SSCI 350: International Geodesign

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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.

In the summer of 2022, the course under the direction of USC Spatial Sciences Institute Professor Laura Loyola went to Salzburg, Austria, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its historic city center as well as the faculty of the Z_GIS Geoinformatics Department of the University of Salzburg.

During the two-week field experience from May 28 - June 11, 2022 in Salzburg, students created urban renewal project plans with a focus on increasing density and green space in Salzburg in collaboration with the community stakeholders and the interdisciplinary faculty of the Z_GIS (Geoinformatics Department).

Upon returning to Los Angeles, the students presented their capstone research project proposing geodesign strategies.

The USC Spatial Sciences Institute has designed this course so that students can benefit from the Institute’s relationships with UNIGIS Salzburg and other world-class practitioners throughout Europe.

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.

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

From 2014 - 2019, the SSCI 350: International Geodesign course has examined concepts of geodesign, urbanism, planning and policy, geospatial technologies, people and place in Amsterdam with Dutch geodesign practitioners and faculty and students from Vrije University Amsterdam.

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.

Applications for the 2023 SSCI 350 program will open in September 2022. Space is limited. Please contact Dr. Loyola at for more information. #USCGeoDesign