Dean Yannis C. Yortsos

The Dean’s Message

In the last several months we have launched a number of new national initiatives with the goal to “change the conversation” about engineering. In the process, we are helping dismantle stereotypes about engineers – what they do, who they are, what they look like. These stereotypes have left many of our women and traditionally underrepresented segments in engineering on the sidelines. For engineering to remain society’s engine of innovation, this must change.

As the chair of the Diversity Committee of the ASEE Engineering Deans Council, I recently drafted a pledge letter from engineering deans to take concrete steps to ensure that our institutions provide inclusive educational experiences. I am pleased to tell you that in less than one month, more than 148 engineering deans have signed to date. President Obama celebrated these commitments at the White House Demo Day for inclusive entrepreneurship on August 4, 2015, an event I attended on behalf of my fellow engineering deans.

In a separate initiative, July 28, 2015 was the culmination of the six-month long “The Next MacGyver” competition – sponsored by Google and Ford, but conceived and co-organized by USC Viterbi, the National Academy of Engineering and MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff. Five talented writers — several of them engineers — were selected from a field of nearly 2,000 entrants, to write a script for a new TV show starring a female engineer. Just as CSI led to a surge of interest in forensics, we hope that one or more of our finalists’ visions for a strong female engineer lead will make it to the TV screen. This will galvanize middle-school and high-school girls everywhere to become the new face of engineering.

The new phase of engineering –
The new face of engineering.


About the Dean

Yannis C. Yortsos has served as Dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering since June 2005. He is the Chester F. Dolley Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and holds the Zohrab A. Kaprielian Dean’s Chair in Engineering. Yortsos is well known for his work on fluid flow, transport and reaction processes in porous and fractured media with applications to the recovery of subsurface fluids and soil remediation. He has been actively involved in the peer review of the Yucca Mountain Project for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste.

Under his leadership, the Viterbi School rose to 10th worldwide for engineering, computer science and technology (2010 Shanghai Jiao Tong rankings), and has earned the top ranking in Distance Learning in the same fields. These distinctions have followed a substantial increase in size (by about a third), quality and diversity of the school’s faculty and its undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. student body (also by about a third); greater retention and graduation rates, which now approach 90%; a growing number of major national and international faculty awards; and a thriving research program including forty-two national research centers and total multi-year, multi-institute funding of more than $180M. During his tenure as dean, the Viterbi School has raised more than $441M in external gifts and gift pledges. Since 2009, ten of its faculty have been listed in the MIT Technology Review list of 35 Innovators under the age of 35, more than any other school or organization in the world. Yortsos spearheaded strategic directions for the creation of educational and research programs that respond to the critical needs of the profession, as well as the broader needs of society.

Yortsos coined the term Engineering+, a concept promoting interdisciplinary research, programs and faculty appointments that enable engineering’s powerful role for innovation in the sciences and the professions. He led the establishment of new programs across curricula to enhance engineering education, including the recent HST@USC collaboration between the Viterbi School of Engineering and the Keck School of Medicine at USC. He has promoted global outreach through the iPodia platform, linking instruction of top engineering schools worldwide and establishing engineering innovation and entrepreneurship in the Viterbi School. Along with his counterparts at Duke University and Olin College, he promoted the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges of Engineering, co-hosting the first NAE Grand Challenges Summit at Duke University in Spring 2009, and the second annual summit at USC in Fall 2010, and being on the steering committee of the first global summit in March 2013. The first meeting produced the Grand Challenges Scholars Program for undergraduate engineering schools across the nation. To expand ties with top institutions overseas, Yortsos created offices overseas in Bangalore, Shanghai and Beijing, which led to a strong global presence.

The recipient of many honors for research, teaching and service, Dean Yortsos is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and serves as the liaison of Section 11 to the National Research Council. Yortsos received his B.Sc. from the National Technical University, Athens, Greece, and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, all in chemical engineering. An invited scholar at several institutions in the United States and abroad, he joined the faculty of USC in 1978. Yortsos is an Associate member of the Academy of Athens, and is the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Engineering Deans Council as well as the Executive Committee of the Global Engineering Deans Council.

Published on October 18th, 2016

Last updated on March 23rd, 2020