University of Southern California
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Graduate and Professional Education

Special Study Options

Center for Excellence in Teaching

Waite Phillips Hall, Room 500G
(213) 740-9040
FAX: (213) 821-2474

Director: Danielle Mihram, Ph.D.

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

Faculty Fellows: J. Lawford Anderson, Earth Sciences; William Deverell, History; Nancy Lutkehaus, Anthropology; Doe Mayer, Cinema-Television; Charles McKenna, Chemistry; Nandini Rajagopalan, Management and Organization; Michael W. Quick, Biological Sciences; Peter Starr, French and Comparative Literature; S. Mark Young, Accounting.

Distinguished Faculty Fellows: Warren Bennis, Management and Organization; Nelson Eugene (Gene) Bickers, Physics; Sharon M. Carnicke, Theatre; Delores Conway, Information and Operations Management; Gerald C. Davison, Psychology; Judy Garner, Cell and Neurobiology; Howard Gillman, Political Science; Heather James, English; Mark E. Kann, Political Science; James Kincaid, English; Paul W. Knoll, History; Steven L. Lamy, International Relations; Debbie MacInnis, Business; William O. McClure, Biological Sciences; William F. McComas, Education; Beth Meyerowitz, Psychology; Alison Dundes Renteln, Political Science; Steven B. Sample, University President and Honorary Distinguished Faculty Fellow; Joel E. Schechter, Cell and Neurobiology; Terry Lee Seip, History; Craig B. Stanford, Anthropology; Armand R. Tanguay, Jr., Engineering; Bruce E. Zuckerman, Religion.

The mission of the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching (CET) is to provide shared leadership, vision and support in the pursuit and development of effective and innovative teaching and mentoring in order to foster and enhance deep and lifelong learning. Such a mission upholds and sustains our institutional goals. CET is a unique, faculty-driven organization that is dedicated to the inspiration, development and advancement of outstanding teachers and mentors among USC's faculty and students.

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.

The objectives of CET's Faculty Fellows 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 the beginning of each semester 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 and mentors nominated and selected by faculty and students. Each year CET solicits nominations for and selects the winners of several university-wide awards and grants for teaching and mentoring excellence:

The Associates Awards for Excellence in Teaching are the highest honor the university faculty can bestow on its members for outstanding teaching. They recognize 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 Awards of $1,000 are presented each year at the Academic Honors Convocation to three graduate teaching assistants who have exhibited consistent excellence in the classroom and symbolizes the university's dedication to the education of scholars-teachers.

The Mellon Academic Mentoring Support Program offers grants between $5,000 and $15,000 to continue to foster innovative academic mentoring at USC. This program also recognizes demonstrated excellence in mentoring and presents awards of $1,000 to faculty members and graduate students who demonstrate outstanding mentoring.

The 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.

The Professoriate: Preparing for the Future (GRSC 850ab) is offered through the Graduate School. The purpose of this one-year program of CET and its Faculty Fellows is to prepare doctoral students considering higher education careers to become leaders in their professions by understanding the expectations and demands of teaching with purpose, research with visible accomplishment and service with effectiveness.

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.