University of Southern California

Office of the President

C. L. Max Nikias

Chief of Staff

Dennis Cornell

USC Chief of Staff
Director of Protocol

Dennis Cornell is chief of staff to President C. L. Max Nikias. In this position, he is responsible for the overall planning and management of the office; and to support the president to carry out the university’s mission.

As director of protocol, he is integral to how the university looks and feels to the public at large, working with senior administration, deans and development officers to ensure consistent messages and protocol standards.

Cornell came to USC in 1991 as a visiting professor in directing and producing and became managing director of the USC School of Theatre the following year. He was appointed executive director of University Events in 1995. He left USC for a short time in 2001 to become executive director of BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio; but returned to USC as chief of protocol and associate senior vice president, university relations. He was responsible for the artistic direction of more than 200 events each year. Arts and Culture at USC, as well as special projects like the university’s 125th anniversary celebration and Visions and Voices: The USC Arts and Humanities Initiative, were included in his portfolio.

He also created the USC Impression Series, which includes seminars on business communications and etiquette, dining etiquette, and dress for success geared to graduate and undergraduate students as well as young professionals.

Cornell has been a keynote speaker at national conferences including the first Academic Event Professional Conference, The Starlight Foundation and City of Hope. He produced and directed seven of the last eleven HRC Los Angeles dinners including those honoring Barbra Streisand and Janet Jackson.

Prior to joining the faculty at USC, Cornell was vice president of casting and talent development for Columbia Pictures Television and SONY Pictures Television. He also has been a theatrical producer and director.

Cornell received his undergraduate degree from King’s College and a masters from USC.