“As Trojans, you are natural leaders,” Nikias said. “Leadership is more than a title. … It is a responsibility to ourselves to be responsible to others at all times in moments great and small.”
This kind of graduate student leadership, Nikias said, has led the university to implement more programs benefiting graduate students in the past year.
USC spends $20 million annually on graduate programs, Nikias said. He, specifically, cited supplemental funding the USC graduate school will offer doctoral students for presenting research at conferences, attending seminars and workshops and pursuing publication of their work.
“Take full advantage of these programs,” Nikias said. “I wish I had them when I was a Ph.D. student.”
Nikias also said he is working to attract more world-renowned faculty to match the academic excellence he sees in USC graduate students.
“In any organization, the quality of the organization is all about the quality of the people. In a university, it’s the quality of the faculty and the quality of the students,” Nikias said.
Over the past two years, USC has added 441 scholars to its faculty as assistant professors or professors.
Nikias’ appreciation of graduate students extended past academics. He said he next plans to tackle the issue of graduate student housing to enhance their university experience.
“If you ask me what is the biggest need we have as a university, it is graduate student housing,” Nikias said.
He hopes to solve this problem by adding 3,000 new spaces for graduate students in the redeveloped Village at USC. A graduate student village within the complex is also among Nikias’ plans.
Many students said they were impressed by the headway Nikias has made with his high ambitions for the university.
“Nikias has shown tremendous fundraising initiative in terms of start of the art facilities and professors,” GSG Director of Academic Affairs Jaclyn Selby said. “And I’m very glad he restated his commitment to community partners and our Trojan neighbors moving forward.”
Others said they admired his guiding ethical principles.
“Overall, he is doing a good job and making the right decisions,” Phil Wu, a graduate student studying medicine and a GSG senator, said. “He has to be objective in his job, which can be difficult.”
Regardless of his many goals for USC, Nikias said the growth of students themselves remains his biggest focus.
“At the end of the day, as president, I feel I am the guardian of core values at USC,” Nikias said. “Commit yourself to being a great leader.”