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Six Viterbi Faculty Win USC-Mellon Mentoring Awards

April 24, 2008 — Six members of the Viterbi School faculty received USC-Mellon Mentoring Awards April 22 during a large, university-wide gathering of faculty, students and administrators at the University Club.

The awards are administered by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to foster a university-wide culture of mentoring. Each year, recipients of the USC-Mellon honor are chosen from nominees who prove to consistently offer valuable counsel and sound advice in their respective fields to their students or colleagues.  Mentors must generously share time and resources, and extend the effort to critique the work of their students or colleagues, and also serve as advocates for those individuals. 
L-R: Krishna Nayak,Stefan Schall, Urbashi Mitra and Bhaskar Krishnamachari won USC-Mellon Awards for mentoring.

This year, 34 faculty university-wide were recognized for the distinction. Program organizers said that nominations for the awards more than doubled this year, indicating that the practice of faculty mentoring is growing stronger at USC.

Viterbi School faculty awardees were:
  • Urbashi Mitra, professor of electrical engineering in the Ming Hsieh Department, who was recognized for mentoring fellow faculty. In her characterization of mentoring and what it means to her, she wrote:
"I cannot articulate the value of mentoring any more than I can state the obvious about the value of 'breathing': it is simple, natural, necessary, and mostly unconscious.'
David Barnhart (left) of ISI, and Ron Blackwelder, AME professor, won Mellon Awards for mentoring undergraduate students.

  • Stefan Schaal, associate professor of computer science, and Bhaskar Krishnamachari and Krishna Nayak, both assistant professors in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, received awards for mentoring graduate students.  In describing the value of mentoring, Schaal wrote:
"I believe that 'mentoring' is not just the effort of an individual, but, at least in university research, it is the effort of the entire research group.  In this regard, it appears that my main contribution to receiving the USC-Mellon Mentoring Award lies in assembling an outstanding group of students, whose characters and academic interests were aligned towards pursuing scientific questions...
"Most of the actual mentoring in this group happens by self-organization....[and] in the end, it is the students of my research group who deserve to receive the USC-Mellon Mentoring Award for their tireless efforts to help each other and their own scientific development..."
  • Ron Blackwelder, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering, and David Barnhart, director of the Aerospace Technology and Systems Center at the Viterbi School's Information Sciences Institute (ISI), were honored for their effectiveness in mentoring undergraduate students.