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Mancall, McKenna and Wood Named USC Dornsife Academic Domain Vice Deans

Incoming dean Steve Kay announces key appointments and changes to the dean’s cabinet including three academic domain vice deans and USC Dornsife’s first vice dean for institutional affairs, Dani Byrd.


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USC Dornsife Academic Domain Vice Deans

Peter C. Mancall, Wendy Wood and Charles McKenna will serve as academic domain vice deans for the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, respectively.

Video by Mira Zimet

Peter C. Mancall, Charles McKenna and Wendy Wood were appointed academic domain vice deans by incoming dean of USC Dornsife Steve Kay on August 16.

Mancall, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities and professor of history and anthropology, will serve as vice dean for the humanities. Professor of Chemistry Charles McKenna will serve as vice dean for natural sciences and will take point on federal research advancement in USC Dornsife. Provost Professor of Psychology and Business Wendy Wood will serve as vice dean for social sciences. 

“Peter, Charles and Wendy will make invaluable contributions to my new leadership team,” Kay said. “Each of them will help to capture directly the voice and goals of our departments and academic programs and to work synergistically within the wide-ranging scholarly traditions encompassed by USC Dornsife.”

The academic domain vice deans will focus on working with department chairs, center directors and the faculty to develop a multi-year strategic roadmap for strengthening USC Dornsife’s academic programs and continuing to recruit world-class faculty. In these partial-time appointments, the domain deans will remain highly active in their scholarship while carrying authority in key areas such as faculty recruitment, promotions and tenure, and Ph.D. programs. 

Joining USC Dornsife in 2001, Mancall is an historian of early America, the early modern Atlantic world, early modern environmental history and early Native American Indian history. He is the author of five books, including most recently Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson — A Tale of Mutiny and Murder in the Arctic (Basic Books, 2009). Mancall is currently writing American Origins, which will be volume one of the Oxford History of the United States, and The Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton and the Tragic Origins of New England.

Mancall, who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University, is an elected fellow of the Society of American Historians and an elected member of the American Antiquarian Society. He received the USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Faculty Award in 2003, was associate vice provost for research advancement from 2007 to 2009, and has served as chair of the Department of History since 2010. He has also directed the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute (EMSI), housed in USC Dornsife, since its founding in 2003.

With his experience leading EMSI’s interdisciplinary research, Mancall hopes to encourage graduate and undergraduate students as well as his colleagues to identify new ways to work across departmental boundaries. He also aims to help faculty and students in the humanities recognize their full potential.

“I consider myself a partner in the dean’s office who is a humanist, someone who understands why it matters that we read James Joyce’s Ulysses, or why it matters that we go to see a Picasso show or understand the long term relationship between China and the United States,” Mancall said.  “I hope my colleagues and our students will have faith in me as a humanist so I can support their research and teaching effectively.”

McKenna, who was chair of the Department of Chemistry from 2008 to 2011 and holds a joint appointment in the USC School of Pharmacy, has focused his research on bioorganic and medicinal chemistry. His laboratory is currently investigating ways to develop new, more effective drugs to treat infectious viral diseases as well as developing anti-cancer and biological imaging agents, and new approaches to study DNA repair. He is also interested in the mechanism of nitrogen fixation, a phenomenon crucial for world food supplies. He has more than 200 publications and patents as well as over 370 invited or contributed scholarly presentations.

Having earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, McKenna was an National Institutes of Health fellow at Harvard and is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In September, he will be inducted as a knight or “Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques” by France’s Ministry of Education. His other awards include the USC General Education Distinguished Service Teaching Award, USC Associates Award For Excellence in Teaching, USC Provost’s Prize for Teaching with Technology, USC Mellon Award, and the USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Faculty Award.

McKenna believes the moment is right to achieve a transformative change in science in USC Dornsife and he is eager to support the university’s continued ascent toward excellence in his new role.

“Although I’m a chemistry professor, I look forward to serving all the departments in this domain, ranging from mathematics and physics to biological sciences, earth sciences and environmental sciences,” McKenna said. “I’m eager to learn from my colleagues in every area of the natural sciences, how best I can assist them and contribute to their success and that of their students.”

Through her research, social psychologist Wendy Wood addresses the ways that habits guide behavior and why they are so difficult to break as well as evolutionary models of gender differences in behavior. Wood joined USC relatively recently, in 2009, moving from Duke University. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health and the Rockefeller Foundation among others, her research has been published in numerous journals including Psychological Review and Psychological Bulletin.

Having earned her Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts, Wood is a fellow of the American Psychological Association (Division 8), the American Psychological Society, Society for Experimental Social Psychology and a founding member of the Society for Research Synthesis Methodology. She has served as editor of several psychology journals and currently is associate editor of Behavioral Science and Policy.

Wood recognizes now is a time of tremendous growth within the social sciences at USC Dornsife and hopes to build upon the domain’s existing strengths to improve further the intellectual life of students and faculty.

“I think one of the most exciting aspects of my new role is that I can help weave together sources of talent from across the university, including social scientists in USC’s professional schools,” said Wood, who holds a joint appointment in the USC Marshall School of Business. “Trying to figure out how to best build on those strengths and move USC Dornsife and the university even further forward will be good fun.”

Kay noted that the new positions are partial-time appointments, designed to allow the academic domain vice deans to continue to engage in research and teaching while providing leadership. They will be supported in their new roles by existing staff to reduce the need for additional administrative positions.

“It’s important for us to enable the new vice deans and capture the innovative spirit of our faculty, but without unnecessary increases in administrative burden,” Kay said.

These new faculty leaders are not the only new positions created in Kay’s administration.  He also announced the appointment of Dani Byrd, professor of linguistics, as USC Dornsife’s first vice dean for institutional affairs. In this new role, Byrd will coordinate and support the work of the new academic domain vice deans. She will also oversee many aspects of USC Dornsife’s academic administration including faculty and educational excellence, and strategic planning for programmatic and institutional development. Concomitantly, the previous roles of vice dean for faculty and vice dean for research have been eliminated.

“I am delighted that Dani has accepted this expanded role and increased responsibility,” Kay said, “as we will continue to benefit from her five years of leadership experience and fourth decanal role within USC Dornsife.”