USC begins forums for dean candidates

USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is considering four candidates for the position of dean of Dornsife.

Of the more than 170 applicants, an advisory committee, headed by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Elizabeth Garrett and Dean of Dornsife Howard Gillman, selected Steve Kay, dean of the division of biological sciences at UC San Diego; Peter Bearman, professor of social sciences at Columbia University; Harry Atwater, a professor of applied physics and material science at the California Institute of Technology; and Lauren Benton, New York University dean of the humanities, as the final candidates.

Each candidate will come to campus for two days in March and will meet with students, faculty, staff and senior administrators.

Kay, who is the first candidate to visit USC, began teaching at UC San Diego in 2007 and specializes in cell and developmental biology and the use of genomic tools to understand the circadian network, the 24-hour cycle within the human body.

Kay attended an open forum for students and faculty on Wednesday and said, if selected as the new dean of Dornsife, he wants to transform Dornsife into a leading global institution.

“The key point of my vision for Dornsife is to make Dornsife the premier institution on the Pacific Rim for scholarship, the translation of ideas for the benefit of society and for training critical thinkers and leaders,” Kay said.

Bearman is the founder and director of Columbia’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. His research focuses on network analysis, including adolescent sexual networks and networks of disease prevention.

Atwater is the director of CalTech’s Kavli Nanoscience Institute and studies electronics and photonics, or light.

Benton’s research focuses on the legal history of European Empires and is the recipient of the World History Association Book Award in 2003.

Gillman, who has served as dean of Dornsife since 2007, declined to serve another term as dean in September.

Under Gillman’s leadership, Dornsife received a $200-million naming donation from USC Trustees Dana and David Dornsife, external funding for research reached $76 million annually and the graduation rate increased from 85 percent to 90 percent.

The dean of Dornsife is responsible for overseeing 33 academic departments and 31 research institutions and centers. The dean is also in charge of faculty recruitment, fundraising and the expansion of research opportunities for students and faculty.

In a memorandum to members of Dornsife, Garrett said she encourages all students and faculty members to actively participate in the recruitment process.


Eric Wendorf contributed to this report.