Leonard Mitchell

Photo by: Ziva Santop/ Steve Cohn Photography
Photo by: Ziva Santop/ Steve Cohn Photography

USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

“My heroes have always been cowboys. And they still are, it seems. Sadly, in search of, but one step in back of, themselves and their slow-movin’ dreams.”— Willie Nelson, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

My heroes have always been my mom and dad and sometimes cowboys, especially the ones who rode into a town full of bad guys, cleaned up the town and returned it to the townspeople. I lived and witnessed a different type of kindness when it came to my mom and dad, both business people who seemed to have a mission of helping neighbors, friends, family and others. I grew up in and accepted this mission as my own because I loved mom and dad very much as they loved me; I wanted to work with them because this was what our family did, help as we could.

I came to the University of Southern California in 1994 about the same time as a colleague of mine was being installed as the dean of the planning school. This has led to nearly 19 years of absolute joy because I get to interact with students, people who are sometimes “one step in back of themselves and their slow-movin’ dreams.”

I just simply love and enjoy hearing and watching students talk about their dreams and aspirations and especially the moment that they discover by way of internal confirmation—I can do this!