The awards recognize five individuals who have dedicated significant time and effort to improving public understanding of issues, influencing policy, or raising the level of public discourse in 2021. [7½ min read]
Five scholars from USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences were recognized for their exemplary efforts as communicators, sharing their expertise and engaging with the public.
The inaugural Communicator of the Year awards recognize College scholars who devote significant time and effort to significantly improve public understanding of issues, influence policy, or elevate the level of public discourse by:
- Post commentary, including editorials and articles for The Conversation
- Give interviews to journalists, producers, podcasters and other media specialists
- Post and engage social media followers
- Reach audiences outside of academia through TED-style talks, Dornsife dialogues, panel discussions, and similar events
Nominations for the awards were solicited from faculty and staff across the university, and the USC Dornsife Office of Communications selected the final winners from those nominations.
USC Dornsife Dean Amber D. Miller will present the awards at an upcoming luncheon honoring the winners.
“I am grateful to scholars like you who exemplify the goals of our Academy in the Public Square initiative,” USC Dornsife Dean Amber D. Miller wrote in an email to the award winners.
The winners were chosen in five categories: human sciences, natural sciences and mathematics, social sciences, head of center or institute and doctoral student.
Communicator of the Year, Humanities — Susan Kamei
In 2021, Susan Kamei, a history lecturer at USC Dornsife, has become one of the most prominent and visible American scholars on the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
As America marked the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kamei shared the lessons of the country’s unconstitutional wartime detention through a critically acclaimed book published by Simon & Schuster, numerous television interviews and radio broadcasts, public speaking and published commentary.
the Los Angeles Times published Kamei’s powerful op-ed, “Captives in Our Own Country: My Family’s Story Helps Shape My View of Japanese American Incarceration,” and it has been quoted or featured in articles by NPR, NBC, C-SPAN, and many others, always using its full USC Dornsife affiliation to help bolster the reputation of the College and its department.
Following the publication of his book When Can We Return to America: Voices of Japanese Incarceration in World War II, Kamei, who is also the executive director of USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute, has had 23 public speaking engagements with museums, libraries, community organizations, elementary schools, and more. The events included a dialogue with star trekby George Takei and a discussion moderated by Los Angeles Times journalist Teresa Watanabe.
She has also published two articles for The Conversation, “How Memories of the Imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II Guided the American Response to 9/11” and “Japanese American Soldiers in World War II. World War fought the Axis abroad and racial prejudice at home”, which have been reposted. by more than 30 news agencies.
Communicator of the Year, Natural Sciences and Mathematics — Anna Krylov
Communicating your ideas and expertise to a large audience can be stressful. But promoting a position on a socially charged topic to the public and to a broad audience of scientists, who can be…simply say, rather opinionated…requires a particularly high level of courage.
But with increased risk often comes increased reward, and for Anna Krylov, her drive to tackle a hot topic in science, engineering and math has paid off.
write in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, Krylov, professor of chemistry at USC Dornsife, offered a perspective on the growing influence of politics and moral tendencies (read: “politically correct”) in STEM fields. Referring to historical evidence and drawing on his own experiences as a scientist trained in the former Soviet Union, his article, The danger of politicizing sciencewarns of the dangerous potential of ideology to distract from, or even infiltrate, scientific principles and impede progress.
The article generated enormous interest, whether or not readers shared Krylov’s position, and started a national conversation among scientists and the general public. Since its publication in June 2021, the document has been viewed more than 77,000 times and has been cited by popular media, including the New York Times, keel and several international publications. Unsurprisingly, it has also been a popular source of discussion on social media and Reddit.
Krylov continued to draw attention to this important topic over the past year, with several follow-up articles, podcast and blog interviews, YouTube videos, and a conference on the subject hosted by the Kenan Institute of Ethics in ‘Duke University. Invited to speak at the Free Speech Project in Belgium this year, Krylov became a coveted speaker on the subject of political ideology influencing science, while pursuing her research in theoretical chemistry at USC Dornsife.
Communicator of the Year, Social Sciences — Kyla Thomas
If you’re an Angeleno, chances are you’ve seen, heard, or read a Kyla Thomas commentary in 2021. That’s because Thomas, a sociologist associated with the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research, has become a very popular source. for local and even national media regarding his expertise on the changing social and economic conditions of Los Angeles County.
Thomas is director of USC Dornsife’s LABarometer, a quarterly survey that measures and tracks Angelenos’ opinions of life in LA County. Last year, she was quoted by the Los Angeles Timesand has made appearances on all local television and radio stations on topics such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the physical, economic and mental health of Angelenos, and how residents are adjusting their lifestyles and their behaviors in response to the growing threat of climate change.
As an academic deeply committed to sharing his research to improve public understanding of our world, Thomas wrote two articles for The Conversation last year that were republished by 47 news outlets, including PBS Newshour and Yahoo News. She was also a panelist in a popular Dornsife dialogue regarding “COVID lessons on inequality” and her work was recently cited by the LA County Main Office of Sustainability in its Climate Vulnerability Assessment.
As one of Kyla’s nominators notes, she “has become a clear, authoritative voice that compels the public, fellow scholars, and policy makers to critically appraise data for the sake of fairness.”
Communicator of the year, head of center or institute — Manuel Pastor
For many years, Manuel Pastor has been omnipresent on all forms of media, sharing his expertise and cutting-edge analysis on a wide variety of topics related to equity and social change. Last year, the pandemic didn’t seem to slow him down.
Pastor, director of the USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute (ERI), co-author of two books published in 2021, Solidarity economy: why mutuality and movements are important (Wiley) and South Central Dreams: Finding a Home and Building Community in South LA. (NYU Press).
He has also co-authored several research reports on immigration, community empowerment and other equity issues, all of which have helped frame the 10 editorials he has written for the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The hilland others.
When he wasn’t writing books, articles and research, he often shared his views on equity and social change via interviews with news media who quoted him in hundreds of stories. national and local stories last year, and via Twitter, where he engages with thousands of followers.
The Emeritus Professor of Sociology and American and Ethnicity Studies and holder of the Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change was also a keynote speaker or presenter at several conferences last year, including the Latino Role conference. Models, and moderator of the Dornsife Dialogues event “Lessons from COVID on Inequality.
Communicator of the Year, PhD Student — Kiersten Formoso
Through news stories, videos, and creative use of social media platforms, Kiersten Formoso, a PhD candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences, is not only improving public understanding of dinosaurs, but inspiring young people to study the paleontology.
Viewers of Formoso’s popular Twitch channel enjoy her streaming commentary on dinosaurs and other ancient creatures in the video games she plays. But more than that, they learn from her. And on Twitter, where she has more than 8,600 followers, Formoso posts a steady stream of science commentary and humorous fossil memes, punctuated by her enthusiasm for pop culture.
Last year, Formoso took time out of his program in vertebrate paleobiology and functional morphology to write an article for The Conversation regarding the physical traits of King Kong and Godzilla, analyzing each creature’s combat strengths ahead of the premiere of the movie. Godzilla vs. Kong. Nearly 50 news outlets reposted the story, which was one of the most widely read articles written by a USC Dornsife scholar in 2021.
In a popular video for USC Dornsife’s YouTube channel last year, Formoso shared her views on who would win the battle between the two movie behemoths, and in a second video, she offered advice for young people. considering studies in paleontology.
Formoso has found unique and compelling ways to bring fossil stories out of dusty museum drawers and into the public imagination.