USC professor appointed first vice dean of students for the College

A USC professor has been appointed the first vice dean of students for the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, a position designed to help increase opportunities for students.

College Dean Howard Gillman appointed Donal Manahan as the vice dean, who will take on the task of increasing the amount of services the College provides to students in terms of research, community engagement, global studies and internships.

New leader · Vice Dean of Students Donal Manahan works with students Jonathan Sepulveda and Isabelle Feldhaus on Catalina Island. - Photo courtesy of Phil Channing

Manahan said he will be handling student experiences that take place outside the world of academia.

“We at USC recognize that there are two parts to a student’s education: the formal part that takes place in the classroom and then there’s the outside-of-the-classroom experiences such as an internship or research experience,” Manahan said. “I feel my responsibilities lie with these out-of-classroom experiences.”

Manahan has been a professor of biological sciences at USC for more than 25 years. He has held a variety of positions during his career at the university, including director of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.

“Professor Manahan has demonstrated over the years a fundamental commitment to the quality of the undergraduate experience in USC College,” Gillman said in an e-mail. “He has been one of our most powerful advocates for the centrality of a letters, arts and sciences education for a person’s personal and professional development.”

Manahan will be working closely with Steven Lamy, vice dean for academic programs, to provide students at the College with a complete understanding of their chosen field of study.

One project they are working on together is the issue of graduation rates at the College.

“Our graduation rate is very good, but we need to improve it. Our six-year graduation rate is at about 89 percent but we want to be at 90 percent or 91 percent,” Lamy said. “So that would one of the focal points — to help students graduate on time.”

Manahan has taken on several other projects since his appointment, one of which is the College First Year Investigations. The concept of College FYI is to guide incoming freshman that are undecided about their major and immediately pair them with a faculty member to form a mentorship.

This will take the form of a two-unit course and aims to provide students with someone other than their advisers to turn to for academic guidance.

Another field that Manahan said he hopes to promote to students is research.

“We are a major research university. Now the challenge is making sure that students take advantage of that,” he said. “We want to see more and more ways in which students can enter that culture of learning with research.”

Ultimately, Manahan said he wants to provide students with an experience during their time at USC that extends beyond the classroom.

“I’m very passionate about this because it transformed my life as a student. Somebody opened doors for me to let me work in a different learning environment,” Manahan said. “I would be so proud if I could open those doors for hundreds and hundreds of students.”