Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Megan Lambert, left, a psychology and neuroscience double major, spent five weeks in Ghana studying barriers to female education — and cooking with the locals. She’s one of eight undergraduates who participated in USC Dornsife’s first Summer Research Fellowship to Ghana, organized by the nonprofit Blue Kitabu with the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund. The program supports USC Dornsife’s vision of enabling students to have a positive impact on the world.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences the academic heart of the University of Southern California, teaching more than 10,000 undergraduates. It offers instruction in the humanities, the natural sciences and the social sciences, leading to bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees. The programs of the college provide both a broad liberal arts education and a thorough grounding in an academic discipline. Breadth is supplied by the general education program and electives. Departmental majors, interdisciplinary majors, and special programs and minors provide depth.

USC Dornsife combines two “worlds” — the world of the self-contained liberal arts school, with small classes and close working relationships between students and faculty, and the larger world of the research university, where new ventures and new ideas are being explored by internationally known scholars. This combination makes the college a supportive and exciting place to learn.

USC Dornsife offers many opportunities for post-baccalaureate study. Graduate programs within the college leading to master’s degrees and doctor of philosophy degrees are administered through the USC Graduate School.


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

Roger D. Stewart, Ph.D., Executive Associate Dean for Administration and Finance

Dani Byrd, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Faculty

Stephan Haas, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research

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

Emily Cavalcanti, Executive Director for the Office of Communication

Richard Vargas, B.S., Senior Associate Dean for Advancement

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

Wayne Combs, M.B.A., Associate Dean for Advancement Operations

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

Susan H. Kamei, J.D., Associate Dean for Advanced and Professional Programs

Linda Lopez, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Diversity

Kathleen Speer, B.S., Associate Dean for Faculty and Research

Karen Rowan-Badger, B.S., Assistant Dean for Admission

James R. McElwain, A.I.A., College 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 Major
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 Institute

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 which 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 here 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 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.