given her a “very rich toolbox” that she can draw on for the things that need to be done at USC.

“I really want to stress that in my short time, however long it is, that one of the things we can do is make sure that we have a culture where people know that it’s OK to say, ‘I think we have an opportunity to make an improvement,'” says Austin.


By the end of her term as president, she says she hopes that she has inspired students to take full advantage of all the opportunities that USC has to offer and that she’s improved communication lines between alumni, students, staff and the community.  

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