The Order of Arête is the highest honor a graduate student can receive at USC. It’s an award given to students who have exemplified academic excellence, demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributed greatly to the USC community during their studies.
This year, the Order of Arête was bestowed upon six students from USC Bovard College, including recent online Master of Science in Human Resource Management (MSHRM) graduate Charli Gross.
HR was not the path Gross thought he would embark on, however, following his graduation from California State University, Northridge with a bachelor’s in communication.
“After graduating, I kind of hopped around to a variety of different roles. I started to notice that in all of my roles, I was involved in ‘extracurriculars,’ for lack of a better word, that were really focused on HR concepts. I would be on the diversity, equity and inclusion committee, or running employee resource groups, or planning events. It wasn’t until I had a mentor point out to me this is something you could do as a job that I really realized that’s what I wanted to pursue,” Gross told USC Online.
To truly excel in the HR field, Gross researched potential graduate programs, considering what skills he needed to acquire for this career pivot. Eventually, he determined that USC was the perfect match for both his background and future goals.
“And of course, as USC is such a prestigious school, I’ve wanted to be a Trojan for a while,” he laughed.
Gross joined USC during a trying time, as students, faculty and staff alike had to navigate the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. But professors at USC Bovard College, he described, didn’t miss a beat. As the school offers five online graduate programs, faculty are experts in creating engaging virtual classes, said Gross, which helped him and his cohort succeed in their coursework.
Although he cited the professors as one of his favorite aspects of the program, Gross also highlighted the personal and thorough attention and support that each student received.
“Every single time I had a class session, there would be a tech support person there to make sure everything got started. Any time I reached out to Bovard College, or really any department in USC, I always got a quick and detailed response. [T]he quality of service that I received as a student to help me be successful stood out to me,” he explained.
Gross enjoyed the MSHRM experience so much he eventually decided to become a program ambassador to help prospective students learn more about the program and what it can do for their careers.
“HR was not something that I had seen myself doing when I was younger … As an ambassador, I get to help people who were where I was a few years ago, realizing that this might be a path they want to take. [I also] get to help them understand what kind of process they need to go through to either make the career change or take the next step and understand whether this program is the right one for them,” he explained.
Gross hasn’t just given back to the USC community through his work as a program ambassador. When describing why he was selected for the Order of Arête, USC Bovard College noted he also “provided invaluable feedback for the program’s LGBTQ+ module, resulting in revisions to the course for future students.”
Gross has long been involved with LGBTQ+ organizations: He was a leader at Gamma Rho Lambda National Sorority (a queer, all-inclusive social sorority), he has worked with The Trevor Project (a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth) and he consistently takes on roles within workplace DEI committees.
Naturally, when Gross approached the LGBTQ+ portion of his diversity and inclusion program course, he was thrilled to dive in, but he ended up feeling disappointed by the material.
“In one of my homework posts, I mentioned that I was incredibly underwhelmed by the lack of updated, relevant content that was accurate and thorough … As a queer trans man, I felt really unseen in the chapter that’s supposed to make me feel included and educate future HR professionals on my community. I felt like we were doing a disservice to both the LGBTQ community and to these future HR professionals who are supposed to be dealing with these issues in the future,” he explained.
Gross was not, however, let down by his professor’s response. The “amazing” faculty member handled the feedback well, even calling Gross to apologize and thank him for his constructive comments.
The professor acknowledged Gross’ criticism to the class and started the process of updating the curriculum, and Gross was incredibly pleased by how his concerns were addressed.
“It’s so important to remember that as things change, everyone is going to make mistakes. It was a mistake not to update … but it isn’t about not making mistakes. It’s all about how we recover from them because mistakes are inevitable. In the recovery from that mistake, I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better on the part of my professor and on the part of Bovard College … One of the reasons that I love the College and the program so much is that it was handled so well,” Gross said.
Gross’ ability to speak out and make a meaningful impact is just one of the many reasons he is such a deserving candidate for the Order of Arête. It’s an honor he’s been thrilled to receive, a welcomed bookend to his rewarding time at USC Bovard College.
In fact, his two years in the program have been so successful that he was even able to land his dream role as a senior talent acquisition partner at Mattel, where Gross interned shortly after being accepted into the MSHRM cohort.
“I’ve come full circle from where I started the program in a way … It’s a good feeling, all of it,” Gross reflected.