Problems Without Passports SSCI 350

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Through SSCI 350: International GeoDesign, I traveled to Amsterdam to compare and contrast GeoDesign practices in the Netherlands with those in Los Angeles. While abroad, I gained knowledge on several topics including city planning, transportation, and public housing, and used this information to propose a solution to a challenge facing Los Angeles. More importantly, this course gave me an opportunity to study abroad for the first time and experience the benefits of learning in a different physical and cultural setting. Since taking the course, my desire to study abroad grew exponentially, and I plan to make cross-national comparisons in my future graduate studies. Most recently, I was awarded a Fulbright award to conduct sociological research in Brazil. Similar to my experience in Amsterdam, I aim to apply what I learn internationally to domestic issues in creative and thoughtful ways.
~ Alejandro Schugurensky, Spatial Studies Minor '18

Each summer, USC undergraduates have an unparalleled opportunity to experience and apply geodesign practice in a comparative international context in the Spatial Sciences Institute course SSCI 350: International GeoDesign.

Watch the video of the 2014 "GeoDesign Practice: The European Experience" in Amsterdam.

The 2019 SSCI 350 course was under the direction of USC Spatial Sciences Institute Professor Laura Loyola. Starting on May 28, 2019, students worked on the USC campus to develop core concepts of geodesign, urbanism, planning and policy, people and place, and geospatial technologies.

From June 8 – June 22, 2019 during the two-week field experience based at Vrije University Amsterdam, students created urban renewal projects in Amsterdam-Zuidoost (South East) and collaborate with Dutch students in a state-of-the-art geodesign lab in collaboration with Dutch geodesign practitioners and faculty from Vrije University Amsterdam and USC.

The USC students then returned to the USC campus to apply the Dutch design and policy principles to LA-area societal challenges of the students’ choices, and to present their capstone research project proposing a specific geodesign strategy for sites in Los Angeles County, concluding on June 28, 2019.

The practice of geodesign in the Netherlands is centuries old, and the Dutch, in particular, have long been leaders in designing land uses to maximum efficiency while minimizing adverse environmental impacts. The USC Spatial Sciences Institute has designed this course so that students can benefit from the Institute’s relationships with UNIGIS Amsterdam and other world-class practitioners in the Netherlands.

USC Dornsife has designated this course as one of its signature “Problems Without Passports” courses, which are distinctive in combining problem-based or inquiry learning research exercises with study in a foreign country.

The Spatial Sciences Institute’s Problem Without Passports trip to the Netherlands helped me understand the true meaning of GeoDesign, allowed me to apply my learning to a real-world problem, inspired me to make meaningful change, and gave me the tools to further direct my studies at USC. Through discussions with local governments, community members, and social housing corporations, we helped draft a second-iteration compromise plan for renewable energy in Amsterdam Noord. This process involved complex GIS analysis, as well as meetings with the Rotterdam sustainability office, community members, and local residents participating in sustainability rebates. We incorporated these perspectives into our plan, reinforcing the importance of stakeholder input in addressing spatial problems. In addition, the trip exposed us to the culture and values of the Netherlands through visits to many Dutch cities and towns. We learned about traditional Dutch food, history, art, and cultural figures through tours, museum visits, site visits, and individual exploration. This immersion in Dutch culture informed the GeoDesign process by helping us understand the values that drive stakeholder perspectives. Ultimately, the trip taught me the importance of understanding cultural, political, social, and spatial context. Through a partnership with the Vrije University, the trip provided me with an international professional network and a broader understanding of how countries address universal environmental and social challenges. I formed lasting bonds with other GeoDesign students and faculty, and gained inspiration for my studies upon returning to USC. The trip was one of my favorite experiences at USC and I would recommend it to anyone considering attending. Thanks, Spatial Sciences Institute! ~ Grace Corsi, B.S. GeoDesign '19

GeoDesign majors, as well as any USC undergraduate student in good standing with at least one USC Dornsife major, may apply for a research stipend of up to $3,000 under the USC Dornsife SURF Program to offset tuition costs of this SSCI 350 Problems Without Passports course. See for the application and other information.

Apply now for the 2020 SSCI 350 program. Space is limited. Please contact Dr. Loyola at for more information. #USC GeoDesign