group photo at the 2024 BAA Scholarship Benefit

USC Black Alumni Association Scholarship Benefit

Thank you to everyone who attended our spectacular 48th Annual Scholarship Benefit: “Empowering Minds, Illuminating Futures” on March 30! It was a joyous celebration of our vibrant community and distinguished legacy, and also marked the launch of a new BAA gala tradition, the Afro Ball!

Check out the photos from our benefit, as well as our program book.

Thanks again for your participation and support!

Afro Ball Highlights

Awards Presentation

In addition to recognizing our BAA Scholars, we presented the BAA’s Outstanding Alumni Awards to two exemplary Black Trojans: Ayanna Howard MS ’94, PhD ’99, dean of The Ohio State University School of Engineering and a member of the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee, and Prentice Penny ’95, an accomplished writer, director and producer.

Karen Bass
Special guest Karen Bass, Mayor of Los Angeles
Ayanna Howard
Prentice Penny
Avalon Hollywood

Special Location

We enjoyed three floors of social interaction and immersive fun at Avalon Hollywood & Bardot, a fully restored 1927 live-entertainment venue with state-of-the-art sound, lighting and visuals.


Our guests wore their finest, formal African-inspired or black-tie attire to fill the room with a dazzling display that highlights the beauty and diversity of our heritage (think Wakanda meets the Met Gala!).

couple in matching party attire
couple in matching party attire
woman wears a bright yellow dress to a Black Alumni Association event
man playing the trumpet

Live Entertainment

Our event featured talented artists, dancers and musicians, including a live Afrobeats band, a DJ and surprise guests, as well as a special performance by USC Thornton students and the Cardinal Divas of SC.

Gourmet Cuisine

We indulged in a delectable and international culinary experience, complemented by a full bar.


Join us on March 30 to support the mission and legacy of the USC Black Alumni Association.

2024 Honorees

Congratulations to Our 2024 Honorees!

Outstanding Alumna Award

Ayanna Howard

Ayanna Howard MS ’94, PhD ’99

Dean, The Ohio State University College of Engineering Member, National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee

Ayanna Howard is an accomplished roboticist, entrepreneur and educator who made history in 2021, when she became the first woman dean of The Ohio State University College of Engineering. She previously served as the chair of the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Interactive Computing, as well as the founder and director of the Human-Automation Systems Lab (HumAns). This lab uses techniques such as sensing and learning to enhance the autonomous capabilities of robots or other computerized systems.

From 1993 to 2005, Howard worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). During her tenure at JPL, she served as the senior robotics researcher and deputy manager in the Office of the Chief Scientist, and also played a key role in developing SmartNav, an autonomous, next-generation Mars rover.

Howard’s unique accomplishments have been recognized by numerous organizations. In 2015, Business Insider named her “one of the 23 most powerful women engineers in the world.” Three years later, Forbes named her to its 2018 list of “America’s Top Women in Tech.” In 2022, she was appointed to the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee (NAIAC). 

Howard’s current research encompasses a wide range of areas, from pediatric robots to mitigating bias in AI. She is the author of the bestselling audiobook, Sex, Race, and Robots: How to Be Human in the Age of AI, and has been profiled in TimeUSA Today and Vanity Fair.

Howard earned both her master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Outstanding Alumnus Award

Prentice Penny

Prentice Penny ’95

Writer, Director, Producer

Prentice Penny is a writer, director and producer best known for his role as the showrunner for the award-winning HBO series Insecure. During its five-year run, the culture-shifting comedy about two Black women in contemporary Los Angeles earned rave reviews and several honors, including a Peabody Award, seven NAACP Image Awards and 12 Emmy nominations.

A Los Angeles native, Penny began his television career as a staff writer on the sitcom Girlfriends. He later served as a co-producer on Scrubs, a supervising producer on the cult favorite Happy Endings, and as a co-executive producer and writer on the Golden Globe-winning comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Through his multimedia production company, A Penny for Your Thoughts Entertainment, Penny co-created the HBO series PAUSE with Sam Jay, which used a late-night talk show format to explore cultural issues. He is currently directing A People’s History of Black Twitter, a three-part docuseries for Onyx Collective/Hulu based on a 2021 Wired article, as well as the Onyx Collective comedy pilot, Not Cops.

In addition to his work for television, Penny wrote and directed the acclaimed film Uncorked, which premiered on Netflix in 2020.

A dedicated USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) alum, Penny launched The First Up program at the school in 2022. The program is designed to provide opportunities for SCA student writers of color to gain real-world work experience by developing and pitching their ideas for film and television projects to studios and networks.

Special Guest

Karen Bass

Karen Bass

Mayor of Los Angeles

The Honorable Karen Bass is the 43rd Mayor of Los Angeles and the first woman and second African American to be elected to that post. Mayor Bass is an Angeleno through and through. She was raised with her three brothers in the Venice/Fairfax neighborhood and is a proud graduate of Hamilton High School. She has served as a nurse, a physician assistant, a community organizer and a member and then speaker of the California State Assembly, becoming the first Black woman in the United States to ever lead a state legislative body. She then went on to represent parts of Los Angeles and Culver City in the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected Mayor of L.A. in 2022.

Scholarship Benefit Photos