Velina Hasu Houston has been carving out her place since she was a girl

Velina Hasu Houston
Velina Hasu Houston is USC resident playwright and Distinguished Professor of Theatre in Dramatic Writing at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. (Photo/Monique Yamaguch)

The international acclaimed playwright is a gender equity and racial equity trailblazer in her work at USC and beyond.

Velina Hasu Houston learned at an early age that she needed to carve out a place for herself in a male-dominated world.

Houston, USC resident playwright and Distinguished Professor of Theatre in Dramatic Writing at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, grew up in the predominantly white community of Junction City, Kan. She stood out from her peers simply by being a young girl from an immigrant family of mixed-raced ancestry that includes Japanese, African American, Native American, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean roots.

“Even as a little girl when I was attending elementary school, I was well aware of differences in terms of how males and females were treated,” said Houston, who cited one example of the reaction she witnessed when she won a county spelling bee in sixth grade. “My success generated a lot of discussion, not just because I was a female, but also because I was a person of color and the child of an immigrant. I was retested on the spelling of the winning word and the audio recording of my win was replayed for several white male evaluators.

Title IX trailblazer: Motivated by the groundbreaking legislation

Houston said that Title IX has been an important personal motivator, creating a means for her to take her rightful place at the table for whatever situation she may encounter — the classroom, the faculty meeting, the campus — even when she faces microaggressions that often show up as inquisitive looks about why she is in the room.

Read more about Velina’s story