The University of Southern California is constantly trying to improve the academic horizon for its students by setting goals for the future and having a plan about how to achieve those goals. The 2004 strategic plan for "increasing academic excellence" at the university consists of three elements. First, we want to "conduct a range of research and scholarship that advances knowledge and at the same time addresses issues critical to our community, the nation, and the world." Second, we wish to "create a significant global presence that will increase international visibility, reach, and impact of our research, scholarship, art, education, and service." Finally, it is important for us to "focus our educational programs on meeting the needs of qualified students worldwide, from undergraduates through continuing professional development."
Through these objectives, USC aims to be "one of the most influential and productive research universities in the world." In order to achieve this goal, four "strategic capabilities" to focus on in the present have been suggested, which serve to facilitate the evolution of the university as it changes for the future. First, since society's problems do not fall within one domain of learning, we wish to "span disciplinary and school boundaries to focus on problems of societal significance." Second, we desire to "link fundamental to applied research," so as to make research and implementation more effective in practice. Third, we should "build networks and partnerships" all around the globe, because it is impossible for USC to have all of the answers all of the time. Fourth, we want to "increase responsiveness to learners," so as to better serve the students and their interests. By following these four capabilities, USC will be better able to accomplish its plan for the future.
My field of desired study, sports psychology, is one that is not explicitly represented at USC; therefore, I wish to lobby for the adding of a sports psychology major or minor for undergraduates, a masters or doctorate program for graduates, or at least the offering of sports psychology classes under the "psychology major" umbrella. Some people may say that a Bachelor of Arts in sports psychology may be too specific a field for an undergraduate degree, or that once a person completes their BA in psychology, they are more than welcome to attend graduate school for sports psychology. However, I believe that a BA in sports psychology is no more occupation-specific than a BA in accounting, or a BA in international relations. It is only those who do not know the expanse of the world of psychology, and the different areas of study within it, who argue that a Bachelor's Degree in the general area of psychology is sufficient.
Adding a sports psychology major at USC would address all four strategic capabilities for the university's plan for the future. First, sports psychology does not just involve the department of psychology, but it also reaches out to the Kinesiology department and Physical Education program, which satisfies the inter-disciplinary capability. Adding the sports psychology major would also attend to the second capability, because the research done about athletes could be used in either undergraduate or graduate classes to conduct experiments on the athletes (both intramural and school-sponsored) at USC. Since sports psychology is becoming an increasingly popular area of study, programs are now developing all over the world at various prestigious academic institutions, such as the University of Limerick in Ireland, where they offer a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Sciences Honours Degree. What is more, esteemed organizations such as the United States Olympic Committee use sports psychologists to train their athletes. Collaborating with other universities who also boast a program while having a partnership with a respected organization like the USOC would not only expand our partnerships in the world, but also elevate the university to a higher level of prestige in the eyes of the public.
More importantly, however, creating a sports psychology major would serve USC's student interest in a very direct form. According to the USC Recreational Sports website, "over 1155 Undergrad students participate in club sports along with 250 Graduate and 45 Alumni/Faculty," while about 566 students compete in university-sponsored sports. This means that over 10% of the entire undergraduate population at USC participates in sports at school, and probably an even greater number are interested in sports in general, since not everyone who likes to play sports enrolls in a club. What is more, thousands of USC students attend football games every year, signifying their interest in sports and football in particular. This great surge of interest in athletics shows the need for an academic response: USC is such an athletic school, and yet no academic possibilities besides kinesiology have been offered in reply to accommodate this great fascination. If a sports psychology major were introduced, I believe the student response would be overwhelming, and that a great many students (and especially student-athletes) would take great interest in the opportunity.
A sports psychology program will not only satisfy the short-term capabilities that the university desires to achieve, but will also put USC one step closer to attaining its long term goal of becoming a more diverse and well-rounded institution. I believe that by adding a BA in sports psychology, the university will be a more worldly and attractive place for potential students, and will be better able to serve the learning interests of the masses.