USC deans Marilyn L. Flynn and Karen Symms Gallagher received the first Provost’s Prize for Innovation in Educational Practice at the Academic Honors Convocation on April 23.
The prize recognizes members of the USC community for their exceptional achievement that advances the university’s mission and its role as a leader in higher education.
Flynn, dean of the USC School of Social Work, has been at the helm of many firsts. She established the school’s military social work program, the first of its kind at a civilian research institution, and obtained the first Congressionally directed appropriations ever received by a school of social work to create the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families. Flynn also launched the first national Web-based Master of Social Work program at a major research university.
Her unique accomplishments include the use of advanced technology to train future social workers. Flynn led the school’s involvement with the USC Institute for Creative Technologies to develop “Virtual Iraq” and “Virtual Patient,” avatar-based simulations designed to replicate the experiences of veterans exposed to combat stress and prepare students to interact with real clients by honing their clinical and interviewing skills.
The Web-based MSW@USC program also utilizes creative technology to take social work education beyond brick-and-mortar universities and offer a prestigious educational opportunity to students who might not otherwise have access. A highly advanced Web-based learning management system uses robust social networking platforms and face-to-face “Skype-like” interactive technology to create a real-time, personal classroom experience, accompanied by local internships selected by the school for students where they live and work.
Flynn’s next endeavor is USC Telehealth, a virtual clinic providing one-on-one therapy using video-conferencing technology. The project is a collaboration among the School of Social Work, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the USC School of Pharmacy and other disciplines.
Flynn’s innovative outlook on the future of social work has been recognized on a global scale. Last year she received the International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award from the National Association of Social Workers Foundation for her efforts to advance the public image of professional social work through her groundbreaking work on behalf of social work education, which has increased awareness and respect for the profession.
"The Provost's Prize is really a recognition for all of the faculty and staff who have helped to give leadership to our exceptional programs for the military and in our Virtual Academic Center, for the new Telehealth initiative, and our experiments with field education," Flynn said. "I am so grateful to all of them who were willing to be the first, to attempt the untested, and to advance social work education."
In an award letter, USC President C. L. Max Nikias lauded the leadership of Gallagher, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, in the development and launch of the school’s online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT@USC) degree in 2009 and noted that the program has contributed to the university’s reputation as a pioneer in online education.
“Your entrepreneurial innovation and service as a catalyst of change have built USC’s global online graduate education enterprise,” Nikias stated in the letter.
The MAT@USC program, the first of its kind from a major research university, combines interactive online curricula with fieldwork in a school in each student’s community. The program has produced more than 1,300 graduates from nearly 50 states and 40 countries — a tenfold increase over the school’s on-campus program.
Gallagher also led the redesign of USC Rossier’s practitioner-focused EdD program in which doctoral candidates solve real problems of practice in the field through work in thematic dissertation groups. The EdD has become a model for doctor of education programs nationally and is the basis for USC Rossier’s Global Executive EdD, which enrolls students from around the world in a hybrid program of face-to-face and online coursework.
In September, Gallagher and her faculty opened USC Hybrid High School. The innovative learning environment provided at the Los Angeles charter school is designed to prepare students for college and fulfilling careers by way of individual and self-directed curricula, new technology tools to manage the students’ schedules and expanded school hours.