Faculty and staff are celebrated for their exceptional service and contributions to USC Dornsife
Twelve faculty and staff members at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences were recognized for their exceptional service during a Nov. 16 awards luncheon.
“Celebrating the accomplishments of members of our Dornsife community is one of my favorite parts of this job, so it’s a great pleasure for me … to honor the tremendous success of several of our outstanding faculty and staff,” said USC Dornsife Dean Amber D. Miller, who hosted the event.
Seven faculty members received Albert S. Raubenheimer Awards, which recognize outstanding scholarship, teaching and service within the university.
Five staff members who demonstrated exceptional service to USC Dornsife were given Outstanding Staff Achievement Awards.
Raubenheimer Awards – Senior Faculty
Alison Dundes Renteln, professor of political science, anthropology, public policy and law
Renteln’s research examines the ways in which cultural forces influence perceptions and behavior and are subsequently evaluated in the context of legal processes. Her publications on human rights and cultural relativism are required readings for graduate students at institutions in Europe and the United States, and she has been invited to teach judges, research attorneys, court reporters and police officers about her ground-breaking research on the cultural defense.
“An extraordinary and much beloved teacher,” according to her nomination, Renteln has developed interdisciplinary minors in human rights and in law and society along with many courses for the department, general education and thematic option. She has taught thousands of students in challenging courses that educate students to conduct original research.
Aaron Lauda, professor of mathematics and physics and astronomy
Lauda is a leader in quantum topology and its applications to representation theory, low-dimensional topology and theoretical physics. His success in obtaining external funding for a pure mathematician is “truly remarkable,” according to his nomination. In addition to bringing in an $8 million Simons Foundation grant, he also serves as the lead principal investigator for significant funding from the Army Research Office and holds multiple NSF grants.
As Dean’s Leadership Fellow in the Natural Sciences, Lauda served with Project Restart to get research back to speed following the COVID-19 lockdown.
Lauda consistently receives high evaluations from students, and his graduate topics courses are well-attended. He has revamped the teaching practicum for incoming graduate students, using case studies to help teaching assistants understand and cope with classroom issues.
Dorinne Kondo, professor of American studies and ethnicity and anthropology
Kondo’s scholarship and creative output have transformed and energized the disciplines of anthropology, American studies and ethnic studies, according to her nomination. She is recognized among her peers as a scholar, mentor and critic of the highest caliber, and is often called upon to perform extensive and complicated teaching roles. She balances compassion and high expectations of rigorous commitment from her students, so that they are well-prepared to encounter the world and the profession with the training that will allow them to flourish.
Raubenheimer Awards – Junior Faculty
Hajar Yazdiha, assistant professor of sociology
Yazdiha’s growing prominence in her field is evidenced by several prestigious grants and fellowships. Her work has been honored by the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the UCLA Center for the Study of International Migration, and she is frequently invited to deliver colloquium addresses at universities and professional meetings. She also finds ways to contribute to public conversations outside of academia through blog entries and podcasts with professional organizations and research centers.
Teaching courses from intro-level general education to a graduate seminar, Yazdiha contributes her expertise on social movements, global politics and nongovernmental organizations. She has served as a primary advisor for two undergraduate honors theses and now serves as a committee member on eight sociology Ph.D. dissertations.
Kelsey Rubin-Detlev, assistant professor of Slavic languages and literatures
Rubin-Detlev has advanced the department’s pedagogical mission, contributing her expertise to numerous undergraduate and graduate courses, including “Seminar in Russian Culture” (SLL 650). As an instructor, she is particularly adept at leading students from their initial, informal reactions toward deeper insights, according to her nomination. And through her scholarship, she has risen to become a leading expert on 18th-century Russia, with distinctive insight into Catherine the Great.
Rubin-Detlev has served the department via the search committee, the graduate committee and selection committees for graduate applicants and the USC Society of Fellows. She is also active within the profession as a reviewer of journal articles, book manuscripts and book proposals, and as a member of the international advisory board for the pioneering database of 18th-century letters, Electronic Enlightenment.
Carly Kenkel, Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
Kenkel’s research program on coral growth and temperature tolerance addresses a globally significant problem arising from climate change and is “an unusually successful one for an early career scientist,” according to her nomination. She has exceeded expectations for publishing her research and obtained important funding, including grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as a Sloan Foundation award.
She is a respected undergraduate instructor and has built an exceptionally large and active lab group, including seven PhD students, many of whom have received awards and honors of their own. And she has received well-deserved recognition for her tireless DEI efforts, earning the Dornsife Faculty Council Award for Distinguished Service in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in 2021.
Vera Gluscevic, Gabilan Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Gluscevic, whose research focuses on understanding dark matter, is widely respected in the astrophysics and high-energy physics communities, as evidenced by numerous invited lectures and ample funding from NASA and the National Science Foundation.
Since joining USC Dornsife in 2019, she has mentored two postdoctoral scholars, five graduate students and more than 15 undergraduates. Her nomination notes that her teaching successes match the record of many senior faculty and has helped elevate the astrophysics group into one of the most esteemed and active scholarly communities in the department. She also has secured important resources, including two large federal grants and a private donation, and helped establish cross-institutional collaborations.
Outstanding Staff Achievement Awards
Tran Huynh, associate director for science operations, Southern California Earthquake Center
Citing her dedication, enthusiasm and creativity, her nominator wrote: “Tran not only excels in her multi-task challenging work, but positively influences others to surpass themselves in their own roles.”
In addition to working with center leadership to find and secure funding from private and public sources, Huynh initiated and continues to refine and develop a digital hub for the center that includes a public-facing website, databases representing 30 years of research, a complete submission and review system for the center’s annual Collaboration Plan proposals, and online collaborative tools for researchers to access the latest software and scientific models.
Huynh also has served on the Campus Emergency Response Team and has participated in leadership initiatives and training workshops at USC Dornsife and the USC Department of Public Safety.
Ryan Prijic, office manager, Department of Classics
According to his nomination, Prijic plays a prominent role in maintaining the positive tone of the department. “Ryan’s exceptional communication skills, rock-solid dependability, and efficient handling of every sort of inquiry has been absolutely central to the department’s well-being,” the nominator wrote.
An important resource and advocate for the department’s students, Prijic’s contributions became particularly apparent this year as he helped an incoming PhD student from Nigeria navigate a labyrinthine series of policy and documentation challenges. And when the student arrived, Prijic arranged for a set of current students to welcome the late arrival and help him navigate his first weeks in the department, ensuring the student felt welcome and ready to succeed.
Randall Ray, department business officer, USC Dornsife Business Office
Ray’s tenacity and expertise have proven especially helpful as the USC Dornsife Business Office transitioned to using the Workday software system for financial processes. The transition proved tumultuous, and Ray’s dedication and willingness to take on extra duties — even those not normally within the office’s purview — while maintaining his personal and professional composure proved crucial to their success.
“Randy’s same-day or one-day turnaround time for many of the requests submitted to him is extremely appreciated and goes above and beyond what is expected,” wrote his nominator. “I don’t know how he does it — despite a heavy workload, Randy has always found the time to help, and with a very pleasant and professional demeanor on top of this.”
Christine Shaw, program administrator and graduate adviser, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
During a trying period for the department, Shaw’s professionalism and institutional knowledge proved critical. She improved collaboration and communication within the department, ensuring better collaboration among the department’s three language programs.
Shaw also helped elevate graduate student academic advising into one of the department’s greatest strengths, with many graduate students citing her commitment to the graduate program as a key factor in their decision to enroll at USC Dornsife. This focus on students includes providing advice on resume writing and fellowship applications as well as coordinating mock job talks and mock interviews for those on the academic job market.
“With her example of professionalism combined with a caring and compassionate attitude, Ms. Shaw provides our students with a model to emulate,” wrote her nominator.
Cynthia Moreno, business data analyst, USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute
Moreno continuously builds a collaborative and communicative team environment while helping to generate rigorous research that can contribute to forging a more racially just world, a major goal of the USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute. She took a leadership role in organizing and steering a team to understand the impact of Latina leadership in California, leading to a report, “Leading with Hope: Supporting Latina Leaders for a Better California,” which has received significant media attention.
“Cynthia consistently brings ease, kindness, grace, humor, and an easy laugh to our team,” wrote her colleagues when nominating her, noting the importance of those characteristics throughout the pandemic.
During the luncheon, retiring faculty member Linda Duguay also was recognized for her years of service to USC Dornsife. Duguay, who joined USC Dornsife in 2000, was associate professor (research) of biological sciences and director of the USC Sea Grant Program and of research for USC Dornsife’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.