The Dean

Man in black blazer seated before a steel wall

Message to IYA

Dear Academy Community,

I am deeply honored to be joining you as the second dean of USC Iovine and Young Academy. I am grateful to the Academy community and the USC administration for the confidence you have placed in me to lead the Academy and to continue the mission of advancing new models of integrative and inclusive learning for higher education and beyond.

The Academy is an extraordinary community. In recent days, I have had the pleasure of meeting students, faculty, and staff and I am impressed by the level of cross-disciplinary talent, intelligence, and creativity, and also the deep sense of community and belonging. It is clear that the Academy is a true community with rich diversity in background, experience, learning, and perspective. It also shares a common purpose of making a positive impact through solutions rooted in multi-dimensional understanding as well as empathy. 

One of the most pressing societal issues that the Academy is addressing is the need to diversify learning. Expanding and diversifying the definition of knowledge can expand the ways we learn what we learn. It can then expand who is included in the learning and eventually in a knowledge economy. The Academy is already one of the few places in the world to recognize with a prestigious degree the ability of people to integrate diverse types of knowledge. The Academy also values the combination of practice and theory-based learning and in the process elevates knowledge based on everyday experiences. 

The Academy is so ahead of the curve in expanding learning because of the bold vision of Jimmy Iovine and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, the leadership of the founding dean Erica Muhl, and the support of President Folt and the USC administration. Leadership on the ground is provided by faculty and staff with significant experience in integrating arts, technology, business, and communication and by students who are eager to learn and work across sectors. I am grateful for the opportunity to join this thriving community and would like to acknowledge that our future work together will “stand on the shoulders of giants.” 

I have dedicated my whole educational career in advancing transdisciplinary learning paradigms. I have previously served as associate director of the Computer Music Center at Columbia University, founding director of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering at ASU, vice provost for Integrative Design, Arts and Technology at Carnegie Mellon University, and executive vice president and provost at Virginia Tech. Most recently, I spearheaded the launch of the Calhoun Discovery Program (CDP) that is focused on inclusive and adaptive, lifelong learning. My research focuses on systems design with a special emphasis on interactive neurorehabilitation, adaptive learning and cyber-human intelligence. 

I am excited to join the Academy with a sense of service and a willingness to learn. I look to our students and for faculty across USC for inspiration as we together discover next frontiers of integrative learning and collaborative work. Over the next few months, I look forward to getting to know you and hearing your thoughts and ideas. I can’t wait to see what we build together. 

Fight On!

Dean Thanassis Rikakis



Dr. Thanassis Rikakis is the second dean of the USC Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation. His tenure began on August 23, 2021.

Dr. Rikakis joins the Academy from Virginia Tech, where he was professor of Bioengineering, professor of Performing Arts, and co-led the Virginia Tech Carilion Smart Rehabilitation Lab and the Interactive Neurorehabilitation Lab. He was the founding director of the Calhoun Discovery Program (CDP) and director of the Calhoun Center for Higher Education Innovation – both of which exemplify his visionary leadership and dedication to developing new education paradigms to prepare students to be creators and leaders in the ever-shifting world of the 21st century.

Prior to establishing the CDP, Dr. Rikakis served as Virginia Tech’s executive vice president and provost and has held leadership positions at Carnegie Mellon University, where he founded the Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe) network; Columbia University where he served as associate director for research and development of the Computer Music Center; Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece); and Arizona State University where he was the founding director of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. His leadership in establishing new educational programs builds upon his research interests which include systems design, engineering, and the arts with a special focus on interactive neurorehabilitation, adaptive learning, experiential media, and cyber-human intelligence.

His groundbreaking work has received grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and National Endowment for the Arts, and a range of industry partners. He has led gift efforts from philanthropy and industry totaling more than $75MM.

Dr. Rikakis has authored 45 publications spanning the fields of computing, engineering, health, education, design, and the arts. Additionally, Dr. Rikakis has composed 30 original music compositions that have been performed internationally.

“Academia has achieved significant progress in knowledge through the focused approach of the disciplines. But the integration of different disciplines, different approaches, is where we’re going to see many future breakthroughs in human intelligence.” - Thanassis Rikakis

Dean's Communiqué

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