USC lauded for innovative faculty retirement practices

From left, Martin Levine, vice provost and senior adviser to the provost; Claire Van Ummersen, senior adviser and project director in ACE’s Office of Institutional Initiatives; and Janette Brown, executive director of the USC Emeriti Center

USC has won an Alfred P. Sloan Award for Faculty Retirement Transitions, the American Council on Education (ACE) announced on June 18 in Washington, D.C. USC is one of 15 higher education institutions across the country to be selected for this honor.

The award from the ACE and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which comes with a $100,000 grant, recognized USC for its cutting-edge approach to supporting faculty with their transition into retirement.

“With the generous support of the Sloan Foundation, ACE is pleased to recognize institutions like USC for creating win-win solutions that involve faculty in meaningful ways before, during and after retirement,” said Gretchen Bataille, senior vice president for Leadership and Lifelong Learning at ACE.

Martin Levine, vice provost and senior adviser to the provost, accepted the award on USC’s behalf.

“Retired faculty can be called the ‘department chairs of their own retirement,’ as one colleague put it, because they are free from any assigned work,” he said. “They remain honored members of our academic community, and USC welcomes their participation in scholarship, teaching and governance in a wide variety of ways.”

Janette Brown, executive director of the USC Emeriti Center, also represented the university at the Washington, D.C., meeting of the winning institutions.

“The USC Emeriti Center leads the nation in retiree programs, services, privileges and opportunities due to the vision of past and current USC leaders,” Brown said. “Former President Hubbard established the center, Dr. [C. L. Max] Nikias as provost increased funding for a full-time professional staff, and Provost [Elizabeth] Garrett continues to support us as an important and valuable resource for current and retired faculty and staff.”

Established in 1978, the Emeriti Center provides a variety of resources (including research stipends), activities, service opportunities and wellness programs that are multidisciplinary, multigenerational and multicultural. It offers faculty and staff who meet service-eligibility minimums a Gold Card entitling them to complimentary on-campus parking, email and library privileges, as well as discounts at university bookstores and other venues. The center advocates for all university retirees and, among other projects, is spearheading the installation of special hearing-assistance technology in on-campus meeting venues.

ACE particularly acknowledged the Emeriti Center and its Living History Project, which works to record faculty legacies; its Trojan ENCORE program, which promotes part-time work and on-campus volunteer service, leveraging retirees’ unique skills and experience; and the USC Emeriti Center College, which sponsors a speaker’s bureau, offers small research grants to retired faculty and provides enrichment courses, including a guided autobiography class.

In addition, the university provides a number of services and resources to help faculty in their transition to retirement, including:

a matching contribution up to 10 percent of faculty members’ salaries for their retirement accountsonline information about retirement privileges and benefitstransition-to-retirement seminars explaining retirement options, Social Security, Medicare, and legal and estate planningthe USC Center for Work and Family Lifea policy that allows faculty to work for up to three years at 50 percent time with full benefits as they transition to retirementUSC Senior Care: “Medigap” retirement health insurance at cost after age 65, as well as a supplemental annual health care stipend.

USC has also been instrumental in assisting other universities to improve the retirement experience for their faculty and staff — including the university’s leadership role in the national Association of Retirement Organizations in Higher Education, which is housed at USC and directed by Brown.

“Our intent in funding these awards is to broaden the national conversation and the agenda within higher education to take into account the full scope of the culminating stage of faculty careers,” said Kathleen Christensen, program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We are hopeful these award-winning institutions can provide examples for our community of thoughtful approaches that can be modeled.”

The names of the institutions honored, along with summaries of their award-winning activities can be found on the ACE website. In addition, each of the winners will draft a chapter about its campus practices to be included in an upcoming ACE monograph. They will also have the opportunity to disseminate their best practices at conferences and in other venues.