An enthusiastic crowd of about 300 gathered April 25 in Town and Gown to celebrate this year’s school achievements and individual excellence at the annual Faculty and Staff Awards luncheon.
Dean Yannis C. Yortsos kicked off the proceedings by showing the audience a five-minute “Year in Review” video that touched on the school’s commitment to diversity, research excellence and hands-on student experiences – themes the dean returned to repeatedly throughout his address. Yortsos also stressed the importance of embracing a “growth mindset, to look forward and outwards, and not backwards and inwards.”
Among the highlights he shared:
- This year, USC Viterbi had a record 13,000 applicants for only 410 undergraduate spots.
- U.S. News & World Report recently named USC Viterbi’s graduate program in the top 10 in the country and in the top five among private schools after MIT, Stanford, Caltech and Carnegie Mellon University.
- USC Viterbi’s online graduate programs were ranked No. 1 in computer science and No. 2 in engineering in general. And the USC Games program, jointly with the USC School of Cinematic Arts, was ranked again the top program in the nation.
- This year’s current first-year class is nearly 44 percent women, a historic high. Additionally, more than one-third of USC Viterbi undergraduates are female, much higher than the 20 percent national average.
- USC Viterbi’s graduate programs continue to flourish, with a record 1,650 women enrolled – more than any other school in the country.
During the event, Yortsos and other senior administrators honored the most noteworthy faculty and staff achievements. This year’s winners include:
Staff Award for Excellence – Jacob Beal
Staff Early Career Award – Jake Kirchner and Shelly Lewis
Staff Award for Service – Suad Aziz
Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award – Francisco Valero-Cuevas
Dean’s Award for Innovation in Teaching and Education – Stephen Lu
John O’Brien Faculty Service Award – Steve Bucher
The dean also talked about “heroic engineering,” a concept Megan Smith, America’s third chief technology officer, spoke about last May in her commencement speech to the USC Viterbi master’s class.
Heroic engineers, Yortsos said, “are those among us who, motivated by a noble sense of purpose, apply their formidable skills and knowledge to better society.”
As an example, he discussed the groundbreaking research taking place at the USC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society, or CAIS. Co-founded by USC Viterbi Professor Milind Tambe and Eric Rice of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, CAIS is dedicated to leveraging AI for social good.
Additionally, Yortsos discussed a new “100K Initiative” that the school will soon unveil to “challenge our students to collectively contribute every year 100,000 hours of volunteer community outreach,” he said. “Such outreach would cultivate in all of them a mindset of societal consciousness, a mindset of societal impact of engineering.
“Imagine if every school in the nation committed to such an initiative.”
We congratulate this year’s awardees:
JACOB BEAL, STAFF AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
JAKE KIRCHNER, STAFF EARLY CAREER AWARD
SHELLY LEWIS, STAFF EARLY CAREER AWARD
SUAD AZIZ, STAFF AWARD FOR SERVICE
ILIAS DIANKONIKOLAS, JUNIOR RESEARCH AWARD
HAN WANG, JUNIOR RESEARCH AWARD
SHRIKANTH NARAYANAN, SENIOR RESEARCH AWARD
STEVE BUCHER, JOHN O’BRIEN FACULTY SERVICE AWARD