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Congratulations on your admission into the University of Southern California! As the time draws near and you are faced with one of the most important decisions of your life, we sincerely hope that you will consider the resources that each school has to offer. One of the resources available to you here at USC is Somerville Place, USC’s African-American residential theme floor. It has been our experience that first year Black students transition to University life easier while living at Somerville Place. Throughout its history, Somerville Place residents have been known to excel academically and emerge as campus leaders. In addition, Somerville Place has gained national recognition by being featured in the Los Angeles Times newspaper in March 2000. CBCSA would like you to consider Somerville Place as your freshman residence, and personally invite you to apply.

What is Somerville Place?

Somerville Place is a residential community established in 1995. Named after John and Vada Somerville, this community creates an environment where academic success, leadership, self-direction, and personal growth are nurtured. The five goals that all residents strive to achieve are: spirituality, respect, retention, successful transitions, and an understanding and display of positive social values. The goals of Somerville Place aim to foster an understanding of and respect for Black culture, while cultivating a sense of family and community. This wonderful community is located on the 5th floor of Fluor Tower on the northwest side of the campus, conveniently located to Café ’84, King Hall computer lab, the Lyon Center, and the University Village.

HISTORY: The Somerville’s

John Alexander Somerville immigrated to the United States from Jamaica around 1900.  He and his wife, Vada Watson Somerville, were both graduates of the University of Southern California, School of Dentistry.  Graduating with honors in 1907, he was the first black graduate, and his wife was later the first black woman graduate.  In 1914, only three years after its founding in New York City, the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP was created at the home of John and Vada Somerville.  His first major business venture, the Somerville Hotel, was a principal African American enterprise on Central Avenue, in the heart of the Los Angeles’ African American community.  When it opened in 1928 it was one of the most upscale black hotels in the United States, and counted a number of African American celebrities among its guests.

With the onset of the Depression, the facility was sold and renamed the Dunbar Hotel in honor of the famed black poet.  The scene for at least one black film, and a major community landmark for many years, the Dunbar Hotel declined in the 1960s, but has now been revived and has been designated a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument.  In addition to developing other properties in the Los Angeles area, throughout the years both he and his wife were active in community affairs and civil rights work.  In 1949 he published his autobiography, Man of Color, and in addition to being the second African American on the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, served on the Police Commission from 1949 to 1953.  In 1953 he was named Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. 

SERVICE: Somerville Collaborative

This service learning program places Somerville Place residents in local schools to tutor and mentor children from elementary to high school who aspire to attend the University of Southern California. This program is an opportunity for Somerville Place residents to:

  1. Become more familiar with the surrounding USC community;
  2. Serve as a role models to local community children;
  3. Use work-study aid and/or receive an additional grant by participating with AmeriCorps;
  4. Meeting a Somerville Place goal by gaining an understanding and display of positive social values.

RESULTS: Resident Testimonials


There are two steps to apply for Somerville Place:

  1. Complete the University’s on-line Housing application at On your Housing application, mark the building code as “FLT” and the Special Interest Program code as “SMRV.”
  2. Complete the Supplemental on-line application at by the priority deadline:
    End of April.

Your Supplemental application will be reviewed by the CBCSA Advisory Board. This will aid the board with the selection of 32 freshmen residents of Somerville Place who are looking for a unique first-year experience.  



In the Fall semester, if you are a high school senior we highly recommend that you come and stay on Somerville Place for an overnight visit and attend classes the following day with one of the residents. We also suggest students to complete an overnight visit the same day as a Meet USC program through the Office of Admissions. Please visit Please note that your stay does not include meals. Please contact CBCSA at (213) 740-8257 for more information and to make arrangements.



The Office of Black Alumni Programs offers great programs including its Black Alumni Association (BAA) Scholarship available to eligible freshmen. Please visit for more information regarding this scholarship as well as additional programs.

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