Ex-USC social work dean pleads guilty in Mark Ridley-Thomas bribery case

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For more than two decades leading USC’s social work school, Marilyn Flynn seemed like the model university dean.

She launched a unique program on military social work and secured millions of dollars in congressional appropriations for research on veterans and their families. She made USC the first university to offer a master’s degree in social work online, using generous scholarships to secure high-profile students like Rep. Karen Bass. Under her tenure, enrollment grew from about 500 to 3,500 — making USC the largest social work program in the world.

USC’s former provost praised Flynn as “innovative and entrepreneurial.” Flynn described herself as an institution-builder who helped bring “novel, disregarded or even forbidden possibilities to prominence.”

But that quest for growth led to a litany of problems: a financial crisis, aggressive recruitment of students, diluted academic standards and a corruption scandal involving one of L.A. County’s most powerful politicians.

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