Freshman draws from her Islamic faith to give from her heart

USC freshman Newal Osman wraps a colorful hijab on her head, steps back and considers her reflection in the mirror. She likes what she sees. “Hijab goes beyond the head scarf,” she said. “It’s your whole body attire, a symbol of modesty that doesn’t veil your identity.”

She recites Asr, the Islamic afternoon prayer, then darts off to the Rose Bowl to experience “On The Run,” Beyoncé and Jay Z’s national concert tour.

“I respect Beyoncé for her sacrifice for her family and her willingness to give to others,” Osman said.

She can relate.

A mother’s sacrifice

Osman’s family story reads like a classic American novel. Her mother came from Sudan, her father from Eritrea. They met in the airport while moving between connecting flights and looking for directions. They took a risk and fell in love, worked at several gas stations together then drifted apart in the great centrifugal swirl of American culture. The father was still present, supporting Osman and her sister, but the heaviest burden fell on her mother, who did everything in her power to get her daughters a good education.

“Seeing my mom struggle alone was hard. She didn’t want to expose her girls to hardship. But I look at all the positive things that came out of it. My mom wouldn’t be the person I know her to be. I wouldn’t be the person I am today. My mom is my best friend,” she said, blinking back tears.

Osman’s mother worked extra jobs to pay for private Islamic schools where her daughter learned Arabic. From her grandmother Fatima, Osman learned Tigre, a Sudanese tribal dialect. Her mother’s faith was the cement that held them together and cultivated in her a culture of giving. “I saw the sacrifices my mother made so that I can be happy and I realized happiness doesn’t come from what I get, but from what I give,” she said. “So I wanted to give more.”

Freshman Newal Osman shows off her scarf collection. (Photo/David Sprague)
Freshman Newal Osman shows off her scarf collection. (Photo/David Sprague)

A daughter’s gift

When the family moved to Berkeley, California, Osman found her identity as a community organizer. She created her own high school organization, The Giving Back Club, which is still active today. She raised money for clean water and food for victims of famine in Somalia and for survivors of Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Rammasu in the Philippines. She forged a partnership with Pennies for Patients to find a cure for leukemia.

Her resume would make her an excellent candidate for a peacekeeping mission in today’s hot zones, but Osman dreams of becoming a pediatrician. “Making something that was bad go away for a child… It wouldn’t be a job.”

She enters USC as a biological sciences major through Questbridge, which connects the highest-achieving, lowest-income students to the best universities.

When she wraps herself in cardinal and gold this fall, Osman will take on a new identity – that of a USC Trojan. She plans to enroll in Problems Without Passports at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, which offers courses that combine problem-based learning research exercises with study in a foreign country.

With a passport to the world, and support from USC, Osman will doubtlessly see her mother’s legacy be focused and enriched. “I don’t want USC to be a gated community,” she said. “I want to use all the resources I have to help others in our community.”

From cancer research to comics, this freshman fuses fun with diligence

In an oversized white lab coat, khakis, polo shirt and gloves, Danyal Brink looks like a kid in an adult world.

At age 17, he’s delighted to be turned loose with electrodes and magnets and cylinders and spectroscopes for the summer to work on a famous research project at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He watches a pair of lively mice and records their activity, and then takes a break. He opens his sketchbook and goes to work on his latest personal experiment — a comic featuring cyborg-mice performing heroic exploits in a galactic maze.

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‘Quirky is an asset, not a liability’ for this freshman

If you want to stage a spectacular arts festival in the middle of downtown Dallas, a teenager might not be the first organizer you’d call. But you’d be overlooking a budding talent.

Meet Natalie Raphael – incoming USC freshman and public relations major.

At 17, Raphael organized “Arts in the Park,” a highly successful partnership between her high school and a major Dallas civic center, Klyde Warren Park. It wasn’t her first big event either: a year before, she produced a fundraising concert for the music therapy program at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, where she sits on the teen board. Continue reading

‘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.

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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.

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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