Meet Our Recruiter

Christiana Simpson

Christiana Simpson

Senior Specialized Recruiter for University Advancement

Christiana Simpson serves as the senior specialized recruiter for University Advancement. She brings more than 20 years of broad experience to the role, in areas such as recruitment, onboarding, and retention.

What does a specialized recruiter do?

I collaborate with advancement department heads and senior management to understand each department’s current and future staffing needs—and then I help develop a plan to ensure that the department attracts the right talent in the right roles. 

So what happens behind the scenes?

Lots of little things. Job analysis and description, marketing efforts to attract the best candidates, interview coordination, compliance, and much more—as well as keeping track of recruitment metrics to make sure we’re achieving our goals.

What are the advantages to having a dedicated expert in this role?

Because I have a wide view of advancement’s overall talent needs, I can help managers make more strategic hiring decisions. A candidate may not be a perfect fit for the position they applied for but may be ideal for a different role. So we can find and place the best people, whether they’re referrals, external candidates, or internal candidates.

What qualities do you look for in a job candidate?

Candidates who are curious, flexible, self-motivated, and who thrive in a collaborative team environment always stand out. People who understand the importance of building and developing relationships are also highly valued. Those skills will take you very far no matter what role you’re in. Prior advancement experience is not always required.

Mentorship, Networking, and Curiosity

Stephanie Chicas

Stephanie Chicas

Associate Director, Prospect Strategy
USC University Advancement

As associate director of prospect strategy and a key part of the Relationship Management (RMATS) team, Stephanie Chicas helps ensure that the best principal gift prospects are identified and assigned to the right development officer—and then stewarded through the fundraising cycle, with the goal of achieving the university’s overall “moonshot” goals. 

Stephanie began her career at USC seven years ago in a central advancement position supporting development at Keck Medicine of USC. From there, she moved into an expanded central role as assistant director of development, where she managed day-to-day projects and operations related to prospect strategy and engagement, as well as university-wide fundraising priorities. She also helped coordinate and oversee presidential briefings and contributed to advancement-related events, including many at the president’s suite at football games. She thoroughly enjoyed the work but knew she was ready to grow and take on fresh challenges.

“I made it a point to develop a good relationship with my supervisor, who also wanted me to grow,” she says. “That made it less awkward to have conversations with supervisors in other departments, so I could find out where there might be opportunities.” This strategy led to Stephanie’s promotion to senior relationship management analyst on the RMATS team.

Stephanie attributes her success at USC to mentorship, networking, and curiosity. A self-described introvert, she knows how hard it is to put yourself out there, but says the results are always rewarding. And her positive attitude has kept her moving forward in the department. “I find it so important to try to understand everyone’s role in fueling the machine that is University Advancement,” she says. “We’re all striving toward a common goal: to support the growth and success of our students, each one a potential world leader. Keeping that in mind has made me very intentional about which opportunities to seek out.”

“Plus,” she says, “I always try to go above and beyond, not limiting myself to just my own role. If I have to take on something extra to move a project forward and help out our team, I’m there.”

When it comes to counseling colleagues who, like herself, wish to move up the ranks at USC, Stephanie has some practical advice. “I challenge everyone seeking new opportunities to ask questions,” she says. “By ‘asking questions,’ I mean taking a proactive approach—seeking opportunities, putting yourself out there, and making sure your manager and colleagues know you’re interested in growing.” She also recommends participating in USC Advancement’s professional development sessions within the USC Fundraising Institute. “That is an excellent starting point for gaining a comprehensive understanding of the entire Advancement operation.” 

And perhaps most importantly, she says, “Love what you do! I’ve really enjoyed growing within University Advancement, and learning about all the different areas of development. I love the people I work with, and, here at USC, I’m constantly inspired by the students and faculty and all the incredible work taking place. It’s amazing to work in this type of environment.”

One more point Stephanie likes to stress is a simple one: “Say hello to people, even if you don’t know who they are. At the all-staff meetings, picnic or holiday party, a small hello can open up a conversation that will, in turn, reveal an opportunity. You never know when the person you said ‘hi’ to will turn out to be your future manager!”

How Do You Achieve Success? It’s All About Relationships

Tracy Mendoza

Tracy Mendoza

Associate Dean for Development and External Relations
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Tracy Mendoza calls herself a “matchmaker,” albeit not the Fiddler on the Roof variety. Instead, she and her team at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism work with individuals and organizations to match them with the areas where they want to make an impact, as determined by school priorities and student/faculty needs.

Tracy’s advancement work began in her student days at Cal State Long Beach—phoning alumni to ask for contributions to the annual fund. She enjoyed building relationships so much that she made it her life’s work.

In her 15 years at USC, Tracy’s career has grown exponentially, which she attributes to her focus on helping others, be they colleagues or donors, achieve their goals. She started at the USC Price School of Public Policy as an associate director of development in the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy. From there, it was on to USC Annenberg as executive director of development in 2012 before moving up to her current role—associate dean for development and external relations—in 2018.

“My relationships with internal and external partners are what makes it possible for me and my team to consistently exceed goals,” says Tracy.

Tracy recalls an early experience at Annenberg when she and a colleague paid a visit to a longtime USC donor. She asked the donor which of his gifts he believed had made the most impact and why. “I’ll never forget how the donor slowly leaned back in his chair and said, ‘No one has ever asked me that.’ This experience crystalized for me the impact I could have as a fundraiser and leader.”

What Tracy loves about working at USC is the “collegiality and shared purpose. It is truly rewarding,” she says, “to work with my colleagues across departments, schools and within USC Annenberg to advance the crucial initiatives that truly impact our students’ lives and the professions they aspire to.” 

Experienced fundraiser that she is, Tracy offers three principal tips for those who want to grow their careers at USC Advancement:

First, network. “Get to know the different teams and functions across the division and within the schools. Ask people for short, informal interviews. When I’m hiring or promoting, I always remember the people who took the time to introduce themselves.”

Second, trust the process. “It works! Pound the pavement, make the calls, send the emails. Don’t make assumptions; have the conversations.”

Lastly, trust your gut. “Know your core values and make sure that the team you join aligns with them.”

Diversifying the pipeline of future educators

8312 While colleges and universities have improved the diversity of the undergraduate student body–with about 45% of students identifying as people of color, representing a gain of 30% over two decades–much work remains to be done in diversifying graduate degree programs that train future professors and leaders. Approximately one-third of undergraduates go on to pursue graduate studies, while the pipeline narrows for students of color who opt to take the next leap in their studies post-bachelor’s degree.

According to recent data from the Council of Graduate Schools, about 26% of all first-time graduate-school enrollees who were U.S. citizens or permanent residents were members of underrepresented minority groups in the fall of 2020. Financial pressure, spending excessive amounts of time in remedial education, and feeling isolated or unsupported are just some of the reasons why undergraduate students of color say they struggle and do not proceed in their studies.

Fortunately, USC Rossier faculty are applying research to practice, with the goal of better preparing universities to educate and train diverse students who intend to pursue graduate studies.

Some of the ways USC Rossier faculty are tackling the diversity problem in the professoriate pipeline include preparing undergraduates to be competitive applicants for graduate school, advocating for more equitable admissions practices, and providing resources for faculty and staff who work in graduate programs to foster a more supportive and welcoming environment for diverse students.


One of the first steps toward increasing access to graduate school is to better prepare upper-division undergraduate students for graduate study. One interdisciplinary training program that prepares underrepresented students, specifically Black and Latinx students, is the Research Institute for Scholars of Equity training program (RISE). Housed at a historically Black college, North Carolina Central University (NCCU), RISE counts USC Rossier Associate Professor Royel Johnson among its principal investigators and was the only HBCU to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Inequities for Black and Latinx students often begin with lower-quality pre-kindergarten, creating an equity gap that becomes challenging to close. RISE fellows–juniors and seniors who come from the communities impacted by these inequities–have an interest in social equity and conducting research to improve the learning experiences and academic attainment of Black and Latinx students from pre-K through the university level. The RISE training program gives these undergraduate fellows an

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Colorado River water plan could trigger unprecedented supply cuts, ripple effects on key industries

Earlier this month, the Biden administration proposed a plan to distribute cuts from the Colorado River and resolve the centurylong legal dispute between states across the American Southwest that share its water supplies.

Decades of drought and overuse have brought the river’s water levels to historic lows. States in the Lower Colorado River Basin — Arizona, California and Nevada — now must choose between one of three options proposed by the federal government.

The outcome of these talks will have far-reaching implications for agriculture and energy in the region. The Colorado River provides water for over 40 million Americans and 30 Tribal Nations, fuels hydropower resources in eight states and supports agriculture across the region.

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“Food, energy and water tend to be regulated separately, which can be problematic. You can’t change policy in one of these areas without impacting the others,” says Robin Craig, professor of law at the USC Gould School of Law.

“The Biden administration’s proposed options for dealing with the continuing Colorado River shortages capture the essential water dilemma for the West as a whole: Do we continue to honor historical patterns of water use in the West, or do we invoke principles of equity and a need to reassess what the Southwest is doing with that water?”

Option 1: Equal cuts across the Lower Basin states

Equal cuts to water allocations across the Lower Basin states would represent an unprecedented break with legal tradition that has served as the bedrock of water law in the West for over a century.

The region follows what is known as prior appropriation law, which stipulates that whoever first accessed the water and put it to beneficial use is granted senior water rights. California is the senior water rights holder on the Colorado River system and is first in line to receive its annual allotment, much to the chagrin of the other states.

“These water rights endure forever, and in the southwestern U.S., they tend to be locked up in agriculture,” says Craig. “In fact, about 80% of the water rights in the Southwest are for agriculture, and that plays into how flexible you can be in the Colorado River water distribution.

“Cutbacks across the board might work for the Colorado River itself, but within the states we will still have prior appropriation to deal with. A large pot of money to spend on transitioning the entire system seems not to be on the table.”

California officials have spoken out against this plan, arguing that it sidesteps existing water laws that respect the state’s status as senior water rights holder.

Under this plan, California farmers — particularly those in the Imperial Valley — and consumers would be hit hardest.

The Imperial Valley is the largest producer of alfalfa, or hay forage, for California dairy cows and an important source of nutrients during the winter months, explains Shon Hiatt, an associate professor of business administration at the USC Marshall School of Business. A drop in the state’s water allocation would reduce the amount of alfalfa produced since it is the least profitable crop.

Hiatt, an expert in global energy and agribusiness, says that an across-the-board cut to water supplies would mean higher prices for dairy products.

“California dairies have been struggling due to increased regulatory costs and the destruction of 60% of grazing pasture this winter due to flooding. The situation will be made worse if less alfalfa is grown and would result in higher dairy product prices in the state.”

Option 2: Cuts based on water rights seniority

Under this plan, California would retain its senior water rights to Colorado River water, with the strictest cuts imposed on Arizona and Nevada.

“In this scenario, California wins in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River — but the entire Lower Basin needs to get creative about how to free up water from agriculture without putting farmers out of business or losing food security. In other words, become more efficient about agriculture,” says Craig.

Option 3: Do nothing

The U.S. Department of the Interior lists this “No Action Alternative” as one of three options in its recent proposal.

Experts warn that doing nothing would prove disastrous for the Colorado River and the regional economy.

Regardless of how the states and federal government decide to move forward, doing nothing would mean keeping the Colorado River on the fast track to dead pool, or levels where water would no longer flow downstream and through the major dams, which generate enough hydroelectricity to power the homes of 1.3 million Americans in the region.

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USC Annenberg doctoral student named 2023 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow

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Doctoral student Jermaine Anthony Richards named 2023 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow
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Jermaine Anthony Richards, who is pursuing his PhD in communication at USC Annenberg, has received the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. The merit-based program for immigrants and children of immigrants will provide $90,000 in funding for Richards’ graduate studies.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Richards was raised in the Canarsie residential neighborhood by his mother and grandmother, who are immigrants from Jamaica. He earned a BS at CUNY York College in communications technology before completing the MA in Global Communication/MSc in Global Media and Communications dual degree program, which is offered jointly by USC Annenberg and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Now, as a Provost’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Access Fellow at USC, Richards is operationalizing his research as a cross-sector scholar-practitioner. Co-advised by Associate Professor of Communication Robeson Taj Frazier and Associate Professor of Computer Science Barath Raghavan, he is studying how transmedia storytelling animates human security politics, security cultures, and political movements.

“I am excited to understand the capacity for computer artifacts to re-present, bridge, and deconstruct social injustices and violent social interactions,” Richards said. “I am interested in rethinking and shifting people’s thinking about the importance of disseminating creative narratives and constructing information ecologies, broadly conceived, that imbue critical and conscious awareness of our world’s most pressing issues.”

Frazier emphasized the impact Richards will have within the Soros Fellows community as a contributor and steward of its mission.

“Over the short time that I’ve known Jermaine, he has demonstrated a clear sense of purpose and an extraordinary ability to will and manifest his intellectual goals and pursuits,” Frazier said. “I’m honored to support him on his journey.”

Richards has led research as a New America Fellow on Digital Transformation Opportunities and Challenges in the Lower Mekong Region, supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Cyber and Critical Tech Cooperation Program. He is also an award-winning social impact entertainment producer of the popular game Hair Nah(TM), which bolsters conversations on haptic, racial microaggressions and anti-hair discrimination laws, such as the CROWN Act, moving through the nation’s courts.

“I love communication because ‘communication’ is the core thing that all humans do; it is the one unifying aspect of humanity — the one thing we all have in common,” he said. “I wholeheartedly believe in the power of education and mentorship to be transformative gifts for any individual, which is why I have dedicated this new era of life to pursuing a Ph.D., where I can gain skills in teaching and producing research.”

Richards believes that even within limits, there are limitless pathways to social change. He hopes to continue augmenting federal policy proposal adoption and cultural diplomacy by developing interactive media experiences to ethically steer human and social development.

“Being a child of Jamaican immigrants necessitates extending their altruistic legacy,” Richards said. “As I navigate this relatively new geography to establish a personal purpose, I’m reminded that this self-defining process is ancestrally informed, which has led me to become a steward of service to those most marginalized.”

Selected from nearly 2,000 applicants, Richards was chosen for his achievements and potential to make meaningful contributions to the United States.

“I’m delighted to welcome this year’s Fellowship class,” said Co-Founder Daisy Soros. “As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of Paul’s passing, it is beautiful to see how his legacy lives on through every Fellow.”

This year’s cohort of 30 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows joins a distinguished community of past recipients. The alumni network includes US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is the first surgeon general of Indian descent and helped lead the national response to Ebola, Zika, and the coronavirus; lawyer Julissa Reynoso, who serves as the US ambassador to Spain and Andorra; Damian Williams, who is the first Black US attorney for the southern district of New York and serves as chair of the attorney general’s advisory committee; and composer Paola Prestini, who was named by NPR as one of the “Top 100 Composers in the World” and plays on major stages across the world.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts celebrates its first tenured transgender faculty member

Alexandra Billings says she’s been too busy living in the present to think about making history. But the celebrated actress of stage and screen knows that becoming the first transgender faculty member of the USC School of Dramatic Arts to gain tenure is no small thing when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation.

“I think that it speaks volumes about how far USC has come,” Billings said at a reception on Monday celebrating the school’s LGBTQ+ alumni, faculty, students and staff. “To have a mixed-race trans woman be not just faculty, but a tenured faculty member, is to say to other marginalized queer folk: ‘We want you here. We honor you here. We honor your story and your work.’ That’s extraordinary.”

More than 150 people gathered in the courtyard of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center to toast Billings, an associate professor of acting. A special School of Dramatic Arts performance of Tomlin’s stage show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe: Revisited followed inside the center’s Renberg Theatre.

“The room just changes in energy when she’s there,” School of Dramatic Arts Dean Emily Roxworthy said of Billings in her toast. “She’s an incredible teacher and trans activist who is a beacon to students who can say, ‘USC has a place for me because Alex is there.’ We were so incredibly fortunate to recruit her, and we’re really, really proud at this moment.”

Bringing authenticity to transgender roles

Billings is best known to television viewers for her recurring roles as transgender women on the Amazon dramatic series Transparent and the ABC sitcom The Conners. She has managed to carve out a prolific career despite having to watch better-known cisgender performers land transgender roles in television and movies.

Before the tide began to change in recent years, Billings was considered something of a pioneer as a trans actress playing actual trans characters on television shows such as How to Get Away with Murder, ER and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as the TV movie Romy and Michele: In the Beginning.

I make sure when I say yes to something, that it’s about creating dialogue and about being a portal for change.

Alexandra Billings

“I’m very lucky in the sense that I have a lot of really good friends in the business that are very loyal and believe that the marginalized voice is the voice of the future,” she said. “I make sure when I say yes to something, that it’s about creating dialogue and about being a portal for change.”

Billings is no longer satisfied with just having some kind of LGBTQ+ representation in a production.

“I want the queer voice to be the center story,” she said. “I want us to stop being only the supportive voice.”

Making her own way

The USC milestone comes amid a series of high points for Billings in a career where she has often had to create her own opportunities. This includes her one-person autobiographical show, S/HE & ME, which has toured to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and off-Broadway. Billings made her Broadway debut in 2018 in the play The Nap, becoming one of the first openly trans people to be cast in a trans role on Broadway. Two years later, she began playing the role of Madame Morrible in the Broadway production of Wicked before and after the closures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t tend to think about whatever I did first because that’s for the history books,” Billings said. “I feel like as long as we keep doing the thing, as long as we keep in mind that it’s the students and their artistic voice that matters, everything else will be taken care of.”

The beginning of a fruitful partnership

Reception attendees also toasted School of Dramatic Arts alumnus Jonathan Munoz-Proulx for becoming artistic director of the L.A. LGBT Center 10 months ago and for using his Trojan connections to make Monday’s performance — directed by School of Dramatic Arts adjunct lecturer Ken Sawyer and attended by Tomlin herself — come to fruition.

“To have these two worlds of USC and the center be in collaboration is such a beautiful gift and moment for all of us,” Munoz-Proulx said. “There are lots of opportunities for partnership, and we’re invested in maintaining our relationship with USC moving forward.”

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Emergence of deadly fentanyl-xylazine combo ‘tranq’ worsens the addiction epidemic

Amid a catastrophic addiction epidemic, a new drug cocktail known as “tranq” has emerged as a serious threat across the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, tranq — a mixture of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and the animal tranquilizer xylazine — has been found in 48 states. The DEA recently issued a dire warning about the potential for overdoses and severe skin ulcers that may lead to amputations.

Tranq does not respond to naloxone, the opioid-reversal drug that has averted many deaths from fentanyl. Consequently, more people who use tranq are dying. Adam Leventhal, director of the USC Institute for Addiction Science, says that the drug is an urgent threat that requires a strong response.

“People with fentanyl-use disorders might not want xylazine in their product, but suppliers are adding it to the fentanyl supply,” Leventhal said. “This drug, combined with the effects of fentanyl, creates a different type of psychoactive effect that’s a new experience for the user. Risk of overdose increases when these two powerful drugs are combined.

Addiction will always be a constantly evolving problem.

Adam Leventhal, USC Institute for Addiction Science

“Addiction will always be a constantly evolving problem. We need policy experts, public health researchers, economists and legal analysts who study the drug industry to inform policies that regulate the supply side. And we need social workers, psychologists and neuroscientists to understand the demand side: Why is a certain drug addicting? What treatments will reduce that demand?”

Tranq: Trend began on the East Coast

The tranq trend began on the East Coast and quickly moved west, according to Daryl Davies, an expert on the pharmacology and toxicology of drugs of addiction in the Titus Family Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the USC Alfred E. Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. He warns that people who feel safer using fentanyl because of naloxone may be unaware of new dangers posed by the cocktail drug.

The Street Medicine Team at the Keck School of Medicine of USC is working on procuring test strips so patients can identify when their drug is contaminated with xylazine. Jungeun Olivia Lee, an associate professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, wants to see nonstigmatizing, developmentally appropriate messages for teens, to warn them away.

“The initiation of substance use reaches its peak during adolescence,” Lee said. “The consequences of substance use — particularly potent drugs like fentanyl combined with xylazine — can be a lot more substantial for teenagers compared to adults, given that their social, psychological and physiological functioning is still developing. …

“Prevention and intervention strategies developed for adults may not be necessarily effective for teenagers.”

Fentanyl addiction still rocking U.S., but safe sites remain unpopular

Illicit fentanyl on its own has rocked California’s cities and the nation. One proposed policy solution is the creation of drug-use site pilot programs — also known as safe injection sites — in Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco where drug addicts can safely use illegal drugs while under supervision to prevent overdoses.

But the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy’s latest California Issues poll shows that a majority of Californians — 54% overall — disapprove of the sites (42% strongly disapproved and 12% slightly disapproved). Meanwhile, 36% overall supported them, with 17% saying they strongly approved and 19% saying they slightly approved.

“Gov. Newsom in 2022 vetoed a bill that would have created these drug-use pilot sites,” said Christian Grose, the academic director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute and a political science and public policy professor at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “While the fentanyl crisis is important, the issue of pilot drug-use sites has been politically unpalatable to Newsom. If Newsom hopes to run for president, this is an unpopular reform across the United States. And even here in California, voters are very split on the issue.”

Despite an aversion to safe-use sites, governments are increasingly active in curbing the addiction epidemic, Leventhal says. “It’s unprecedented what they’re doing recently for addiction and overdose prevention and harm reduction.

“We are aligned with the belief that keeping people who use substances alive is a human right. Everyone deserves an opportunity to get on a path to recovery.”

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Trojan trailblazer traces entrepreneurial zeal back to sports 


Editor’s note: Title IX — the landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding — was signed into law on June 23, 1972. In recognition of this anniversary, we’ll be profiling Trojan trailblazers throughout the academic year.

When Jill Kickul was a freshman at the University of St. Francis in Illinois, the school offered only one sport for women: basketball.

Kickul, now a professor of social entrepreneurship with the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business and holder of the Narayan Research Directorship at the USC Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, wanted to play soccer. And so she did, becoming the first woman to play on the school’s male soccer team.

Title IX logo“If it wasn’t for Title IX, I wouldn’t have been able to play,” she said. In the years and months that followed, other sports opened to female athletes on campus, increasing until the male and female sports programs offered equal opportunities.

For Kickul, being on the soccer team was about more than competition, recreation or sportsmanship. “Sports gave me the confidence to question barriers that are out there and think about ways to overcome them. They empowered me to think past the constraints of a particular situation and reimagine what new possibilities could be, particularly for women — if they question the status quo,” she said.

Kickul, a business administration major, took this mindset and began tackling the world of entrepreneurship, a typically male-dominated field. As a research assistant at DePaul University in Chicago, Kickul was lucky enough to work with one of the few women changing entrepreneurship at the time. Lisa Gundry — a professor Kickul worked with while pursuing her master’s and doctoral degrees and still her mentor to this day — was one of the first female professors working in the field. “She taught me about leadership and instilled in me that can-do attitude,” Kickul said.

Empowering a new generation of female leaders

After Kickul graduated, she started the first women’s entrepreneurship program at Simmons University in Boston.

“That was a time for me to be a leader in developing new curriculum, workshops, lectures series, conferences and other programming. We were on a mission to have this program be No. 1 and wanted it to be positioned differently than traditional entrepreneurship programs geared toward men,” she said. Under her direction, the program was named in the “Top 10 Innovative Programs for Entrepreneurs” by Fortune Small Business and the “Top 20 Graduate Entrepreneurship Programs” by Entrepreneur Magazine/Princeton Review.

A main goal for Kickul throughout her work in academia has been to inspire confidence and self-efficacy in the young women she’s teaching and working with, and to help them think about entrepreneurship as a viable pathway in their careers.

At USC, Kickul’s focus on diverse groups of students — many of whom are women — and pathways to helping them build sustainable businesses and careers is unwavering. Research shows that women — often lacking a sense of confidence that they are welcome in more male-dominated professions or spaces — may take themselves out of the equation.

“Most of our [Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship] students are first generation and, by majority, most of them are women,” Kickul said. “A lot of the women who come into our program have the drive and passion to bring about progress, but they might not know how to become those change agents within their communities. At USC, we’ve given them the tools, mindsets and practices to make a difference — not just with entrepreneurship, but also within existing organizations that want to have an impact.”

“After they leave here,” Kickul said, “they think differently about how to create change. They have a renewed drive, too — bolstered by a sense of confidence and knowledge of tools — to really go and make a difference within society.”

Agent of progress in longstanding institutions

Kickul has led the charge in forums to discuss the future of entrepreneurship, launching the Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference — which will celebrate its 20th year in November — and becoming president of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE).

“At the time, there weren’t too many women who took on that kind of leadership role,” Kickul said of her work with the association. “Under my leadership, we professionalized the organization by restructuring the board and bringing in a diversity of perspectives.” Milestones in this work included building a pipeline of new members in entrepreneurship education that offered USASBE a wider array of perspectives on how to effectively teach entrepreneurship to diverse groups of students.

The Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference is another gamechanger. Bringing together the largest group of social entrepreneurship researchers and social innovators, the conference, which Kickul co-founded, continues to push the field forward. This past year’s topics reflected the field’s dynamic nature, with questions of how we define social entrepreneurship today versus in the past and panels on modern issues within entrepreneurship, such as how women and people of color fare in raising capital for their ventures.

Kickul’s own research is prolific, focusing on innovation and strategic processes within new ventures, micro-financing practices and wealth creation in transitioning economies, and social entrepreneurship. She has been published in over 100 journals on entrepreneurship and management.

The next chapter of bold leadership

Looking forward, Kickul is realistic and optimistic in a remarkably balanced fashion. “Overall, we still have a long way to go,” she said, “not only within the board rooms but with women-led ventures beyond just being lifestyle businesses.”

Women-led startups still only receive less than 3% of venture capital funds. “Women need more support for getting those resources. Men can also be great allies in this work.”

Ultimately, Kickul hopes that the next generation will acknowledge the hard work that came before it and build upon this work to accelerate the achievement of true gender parity in the field.

“We need to continue to do the work that was started and create awareness for others who have really reaped benefits from Title IX and are now in great positions to teach others how to lead,” she said. “Newer generations need to continue this work in bolder and broader ways.”

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Why are COVID-19 vaccination rates among children so low?

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Why are COVID-19 vaccination rates among children so low? Parents’ worry about long-term risks, responsibility

Parents worry about potential long-term risks from the vaccine, and some fear they’ll be viewed as responsible if their child becomes sick after the vaccination, USC research finds.

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Despite efforts by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pediatric clinicians to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate among children, many remain unvaccinated due to parental concerns about the vaccine’s long-term effects and anticipated responsibility. Those are findings from a new study published in Pediatrics and conducted by the Center for Economic and Social Research(CESR) at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The researchers sought to determine the causes of low child vaccination rates. Currently, only 39% of children 5 to 11 and 68% of those 12 to 17 have received vaccinations, compared to 92% of adults.

During the Omicron variant’s spike between February and March 2022, when pediatric COVID-19 cases peaked, the USC Dornsife survey of parents in the nationally representative Understanding America Study revealed that 45% of parents believed the vaccine’s long-term risks to their child outweighed the risks of not being vaccinated.

Ying Liu, research scientist at CESR and the study lead, explained that “parents’ hesitancy may be partly driven by apprehension about the vaccine, stemming from its rapid development and the use of newer techniques.”

Additionally, 18% of parents said they’d feel a heightened sense of responsibility if their child became sick following vaccination.

“People often exhibit a more cautious approach when making medical decisions for others, including their own children, than for themselves,” Liu said. “Some tend to do nothing rather than vaccinate their child, even though such inaction could result in negative consequences.”

Said Arie Kapteyn, director of CESR and professor (research) of economics at USC Dornsife: “This research underscores the pressing need to address parental perceptions of the COVID-19 vaccine. By doing so, we believe the vaccination rate among 5- to 17-year-olds could be increased to over 50%.”

The report suggests the following ways to boost child vaccination rates:

Assure parents that side effects from the vaccine are rare and mild, whereas the health complications from the COVID-19 infection are far more common and severe.

Highlight that there is no evidence or plausible way in which the vaccine could alter a child’s genetic makeup.

Emphasize the potential and avoidable negative outcomes from lack of action when delaying or foregoing the vaccination.

The post Why are COVID-19 vaccination rates among children so low? appeared first on USC News.

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