Chantelle Rice Collins isn’t sure who nominated her to participate in USC’s culture change efforts, but their reasons for doing so become clear once she starts talking about her passion for cultivating individual well-being. “This isn’t fluff,” Rice Collins said. “Creating nurturing environments at USC is for the benefit and the effectiveness of the university. We can start small, but we need to think long term.”
If there’s one thing USC has going for it as it embarks on a journey of culture change, it’s that its community of faculty, staff, students and alumni care deeply about its mission. It’s a strength that Paul S. Adler, a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business, believes will help the university through this multi-year process.
Yaniv Bar-Cohen calls it like he sees it, not how he wants to see it. It’s a personality trait that has served him well in his work as a pediatric heart rhythm specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where most days include high-stakes patient diagnoses and treatment decisions made under extreme pressure. It’s also served him well in his past year as USC Academic Senate president as he dealt with the fallout from the discovery of misconduct and mismanagement at the university.
If the past two years have convinced Renee Almassizadeh of anything, it is that there is a need for a shift in USC’s culture. She hears often from staff members that they feel under-appreciated by the university. Their reasons vary, she acknowledged, but it’s also a perception that she hopes is starting to shift, thanks to university-wide efforts to spark culture change efforts.
As part of broader efforts to strengthen USC’s organizational culture, experienced attorney and university administrator Felicia Washington will join USC as senior vice president of human resources. Her responsibilities will include overseeing the long-term strategic management and support of the university’s nearly 28,000 faculty and staff members and student workers. USC has also named strategic communications professional Glenn Osaki as the university’s new senior vice president and chief communications officer. Osaki has more than 30 years of experience in strategic communications, most recently serving as president of Asia-Pacific for MSL, an international public relations firm.
Felipe Osorno knows that culture change initiatives can work. “When we communicate often about the things that matter, people pay attention. But when there are gaps in information, people fill in those gaps and make assumptions about what matters and what doesn’t,” Osorno said. He encourages staff who haven’t gotten involved in the university’s culture change efforts to speak up, to volunteer to help, and more importantly, to live their personal values.
USG president Debbie Lee, a member of the President’s Culture Commission, hopes that the work being done will reap real change and bring healing to campus, even if it comes after she’s graduated and moved on. “I think society tells us that we need instant results and instant impact. And there should be a sense of urgency around fixing things and doing the right things. But long-term healing [and changing culture] takes patience and continuous work,” says Lee. “It doesn’t get fixed by one certain action or one certain statement or one action plan. It’s a series of things, building upon days and days of work.”
Michael Quick, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and Carol Mauch Amir, senior vice president for legal affairs and professionalism, have formally signaled their intent to retire from their positions, effective June 30, 2019.
Stacy Giwa has joined USC as vice president of ethics and compliance — with a focus on values and culture and the goal of strengthening integrity and ethical decision-making across the university. “For all the right reasons, USC is taking a step back to see what we can learn from our key stakeholders about our values,” said Giwa. “It’s a really pivotal time. There are a lot of great things happening here, so to be part of helping people engage around values as a core element of meeting our objectives of being a top research university and outstanding medical enterprise is exciting.”
USC has launched a new Office of the Ombuds to provide independent, confidential and impartial support for the university community. After a national search, Katherine Greenwood (University Park Campus) and Thomas Kosakowski (Health Sciences Campus) are the university’s professional ombuds.
“The USC Office of the Ombuds will provide a safe place on both campuses for faculty, students and staff to navigate policies, issues, concerns and conflicts without fear of reprisal or judgement,” Quick and Soni wrote in an email sent to faculty, staff and students. “In doing do, the office will promote and embody an ethical, empathetic and engaged university culture committed to problem-solving, dispute resolution and workplace wellness.”