HR Director

Opportunity and Challenge Profile

Search for the Director of Human Resources
University of Southern California, Information Sciences Institute
Marina del Rey, California

The University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI) seeks an accomplished, innovative, and collaborative leader to serve as its next Director of Human Resources (HR). Reporting to the Executive Director, the HR Director will provide strategic vision and guidance over the operations of the Institute’s critical human resources functions. As a member of the Executive Director’s leadership team, the HR Director will provide clear information, advice, and counsel regarding human resources processes, policies, and procedures to ensure the best possible support and environment for Institute faculty, students, and staff.

The Information Sciences Institute, a unit of the Viterbi School of Engineering, is a world leader in the research and development of advanced artificial intelligence, computer networks, cybersecurity, medical informatics, and other computing and communications technologies. ISI’s faculty, professional staff, and graduate students carry out extraordinary information sciences research at three distinct locations—Marina del Rey, California, where this position will be located; Arlington, Virginia; and Waltham, Massachusetts.

USC Viterbi School of Engineering, consistently ranked in the top ten engineering schools in the United States, is achieving new heights through research and educational leadership in crucial realms of technology and innovation: information sciences, biomedical engineering, and homeland security, among others. In addition to the Information Sciences Institute, Viterbi is home to more than 45 research centers and institutes, including three National Science Foundation-funded engineering research centers and the first University-based center of excellence funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ISI is by far the largest research institute in Viterbi, raising more than 50% of all external research funding of the Viterbi School.

Founded by civic leaders at the dawn of the Western region’s prominence, USC has always been a pioneering institution with discovery and exploration at its heart. Its aspirations— and embrace— were as expansive as the region it grew to represent. Since opening its doors in 1880, USC’s drive to break boundaries and transcend its own geography put it on an impressive trajectory. USC has established itself as a leading institution in the academy, distinguished for its unique, nimble, and inventive culture.

ISI’s incoming Director of Human Resources must be an experienced and entrepreneurial professional with a demonstrated understanding of human resources practices and strategy, including benefits, compensation, employee relations, employment policies, and human resources workforce management systems, preferably in the information technology and/or education sectors. The HR Director will partner proactively with ISI leadership to establish human resource objectives in line with organizational objectives, identifying and researching human resources issues and contributing information, analysis, and recommendations to ISI’s strategic thinking and direction. They will play a key role in planning human resources initiatives and services that are essential to the Institute, including recruitment, workforce planning, diversity promotion, organizational development, change management, compensation planning and administration, and performance management, as well as other human resources services essential to ISI’s cutting edge and competitive information technology research environment.

A list of the desired qualifications and characteristics of the Director of Human Resources can be found at the conclusion of this document, which was prepared by the search advisory committee with the assistance of Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, to provide background information and detail the key opportunities and challenges related to the position. All confidential applications, inquiries, and nominations should be directed to the parties listed at the conclusion of this document.

About Information Sciences Institute

Established in 1972, the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) is a world leader in research and development of advanced information processing, computer and communications technologies. A unit of the Viterbi School of Engineering, ISI is one of the nation’s largest, most successful university-affiliated computer science research institutes and attracts over $100 million annually for basic and applied research from federal agencies and the private sector. It is located across three offices: Marina del Rey, California; Boston, Massachusetts; and Arlington, Virginia.

Since its foundation, the Institute has grown from a small staff of three to over 400 engineers, research scientists, graduate students and staff across the Institute’s three locations. ISI is an integral part of USC’s research culture, with an average of 30 researchers with faculty appointments and close to 100 PhD students from a range of departments. Over half of ISI’s researchers hold PhDs. From 2013 to 2020, ISI’s full-time staff and number of PhD students grew by well over 100.

ISI is funded almost entirely through sponsored research dollars and operates under a separate budget model from the wider university. In University fiscal year 2019, ISI received over $92 million in research awards, up from $55 million in 2013. ISI’s strong federal support contributes to the Viterbi School of Engineering’s consistent ranking among the nation’s top five universities in terms of research funding and first-place national ranking for federal computer science R&D expenditures. Current federal sponsors include the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology, among others. For more information on sponsored research at ISI, visit

ISI research focuses on artificial intelligence, networking and cybersecurity, informatics, computational systems and technology, and advanced electronics. ISI scientists also research space systems and partner with the USC Viterbi School on the Space Engineering Research Center. In its more than 40 years of existence, the Institute has received hundreds of awards from federal agencies and achieved exceptional depth and breadth of information sciences expertise in both software and hardware.

For more information about ISI, visit

Information Sciences Institute Leadership

ISI is led by an Executive Leadership team that oversees strategic administration of the Institute and research directors who oversee the Institute’s five research divisions: artificial intelligence; networking and cybersecurity; computational systems and technology; advanced electronics; and informatics systems research.

Craig Knoblock is ISI’s Michael Keston Executive Director. Prior to serving in that position, Knoblock was the director of ISI’s Artificial Intelligence division, one of the United States’ largest and most respected artificial intelligence (AI) laboratories, which spans the full range of AI expertise. In this appointment, Knoblock led a division of close to 150 highly regarded faculty, staff researchers, research programmers, and students working on leading-edge projects, including biomedical data integration, machine translation, robotics and social networks. Knoblock holds several additional positions at USC,

including research professor with the Department of Computer Science and the Spatial Sciences Institute, vice dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering, and director of USC’s Data Science Program. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University and his Master’s and PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on techniques related to knowledge graphs and the semantic web to describe, acquire and exploit the semantics of data.

For more information on ISI leadership, visit

About USC Viterbi School of Engineering

USC Engineering began in 1905, with the first courses being offered in civil and electrical engineering, as part of the College of Liberal Arts. In 1928, the College of Engineering was established with five departments: chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and petroleum engineering. In 2004, Qualcomm co- founder, alumnus, and USC Trustee Andrew Viterbi and his wife Erna made the largest ever naming gift to an American engineering school – $52 million – to name the USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering.

Today, USC Viterbi is home to 8 academic departments, approximately 2,848 undergraduate and 6,199 graduate students. The School has 191 full-time tenure-track faculty, 119 full-time non-tenure-track faculty, 60 faculty with joint or partial appointments, 21 part-time lecturers, and more than 160 adjunct faculty. USC Viterbi offers 15 BS programs, 17 active minors, 64 master’s, and 13 PhD programs. Via DEN@Viterbi, the School’s online delivery method, USC Viterbi also offers 40 online master’s programs and 5 graduate certificates.

USC Viterbi has almost 600 employees. In 2010, as part of the $6 billion fundraising campaign— Campaign for USC— Viterbi launched its fundraising initiative with the goal of generating gifts and pledges totaling
$500 million by the end of the campaign. This initiative came on the heels of another initiative that raised more than $300 million between 2001 and 2008. In 2019, the Viterbi Advancement office secured more than $500 million total in campaign giving.

With externally funded annual expenditures exceeding $208 million, over half of which are at ISI, USC Viterbi is among the nation’s highest in the volume of research activity. The School’s 45+ research centers have played a major role in the development of multiple technologies, including the early development of the internet. In addition to the Information Sciences Institute, which is by far the largest, additional research centers include: the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) in partnership with the Price School, the DOE/White House Materials Genome Initiative Center, the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computation Center, NSF I-Corps Innovation Node Los Angeles (IN-LA) in partnership with Cal Tech and UCLA, and the Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering (AMI).

In the U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) 2020 rankings of graduate programs in engineering, USC Viterbi was ranked #9 overall and #5 among private engineering schools. USC Viterbi is the only engineering school in the US on three USNWR top-10 engineering program lists: Best Graduate Schools (ranked #9), Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs (ranked #2), and Best Online Information Technology Programs (ranked #1).

For more information about USC Viterbi, visit:

About University of Southern California

Located in one of the capital cities of the 21st century, USC is the oldest private research university in the western United States. The University developed in stride with the dynamic city of Los Angeles, a global center for art, technology, culture, industry, and trade, and a vividly international city with one of the most diverse populations on the planet. Now the world’s creative capital, Los Angeles has never lost its frontier edge and constantly re-invents its physical fabric, its economy, and its society. USC is both in and of its city. It was shaped by a succession of visionary women and men who invested their time, insight, and financial resources to build one of the world’s great universities in the heart of a consequential global mega- region.

USC currently operates under a financial system of Responsibility Center Management (RCM) and has a strong diversified portfolio of revenue and very considerable responsibility at the level of schools and deans. In the 2018-2019 FY, the University budget was $5.3 billion. Financial aid expenditures totaled $570 million. As of June 30, 2019, the endowment stood at $5.7 billion, with significant growth resulting from the Campaign for USC. The University preserves substantial annual cash flows at the central level for investment in collaboration with the 21 schools, frequently for interdisciplinary and cross-school initiatives.

In February 2018, The Board of Trustees adopted the 2018 USC Strategic Plan – Answering the Call. The plan is structured along four pillars: values, people, impact, and transformation, and is a call to action that secures USC’s place as a distinctive, impactful, and diverse 21st-century research university. To read the plan in full, please visit

The New Executive Leadership Team

On March 20, 2019, USC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Carol L. Folt as its 12th President. Formerly Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Folt brings decades of executive experience in academia to USC and moral, ethical, and student-centered leadership to the University. Additionally, on October 1, 2019, Dr. Charles Zukoski began his tenure as USC’s new Provost. Formerly provost at the University at Buffalo, Dr. Zukoski also brings deep experience in higher education, is committed to excellence, and has been recognized for bringing diverse groups together to build interdisciplinary teams. New members who joined the president’s cabinet in 2019 also include Senior Vice President for Administration David Wright and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Felicia Washington.

Role of the Director of Human Resources

As a member of the ISI Executive Director’s leadership team, the HR Director will be expected to provide clear recommendations to senior management regarding strategic development of human resources to ensure the best possible human resources support and environment for Institute faculty, students, and staff. They will make recommendations for proactive measures and solutions to address opportunities and trends impacting the operations and the employee experience. The HR Director will also work to improve processes and procedures, and drive implementation of identified solutions.

The HR Director will oversee a team two direct reports—a human resource generalist and a human resource specialist—and will liaise across the USC campus to work directly with colleagues in central University and Viterbi human resources offices.

Key Opportunities and Challenges for the Director of Human Resources

This is an important appointment for USC Information Sciences Institute during a time of significant growth for the institute. The most competitive candidates for the Director of Human Resources role should possess the ability and experience to successfully:

Foster and support a positive, communicative work culture within ISI

  • Work effectively across multiple offices and departments to support the overall management of the ISI team;
  • Promote a positive “culture of yes” that embraces new ideas and creativity;
  • Champion diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within ISI, including strategic planning, trainings, and education for ISI staff and leadership;
  • Enhance communication between human resources and the wider ISI community, including but not limited to, developing a monthly newsletter and sharing resources;
  • Encourage and develop efforts that address the well-being of the ISI staff, particularly around issues of mental health and supporting staff across a distributed office environment;
  • Provide training and share resources with support staff as they navigate workplace challenges related to the current remote work environment.

Balance ISI’s unique needs within the larger university context

  • Represent ISI’s needs while remaining mindful of institutional requirements and processes across the broader USC landscape;
  • Understand how to effectively navigate the larger university, building and maintaining a strong working relationship with central University HR;
  • Be diplomatic in nature, with the ability to translate seamlessly across and between various institutional units to achieve shared vision and goals.

Serve as a thought partner to ISI leadership

  • Bring a deep understanding of the human resources space more broadly through professional expertise and involvement in external organizations/networks;
  • Effectively communicate that understanding to ISI leadership, including the executive team and research directors, to enhance and support their HR-related work;
  • Possess an entrepreneurial spirit and a nimble approach to their work, introducing new ideas, creating new internal systems and processes, and addressing new challenges creatively;
  • Provide training and education across ISI, supporting managers and other staff in various HR- related processes, including management, personnel issues, and general onboarding procedures.

Work proactively with ISI leadership around issues related to recruitment, hiring, and retention

  • Think strategically and broadly about the recruitment process, bringing a knowledge of social media and other technology platforms and creatively managing competition throughout the hiring process;
  • Proactively partner with research leaders throughout the hiring process, assisting and providing guidance when necessary;
  • Espouse the values of diversity and inclusion, ensuring equitable recruitment and hiring practices and provide training and support around these and other personnel issues to ISI faculty and staff.

Leverage technology to build out and improve efficiencies to enhance HR-related practices throughout the institute

  • Demonstrate proficiency with various technological platforms and systems and/or the willingness to learn new platforms, including Workday, leveraging technology to drive efficiency across ISI’s various HR functions;
  • Utilize process mapping to streamline ISI’s HR-related systems and processes, creating more efficient and practical workflows to keep pace with ongoing recruitment and hiring needs.

Qualifications and Characteristics

The following qualifications represent the broad set of skills and personal attributes deemed important to the success of the next Director for Human Resources. The successful candidate will be expected to have:

  • Master’s degree, MBA or similar degree in a related field;
  • At least 7 years of increasingly responsible leadership experience successfully managing all HR facets of a large, fast-paced, multi-million dollar operation, preferably in IT research or higher education;
  • At least 5 years of managerial/supervisory experience, with demonstrated ability to train and supervise personnel and to work with diverse groups including faculty, staff, and students in a complex organization;
  • A demonstrated understanding of human resources practices and strategy, including benefits, compensation, employee relations, employment policies, and human resources workforce management systems, preferably in the information technology and/or education sectors;
  • Significant experience with enterprise resource management systems such as Workday;
  • A background including active social media presence;
  • Working knowledge of payroll operations.

The successful candidate must have many of the following qualifications and characteristics:

  • Demonstrated leadership in strategic planning, change management, process improvement, communication and problem-solving;
  • The ability to troubleshoot, negotiate, think creatively and resolve complex employee relations issues and conflicts;
  • The ability to effectively and proactively partner with technical division directors and researchers at all levels to advance the specific HR goals of the Institute;
  • The ability to promote safe, ethical, and compliant behaviors based on training and lessons learned;
  • An understanding and appreciation of the HR opportunities and challenges that exist in a highly competitive, cutting-edge, soft-money research organization that attracts researchers from all over the world.


Marina del Rey is a seaside community of 9,000 in Los Angeles County, California. Located approximately four miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), four miles from Santa Monica, and 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is a major boating and water recreation destination in the greater Los Angeles area and a popular tourism destination. Its port is North America’s largest man-mand small-craft harbor and home to approximately 5,000 boats. Marina del Rey includes various attractions and points of interest, including Ballona Wetlands, California Yacht Club, Fisherman’s Village, UCLA Marina Aquatic Center, and Burton Chace Park.

Applications, Inquiries, and Nominations

Isaacson, Miller, a leading national executive search firm, has been retained to assist the Search Advisory Committee. Screening of complete applications will begin immediately and continue until the completion of the search process/until the position is filled. For more details, including the full position profile and to submit inquiries, nominations, referrals, and applications, please see the Isaacson, Miller website for the search: Electronic submission of materials is required.

Courtney Wilk-Mandel and Carley Davenport
Isaacson, Miller
1000 Sansome Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 415.655.4900
Fax: 415.655.4905

The University of Southern California is an equal opportunity, affirmative action educator and employer, proudly pluralistic and firmly committed to providing education and employment opportunities to outstanding, qualified individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience. The University strives to maintain a welcoming community in which all its members may live, work and learn in peace and dignity, be proud of who they are, and have equal opportunity to realize their full potential as individuals and members of society. To this end, the University places great emphasis on those values and virtues that bind us together as human beings and members of the Trojan Family. The University enthusiastically supports the principles of affirmative action and equal opportunity in their entirety, and expects that every person associated with the University will give continuing support to their implementation.