Q & A with President C.L. Max Nikias
President C.L. Max Nikias shared his thoughts on tomorrow’s ceremony with ATVN.
The ceremony is expected to draw an audience of 10,000 to the University Park Campus.
Q: How do you feel about taking on the position as USC’s new President?
A: “I'm really excited to take this great university and make it even greater in the next decade or so. As we all know, President Sample has done an incredible job at one thing, the academic quality of the university. But we still have a lot of work to do to get to what I call 'the undisputed elite status,' because when you’re up there, there is no question, there is no argument; you belong in the pantheon of world class universities. “
Q: And what do you think we have to do to get there?
A:“To get there, we have to make serious investments on people. At the end of the day, it is all about the people. It's about improving the quality of our faculty and the quality of our students. So what you’re going to see in the next decade is a serious, aggressive recruiting of superstar faculty who will come here to USC in several different disciplines - in the humanities, the social sciences, engineering, sciences, and medicines. So we are going to cover all disciplines, aggressively recruiting superstar faculty, but also give the resources to existing faculty to really reach their full potential. Then the second priority which is equally important, at the core, is to continue recruiting very talented students and especially improve the quality of graduate education and graduate students. As you know, it is very, very competitive now to get into USC as a freshman for undergraduate status, and we want to make it very competitive to get into USC for graduate or PhD status. “
Q: So you've been here for 19 years, what does tomorrow mean for you?
A: “Oh it's a very special day for me, for my family, but also I think for the Trojan family. It's truly a historic event. The inauguration of a president is a historic event. I'm very humbled and also, I will say it's going to be an emotional day. But it's going to be a very exciting day.”
Q: And so, you've been applauded for the actions you took with the athletic department. Do you think it will be possible for USC to soon reclaim, not to say they have lost it, but really reclaim their status as one of the top football and sports programs in the country?
A: “Sure, we have one of the best athletic departments in the country. As you know, we have 19 sports at USC - 10 women and 9 men sports. I know football and basketball get a lot of attention. But we do have world class athletes at USC. We have more Olympians than any other university in America, for example. So already our athletics department is up there. Yes, there are some challenges because of the NCAA sanctions to the football and basketball program, but I believe in the new leadership that we have in place with Pat Haden as the athletic director; with Dave Roberts as the new Vice President for Athletics Compliance. We will go through these times, it's going be a little bit challenging but the glory of USC athletics or the programs we have are still there and I believe they will be even more glorious in the future. I am very excited about that. I do love USC athletics and that is something that does have my attention. If I may, I should also like to tell you that pretty soon we are going to announce that we will introduce a women lacrosse team, Division I, at USC. That is going to be announced in the next few months. We are in the process of recruiting the coach for the team and then we will make the announcement.”
Q: What made you decide to add a women's lacrosse team?
A: “Because lacrosse is becoming very popular. As it's more popular in the east coast, but now it is becoming more and more popular in the west coast. I wanted to give priority to the women lacrosse and then in the next 3 to 5 years I think we are going to be in a position to also introduce a men's lacrosse team.”
Q: And so anything else you want to add about tomorrow or what you are planning on doing as President? A: “For me, being President, my tenure already begun on August 3rd. So it's been a very busy time for me the last two-and-a-half months. I just want to go through the day and enjoy every minute of it. I hope we do win the game against CAL on Saturday. And then Monday morning we are going to hit the ground running and we are going to run the next marathon at a sprinters pace. That's what I tell everybody. And that's the commitment I will make to the Trojan family. Not only personally, but also on behalf of my administration.”
Q: And one last question. What do you think is your biggest accomplishment so far?
A: “Oh my biggest, oh so far, two-and-a-half months? Oh my goodness. I would say that the crisis we faced in athletics and which I had serious concerns in the summer that was going to affect the overall reputation of the University. I view as the major accomplishment that taking the crisis and kind of turning it into a great opportunity for the university.”