‘Dare to be great’: words to remember from convocation

Thousands of misty-eyed parents looked on, craning their necks to etch a treasured memory or snap a timeless keepsake as the incoming class of 2018 marched behind school banners into Alumni Park, black gowns draped over board shorts and sundresses.

If convocation — a major milestone of Welcome Week — feels like the mirror image of commencement, it’s no coincidence. This is the moment when freshmen and transfer students are formally inducted into the Trojan Family.

Under dappled sunlight and a soft breeze, an unmistakable air of tradition and ritual suffused the Aug. 21 ceremony. As the USC Trojan Marching Band played “Conquest,” velvet-robed scholars made their way from Bovard Hall to the stage erected in front of Doheny Memorial Library.

“Today, the president, the provost — our chief academic officer — and the deans of the schools will officially induct you into USC’s community of scholars,“ declared Ainsley Carry, vice provost for student affairs.

A sea of enthusiastic faces

Frosh flash USC’s victory sign. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Frosh flash USC’s victory sign. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

President C. L. Max Nikias welcomed the new Trojans into the family.

“USC is a place today where 53,000 applicants competed for 2,700 spots in the freshman class,” he told the sea of enthusiastic faces. “We searched far and wide to find you. … So if you feel very special to be here today, I’ve got news for you — it’s because you are!”

Nikias challenged the incoming class to redefine literacy as a fluency of the powers of imagination, the arts and literature, world cultures, digital media and most importantly, of ethics. The president concluded his uplifting speech with instructions on “a simple gesture” that all Trojans know.

“No matter where you are in the world,” he said, “whether you are walking along the streets of Los Angeles or in the heart of New York City or Mumbai or London or Shanghai or the island of Santorini, if you recognize another Trojan, you flash the victory sign and say: ‘Fight on!’”

The crowd exuberantly complied.

Undergraduate Student Body President Andrew Menard added his own words of advice.

“Dare to be great,” the senior business major told the newcomers. “USC is not an average school. It’s an exceptional institution. … USC will give you opportunities that most college students will never get. So study harder than anyone, ask questions that others aren’t asking and take risks.”

Jacob Soll, professor of history and accounting, extended his own welcome on behalf of the faculty; then one by one, the deans of each school rose to formally present the student inductees to the president and provost, bestowing upon them “the rights, responsibilities and privileges” of a Trojan.

Musical memories

Musical interludes brightened the program. A solo performance of composer Mark Summer’s “Julie-O” showcased the talent of freshman cellist Annie Jacobs-Perkins of Pennsylvania. By the time tenor Blake Howard, a graduate student at the USC Thornton School of Music, sang “Alma Mater,” parental hearts surely swelled.

As the event ended, families regrouped, bracing for the tearful last goodbyes. Alice Stafford was already mentally shopping for the care package she would send her son, Matthew, a business major, when she and husband Doug reached home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Patty and Jonathan Shapiro of Encinitas, California, trained their cell cams on their smiling son, Benjamin, posed against the USC Thornton banner. Asked if he felt like a Trojan now, the classical saxophone major said he’d been feeling that way since orientation. Asked if he feels ready for his freshman year, he responded with good-natured impatience.

“Actually,” Shapiro said, “I can’t wait for Welcome Week to be over, so I can start in on my music.”

USC Announces New Safety Measures

The University of Southern California is announcing a number of new measures to further improve what is already one of the most sophisticated and far-reaching security and safety programs in higher education.

These enhancements, which are focused on increasing safety on the University Park Campus and the surrounding neighborhood, include increased year-round deployment of neighborhood security ambassadors, further improvements in technology, additional security personnel, improved wait times for Campus Cruiser, enhanced mandatory safety education and more.

USC is meeting with Chinese student leaders, parents and others to discuss their security concerns; and these additional measures respond to that input. USC leadership will continue to work with this group and others to devise smart ways to further improve safety on and around campus, based on research and analysis, including through improved safety education mandated for all students.

The new security improvements include: Continue reading

A Healing Experience in Brazil

On the first day, we sat in a room meditating for four and a half hours. With my eyes closed, it could have easily been seven hours — or two. It felt timeless.

This is how sociology major Sarah Newell describes her arrival at a spiritist healing center in central Brazil. She had traveled there as part of a Problems Without Passports (PWP) course.

Taught by Erin Moore, associate professor (teaching) of anthropology, “The Global Performance of Healing” allows students to learn about cultural anthropology firsthand by examining the practices of healing in other cultural contexts. As a case study, the class focused on spiritism, a healing modality in which mediums are said to channel spirits from other realms to deliver messages or instructions.

Continue reading

Looking at Ways to Improve LA

With a GoPro camera strapped to the front of her bicycle, Nicole Bosetti rode through the streets of Amsterdam. Whirring past brick-front cafes and canals, she captured footage of the safe and efficient bike paths available to cyclists.

In Amsterdam, bicycles outnumber the residential population of about 800,000. With more than 250 miles of road dedicated to cyclists, biking is a popular and efficient method of transportation. In fact, it’s a deeply valued part of Dutch culture.

Bosetti, a geodesign major at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, encountered protected bike lanes, which separated cyclists and drivers with physical dividers, and a dedicated set of traffic signals for bicycles. She wondered, “How can we make Los Angeles more bike-friendly?” Continue reading

Swimming, Biking, Running: All in a Day’s Work for DPT student

Long before applying to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at USC, Jordan Perry had set a personal goal to compete in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Little did the 27-year-old marathon runner realize his studies at the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy — and an association with faculty member Todd Schroeder — could one day help bring his triathlon dreams to life on the big island. Continue reading

Statement from USC Vice Provost for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry

Statement from Ainsley Carry, USC Vice Provost for Student Affairs

August 1, 2014

To the USC Campus Community:

On Thursday, Chief John Thomas and I met with a group of Chinese student leaders to address their safety and security concerns following last week’s tragic incident.

It was a productive and informative meeting and we greatly appreciate the students’ willingness to sit down with us, share their views and discuss ways that we can work together to further improve safety on campus and the surrounding neighborhood. Continue reading

Students Talk About Their “Crazy” Majors and Minors

USC students have discovered that choosing majors and minors in widely different disciplines boosts their creativity – and their career choices.

In a new video, Interdisciplinary Studies at USC, eight undergraduates talk about why they chose majors and minors in diverse academic areas.  With 148 majors and 174 minors listed in the 2014-15 USC Catalogue, the combinations are endless. Continue reading

Grads Share Memories and Advice

We asked some  recent grads — scholastic stars who earned coveted spots in the Order of the Laurel and the Palm — to reflect on their time at USC. They revealed their biggest surprises, fondest football memories and advice for undergraduate success. Continue reading

Veterans Find Camaraderie in the Classroom

This spring the first Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) graduating class made the transition from being military leaders to business professionals – thanks to an innovative accelerated one-year business program developed by the USC Marshall School of Business. Continue reading