There are five interim deans in place at USC as of Feb. 28. Each dean provides the university and their respective colleges with ideas on how to improve their school.
Before he became interim dean of the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management (HRSM) in July 2021, David Cárdenas studied tourism where he had most of his experience prior to becoming interim dean. He started off in hospitality with the direction of being a corporate trainer. Cárdenas then shifted gears into academia on the recommendation of one of his mentors.
More recently, he said he has been working with rural communities looking to develop their tourism industry, which includes bringing students abroad. He hopes to go back to his passion of teaching when the administration position is filled.
"I'll tell you one of the bad things about being an interim dean is that I don't get to teach," Cárdenas said.
During Cárdenas's time as interim dean, he is adapting the program to fit the constantly changing field.
“We're continuously trying to revise and add to so that we're keeping up with our trends and making sure that the students get the skill sets that they need to be successful. And then also try to provide courses that expand their knowledge and understanding and make them really think more critically,” Cárdenas said.
The College of HRSM is looking to expand what is covered in its program. They are looking to add beverages and spirits classes, expand diversity classes and add leadership classes alongside recently added NASCAR and soccer classes.
Also in the College of HRSM, Karen Edwards, the interim dean of academic programs, began her work in the position in July 2021. She is currently working on proactively supporting students' mental health. She said with more students going online due to the pandemic, it was important to have tools to make sure that students were still doing well mentally.
“We started our own little internal ad hoc team to make sure that faculty had the tools — the mental health resources and everything — in an easy-to-digest location, that they could help share the information with students, put it on their Blackboard page,” Edwards said.
Thomas Hodges, interim dean of the College of Education as of July 2021 and professor in the same college, said he is also making improvements during his time as interim dean. He previously served as an executive associate dean prior to being interim dean. He has held other administrative positions prior to that as well.
The College of Education is currently reviewing the organization of the College to assess if it's organized most effectively.
“We’re engaging in some strategic hiring, in places where we both have some need and that there are opportunities to grow. We've increased our extramural funding, we've re-engaged donors, even in the midst of the pandemic and started new initiatives for philanthropy in the college,” Hodges said.
Prior to his time as interim dean, he said he was inspired by one of his professors in college who was in love with her job. This inspired him to go into teaching, just like her. He originally taught in public school but decided he wanted to get a master's degree. It would be there where he found his passion for developing future generations of educators in the College of Education.
"I've certainly engaged in my fair share of teaching over the years and deeply love it. It's one of my biggest passions in life. I love to teach students. It's an absolute joy. Much like that professor that I had," Hodges said.
The university is "extremely well cared for" by the hands of the interim deans at USC, according to Hodges.
"Both within our college and across the colleges are some extremely competent, very talented administrators who are in interim roles across the board. So I think while there may be some periods of transition in that I can, I am quite confident that this solution is very well nurtured, very well cared for by the leaders that are in place," Hodges said.