University of Southern California
black horizontal bar for print styles

Special Study Options

Center for Excellence in Teaching

Leavey Library, Room 302C
(213) 740-9040
FAX: (213) 740-7713

Director: Danielle Mihram, Ph.D.

Assistant Director: Morgan S. Grether, Ph.D.

Faculty Fellows: Heather James, English; Paul W. Knoll, History; William F. McComas, Education; Charles McKenna, Chemistry; Nandini Rajagopalan, Business; Alison Dundes Renteln, Political Science; Armand R. Tanguay, Jr., Engineering; S. Mark Young, Business.

Distinguished Faculty Fellows: Nelson Eugene (Gene) Bickers, Physics; Sharon M. Carnicke, Theatre; Erwin Chemerinsky, Law; Delores Conway, Business; Gerald C. Davison, Psychology; Judy Garner, Cell and Neurobiology; Howard Gillman, Political Science; Mark E. Kann, Political Science; James Kincaid, English; William O. McClure, Biological Sciences; Beth Meyerowitz, Psychology; Steven B. Sample, University President and Honorary Distinguished Faculty Fellow; Joel E. Schechter, Cell and Neurobiology; Terry Lee Seip, History; Craig B. Stanford, Anthropology; Bruce E. Zuckerman, Religion.

The strategic mission of the Center for Excellence in Teaching (CET) is to envision, develop, and help implement initiatives and programs that enhance USC's commitment to bringing innovative teaching and research to the classroom. The CET aims to promote USC's status as a world-class research university whose strength lies in conjoining rather than separating its commitments to research and teaching at all levels.

CET strives to encourage the full integration of the university's research mission into teaching, both in and outside of the classroom. Excellence in research requires commitment to the development of superior communication and instructional skills in all fields, as well as in the training of our students for their future in academia. The scholarly activities of the faculty may lead directly to opportunities to foster university-wide discourse on the commitment to excellence in teaching. Administrative responsibility for the center, which resides in the Provost's office, is assumed by the Vice Provost for Academic Programs.

One of CET's mission objectives is to build collaboration between and among "master teachers" and faculty colleagues. The driving force behind such an objective is the team of faculty fellows who form, within the center, a small academy of exemplary teachers and scholars committed to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning.

Their objectives are:

  • To form, as a group, an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of common pedagogical approaches and disciplinary differences.
  • To share their teaching strategies, successes and challenges.
  • To serve as mentors available to faculty and students.
  • To serve as advocates for a university-wide discourse on the commitment to excellence in teaching.
  • To foster recognition of the importance of teaching as an indispensable dimension of undergraduate and graduate education.

Fellows serve students directly via mentoring and organizing special courses and indirectly as evangelists for teaching excellence throughout the university, by sharing ideas in workshops and offering advisement on effective teaching methods to junior faculty. In addition, the fellows collectively seek to provide an intellectual resource on instructional theory and policy evaluation for university administrators tasked with responding to challenges posed by the changing national educational environment.

CET trains new teaching assistants at its summer workshops and assists in the creation and operation of teaching assistant training programs within each school. The center is also asked to develop better ways to evaluate teaching effectiveness and student learning. In its capacity as principal advocate for and promoter of an excellent teaching and learning environment on campus, CET provides recognition and awards for excellent teachers nominated and selected by faculty and students. Each year it solicits nominations for and selects the winners of several university-wide awards for teaching excellence:

The Associates Award for Excellence in Teaching is the highest honor the university faculty can bestow on its members for outstanding teaching. It recognizes career achievements in teaching with emphasis on concrete accomplishments and proven results; it is not intended as a "teacher of the year" award. Two awards of $5,000 are presented each year at the Academic Honors Convocation in March to emphasize the university's recognition of the significant role that teaching plays in its mission.

The University Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award of $1,000 is presented each year at the Academic Honors Convocation to a graduate teaching assistant who has exhibited consistent excellence in the classroom and symbolizes the university's dedication to the education of scholars-teachers.

The USC Fund for Innovative Undergraduate Teaching is a program designed to foster new ideas in university instruction. Funding is usually awarded to a competitive innovative project. Such a project is one that is not part of the faculty member's usual teaching commitment (either in content or instructional mode), and, as such, should make a significant addition to USC's pedagogical effort. About five or six awards are granted annually.

CET also arranges symposia, institutes, conferences, demonstrations and other kinds of programmatic activities to support excellence in teaching and learning on behalf of the university.

GRSC 850 Seminar in College Teaching is offered through the Graduate School.