USC Marshall launched its Thought Leadership Initiative two years ago to support the growth of Marshall faculty and research excellence to deliver a premier business education. Those efforts are honored and recognized today with presentation of three USC Mellon Awards for Excellence in Mentoring.
As recognition of its overall faculty mentoring initiative, Marshall will receive the Culture of Mentoring Award, given to one USC program that has demonstrated exceptional effectiveness in mentoring and creating a sustainable culture of mentoring. John Matsusaka, Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, will accept the award.
"In the last few years, we have hired the most outstanding group of young scholars in the history of Marshall, in terms of potential and accomplishments to date," Matsusaka said. "The Mellon Award recognizes the work we are doing together to help these young scholars succeed.
"The award talks about the culture of mentoring, and I think that is the proper phrase. What we do is set up a host of programs and events that we hope will continue, will become a culture and will become ingrained into the institution," said Matsusaka.
"The commitment of our faculty to the Thought Leadership Initiative is a reflection of their commitment to both the success of Marshall and the success of our students," said Dean James G. Ellis. "We are incredibly proud of the dedication and enthusiasm of our faculty that has resulted in this recognition."
Two members of the Marshall faculty were selected for individual recognition. Setting a standard in mentoring junior faculty, Professor Nandini Rajagopalan >will be honored with a Mellon Award for Faculty-to-Faculty Mentoring. And while she is grateful for the award, Rajagopalan believes a major factor in her success as a mentor is her view that she is in fact not a mentor: “I have never thought of mentoring as a distinct aspect of my job,” said Rajagopalan, the Captain Henry Simonson Chair in Strategic Entrepreneurship and Professor of Management and Organization.
"As you gain experience in academia, you learn certain lessons and you share them with your colleagues," she said. "It is the duty of a senior faculty member to ensure the success of your junior colleagues."
Assistant Professor Julia Plotts shares in that philosophy, transferring it to the classroom. Professor Plotts will receive a Mellon Award for Undergraduate Mentoring.
"This award means a lot to me because it is coming from students," said Plotts, Assistant Professor of Clinical Finance and Business Economics. "It shows that I am connecting with students in shaping their lives."
"Assisting Trojans in advancing their careers, enhancing their education and building their own networks is the highlight of my job."
Said Levi Nitzberg, a former student and nominator of Professor Plotts for the award: "Professor Plotts' unwavering dedication to her students' success both inside and outside the classroom is unmatched by most professors. Believing passionately in building the Trojan Network, Professor Plotts will stop at nothing to help a student achieve his/her desired goals."
The competition for this year's awards was unprecedented, with more than 400 nominations received, the most in the six years since the awards were launched. Recipients were selected by review committees, comprised primarily of prior award winners and USC Mellon Mentoring Forum Chair Charles Gomer and Co-Chair Devon Brooks.
Individual faculty awards are presented to faculty who make various contributions in the area of mentoring, including helping to create a vital and engaged academic community and involving peers and students in publications, grants and conferences.
Among the other components of the Thought Leadership Initiative are an enhancement of research resources, increased research grants to faculty and an expansion of faculty.