After 36 years of service to the university, Director of Student Publications Mona Cravens was given the President’s Award for Staff Achievement, which honors long-time staff members for “outstanding contributions” to the school, on Thursday. A committee of staff members and President C. L. Max Nikias select the award’s recipient.
Cravens has been a member of the Trojan Family since 1976. Her initial involvement, however, happened by chance while she was visiting the campus with her husband Terry, a professor of winds and percussion at the Thornton School of Music.
“Ironic that [as] it is, I picked up a copy of the Daily Trojan and saw an ad for an on-campus advertising job,” Cravens said. “I’ve been here ever since.”
Before becoming director of student publications in 1982, her positions within the university and student publications have spanned everything from advertising manager to production assistant.
The students themselves are the part of the job Cravens cherishes most.
“That is part of the excitement of my job, being near all of you, who are constantly gathering the air of what is happening on our campus,” Cravens said. “I’ve worked with hundreds of students, thousands really, and I am in real awe and admire so many of their goals.”
Students who have become close to Cravens over the years remember the experience just as fondly as she does.
“Mona takes the time to get to know those she works with and takes a genuine, heartfelt interest in their well-being — even after they’re done at USC,” Kate Mather, a former editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan, said.
Just as her title has changed over the years, Cravens has seen dynamic changes in Los Angeles. She recalls that the 1992 Los Angeles Riots were especially impactful.
“I didn’t think anything of that magnitude could materialize that quickly. The city was literally on fire,” Cravens said. “Going out on the streets after curfew was like coming up from underground after a nuclear holocaust.”
Because the riots happened on the outskirts of campus, classes and finals were canceled. The city-wide curfew restricted the movement of students so much that many stayed in the Lyon Center.
Cravens even brought a few students to her home near Pasadena for several days while the city calmed down.
Perhaps her strongest memory of the riots, however, is the special edition of the Daily Trojan that the editorial board put out the Monday after the riots.
“We felt it was so important to put this paper out,” Cravens said. “There’s a real history of commitment to the Daily Trojan.”
Many faculty and staff members said Cravens’ kindness, encouragement and mentoring have left a strong impression on many.
“There were a number of students that said if it weren’t for her they wouldn’t have graduated from ’SC and if it weren’t for her, they wouldn’t have made it to where they are today,” Larry Lim, director of pre-college programs at the Viterbi School of Engineering and last year’s recipient of the award said. “And all of this, of course, is above and beyond her regular daily work duties.”
Patrick Bailey, senior associate dean of students, said Cravens’ warmth has benefited the entire university.
“There are just so many lives she has touched since she’s been here,” Bailey said. “The university is a much better place for having someone like Mona here.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson said her contributions can be seen in the field of journalism outside of the university as well.
“Generations of outstanding journalists have been tutored and mentored by Mona and have gone on to terrific careers in journalism and other fields,” Jackson said in an email. “She is a USC treasure and it is appropriate that she be honored in this manner. It has been an honor to work with her and be tutored by her during my past 17 years at the university.”