Logo: University of Southern California

2007 Staff and Faculty Awards

Dean Yortsos thanks individuals for exceptional service and raises the bar for continued success in academics, research and fundraising

May 04, 2007 — Celebrating a year of achievements and encouraging everyone to continue building a “culture of excellence,” Dean Yannis C. Yortsos thanked faculty and staff for their exceptional service on May 1 at the annual Viterbi School Staff and Faculty Awards luncheon.  

Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, left, recognized Viterbi School staff and faculty for outstanding contributions.  Awardees to his left (back row) are Lance Hill, David Kempe and Fokion Egolfopoulos; front row, left to right, are Sol Golomb, Barbara Myers and Priya Vashishta. Krishna Nayak was not present.
Leana Golubchik, associate professor of computer science and chair of the Engineering Faculty Council, introduced Yortsos to approximately 350 attendees, who gathered at USC’s Town and Gown conference center for the dean's talk and awards.

Yortsos called on all faculty, staff and administrators to continue building a “culture of excellence” that will attract the best faculty, graduate and undergraduate students.

“A culture of excellence attracts top undergraduates, top PhD students, and top faculty,” he said. “They will come here in search of an environment that will enable them to make a difference.  This will act as a positive feedback loop.  Attracting the best leads to a more demanding environment which, in turn, leads to more and sustained excellence.”

Yortsos highlighted the School’s many accomplishments over the year: the quality of undergraduates continues to rise; incoming freshmen this fall will have among the highest SAT scores nationwide; and undergraduate retention rates are rising. The school has launched a variety of new and innovative degree programs: a new degree program in computer science and business; a degree program in computer science with an emphasis in games; and a new degree program in chemical engineering with an emphasis in nanotechnology.
David Kempe, left, accepts the Junior Research Award from Dean Yortsos during the 2007 Staff and Faculty Awards luncheon in Town and Gown.

The Viterbi School is also creating novel models of interdisciplinary education, among them the GamePipe curriculum, a program to teach math to engineering students, the Engineering Writing Program and the Klein Institute’s new KIUEL Showcase week, which allows engineering students to become more engaged with the arts and humanities.

Yortsos said that he has proposed the formation of a new entity, the Division of Undergraduate Education, to guide the School’s undergraduate curriculum into a technologically new and challenging era.

“The new engineer will require an … innovative curriculum, one that includes, in addition to the basics, right- and- left-brain skills, and skills in leadership and entrepreneurship, service learning and global immersion,” he said.  "Last month we held a curriculum retreat to brainstorm on how to restructure the undergraduate curriculum and modernize it to serve the needs of the 21st century."

The dean said that the Viterbi School was closing in on its goal of fully supporting all PhD students with a doubling of the number of first-year PhD fellowships to more than 100.

“The biggest change has resulted from the new Annenberg Fellowships, which are among the premier fellowships at USC,” he said.

He noted that during the past year, the school “had a barrage of successful site visits” that included the IMSC, BMES, CENS (with UCLA) the UTREC (Ultrasonic Transducer Resource Center) and METRANS.

“I am happy to report that all the centers were renewed to their maximum next term and this year CREATE was renewed,” he said.  He added that the school had received important new grants, highlighting Yolanda Gil’s $13.8 million Windward Project at ISI, Scaleable Knowledge Discovery Through Grid Workflows and aggressively pursuing new research with corporations such as Airbus.

Yortsos said that the Viterbi School Fundraising Initiative was on target to reach its $300 million goal by summer of 2008.  The most recent highlight was the historic $35 million gift from Cogent cofounder Ming Hsieh to name the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering

“Last year was the second-best year in cash and gifts in the history of the school,” he said.

Yortsos also cited dramatic efforts this year to step up faculty hiring and the recruitment of top-notch graduate students. A new graduate student office, the Office of Master’s and Professional Programs, was created, he said, as well as a new diversity initiative for graduate students.   

“Our Distance Education Network (DEN) continues to be an arm of unparalleled strength,” he said.   “With more than 30 degrees offered online, we lead all schools of engineering in that area.”  
Fokion Egolfopoulos, left, received the Northrop-Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award from Northrop-Grumman University Relations representative Kerry Bennett, on right.

Staff and faculty awards went to the following individuals:
  • Lance Hill, laboratory manager for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, who won the Staff Achievement Award for his  “dedication, creativity, willingness and warmth.”
    Lance Hill, right, and Jean Pierre Bardet, chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.
  • Krishna Nayak of the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, who won the Junior Research Award for his contributions to MRI systems and cardiac imaging; and David Kempe of the Computer Science Department, who is “poised to make a significant impact in social networking and viral marketing.”
  • Priya Vashishta, a leading computational scientist and pioneer in high performance computing, who won the Senior Research Award.
  • Fokion Egolfopoulos, whose dedication to students earned him the Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching Award.
  • Barbara Myers, executive director of development in External Relations, whose dedication to the School’s fund-raising efforts earned her the Staff Service Award. 
  • Sol Golomb, whose loyalty, integrity and high standards have left a lasting mark on the School, was awarded the Faculty Service Award.