Center for Excellence Marks Anniversary

The home of top USC instructors has funded hundreds of key projects for undergrads over the last 10 years.
By Allison Engel
Barbara and Roger Rossier chat with CET director Danielle Mihram.

Photo/Lee Salem
In 1996, superlative teachers at USC began to share their wealth of teaching knowledge in a systematic way.

The Center for Excellence in Teaching, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary as a full-time university-wide unit with a ceremony at Town & Gown, has trained thousands of teaching assistants, mentored hundreds of faculty protégés and funded dozens of innovative projects for undergraduates. It spawned a similar program that began last year in the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

At the core of the center is a group of high-caliber teachers from across the university known as faculty fellows. Ten fellows are chosen each year. They serve for three years and then are known as “distinguished faculty fellows.” Fellows share their successes and challenges and generally act as evangelists for good teaching on all campuses.

At the Town & Gown ceremony, five distinguished fellows gave testimonials to the value of the center, described as “a place where you can unabashedly declare one’s love for teaching and learn how to get better” by Gerald Davison, interim dean of the USC School of Architecture.

Armand Tanguay Jr., professor of electrical engineering, said: “I learned more from my CET colleagues than in my 35 years of teaching.”

Tanguay cited the center’s Future Professoriate Program, begun three years ago, that helps promising Ph.D. students make the leap to teaching. Faculty fellows “made a list of all the things they didn’t tell us and wish we had known” before becoming teachers, Tanguay said.

Alison Dundes Renteln, professor of political science, and S. Mark Young, professor of accounting, both recommended more resources for the center, praising its personal rewards for faculty members.

Judy Garner, assistant dean of faculty in the Keck School, said the center helped her from feeling too distant from colleagues on the University Park campus.

The center, which began its existence as part of the Office of the Provost, became part of the USC Rossier School of Education last July. Barbara and Roger Rossier, namesakes of the school, were special guests at the Aug. 7 event.

Elizabeth Garrett, vice president for academic planning and budget, presented plaques to the 2006-07 faculty fellows, and a special award to Mark Kann, professor of political science and the center’s first director.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, faculty fellows surprised current CET director Danielle Mihram by naming her a fellow and awarding her a plaque.

For information about the center’s programs, visit