Skip to main content

2011-2012 Events

Click here to read "Behind The Mask", a USC News review of the Levan Institute's Coffeehouse Conversation: The Authentic Self

  • Levan Coffeehouse Conversations on Practical Ethics: SELF-KNOWLEDGE - A Perilous Pursuit?

    Wednesday, September 21, Noon - 1:30 PM (Ground Zero Café)

    The quest for self-knowledge often involves concentrated attention on oneself. Could this inward focus actually prove counter-productive to developing the external interests, attachments and relationships that make our lives satisfying and worthwhile?

    What does it mean to 'know thyself'?

    Moderated by:
    Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law, and Political Science, USC Dornsife
    Guest Panelists:
    Scott Altman, Vice Dean and Virginia S. and Fred H. Bice Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law
    John Dreher, Associate Professor of Philosophy, USC Dornsife
    Jesse Graham, Assistant Professor of Psychology, USC Dornsife
    Alida Liberman, Graduate Student of Philosophy, USC Dornsife

  • Spirit of the Law featuring Elyn Saks

    Thursday, September 22, 12:30 PM- 1:20 PM

    Co-Sponsor: USC Office of Religious Life

    Elyn R. Saks is the Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences. She teaches Mental Health Law, Mental Health Law and the Criminal Justice System, and Advanced Family Law: The Rights and Interests of Children. She served as USC Law's associate dean for research from 2005 to 2010. She also teaches at the Institute of Psychiatry and the Law at the Keck School of Medicine at USC and is adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego. Professor Saks was a 2009 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship and in fall 2010 announced she is using the funds from the "genius grant" to create the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy and Ethics.

    The Spirit of the Law is a speaker series featuring legal professionals discussing how they find meaning, purpose, and identity in the law; how they use their law degrees in creative and innovative ways; and how they connect the personal and the professional in their lives.

  • PIGEON: A solo play by Claudia Stevens

    Tuesday, September 27, 6 PM -  Tutor Campus Center (TCC) Ballroom

    Co-sponsored by USC Spectrum

    The great naturalist, chemist, justice advocate and environmental ethicist Miriam Rothschild confronts herself and her own early career. In pursuit of scientific knowledge, and to assist the war effort in Britian, she often, and sometimes needlessly, put lab animals to death, and her work on fleas had the potential to be used in biological warfare (it was not). This dilemma - destruction of animal life to further human aims - is presented as part of the human condition. Drawn from Rothchild's Romanes Lecture at Oxford, "Animals and Man," Pigeon uses dramatic and musical means, as well as audience interaction, to explore the human impulse toward cruelty and indifference to suffering. It emphasizes the importance of self-awareness in developing realistic, as well as an ethical and reverential, relationship to the natural world.

  • Medical Humanitarianism - Possibilities and Pitfalls

    Tuesday, October 18, 4 PM (Bovard Auditorium)

    A Lecture by Dr. Paul Farmer (Visons and Voices Series)

    Co-sponsors: The Keck School of Medicine’s Program in Medical Humanities, Arts and Ethics; USC Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics

    Dr. Paul Farmer is a medical anthropologist, physician and founding director of Partners In Health. Dr. Farmer is the Presley Professor of Social Medicine and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Farmer and his colleagues in the United States and in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho and Malawi have pioneered novel community-based treatment strategies that demonstrate the delivery of high-quality health care in resource-poor settings. Dr. Farmer has written extensively on health, human rights and the consequences of social inequality. He is the subject of Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. Click here for past Visions and Voices speakers.

  • Film Screening: Nostalgia for the Light

    Tuesday, October 25, 7 PM (Ray Stark Family Theatre)

    Co-sponsor: USC School of Cinematic Arts

    Prix Chalais Winner, 2010 Cannes Film Festival
    Best Documentary Grand Prix, 2010 European Film Awards  
    Centerpiece, 2011 Documentary Fortnight, The Museum of Modern Art
    Top 10 Best Movies of 2010, Sight & Sound
    Critic’s Pick, The New York Times

    Director Patricio Guzman travels 10,000 feet above sea level to the driest place on earth. Atop the mountains of the Atacama Desert, astronomers from all over the world gather to observe the stars. The sky is so translucent that it allows them to see right to the boundaries of the universe.

    The Atacama Desert is also a place where the harsh heat of the sun keeps human remains intact: those of Pre-Columbian mummies; 19th century explorers and miners; and the remains of political prisoners, “disappeared” by the Chilean army after the military coup of September 11, 1973.

    While astronomers examine the most distant and oldest galaxies, at the foot of the mountains, women -- surviving relatives of the disappeared whose bodies were dumped here by the Chilean Army -- search, even after 25 years, for the remains of their loved ones, to reclaim their families’ histories.

    Melding the celestial quest of the astronomers and the earthly one of the Chilean women, Nostalgia for the Light is a gorgeous, moving, and deeply personal odyssey. This screening is part of the Levan Institute's Cinema of Substance Series.

  • Film Screening: The Mexican Suitcase

    Wednesday, November 2, 7 PM (Ray Stark Family Theatre)

    Co-sponsored by: Outside the Box [Office], USC Dornsife Del Amo Fund, USC Shoah Foundation Institute, Dornsife Department of Spanish and Portuguese and 212 Berlin.

    Organized by Professor David Lloyd, English and Comparative Literature (USC Dornsfe)

    The Mexican Suitcase tells the story of three lost boxes discovered in a closet in Mexico City in 2007. Small boxes, red, green, and manila that disappeared in the chaos in Europe at the beginning of World War II. Contained in the suitcase were 4,500 unique negatives, the work of three friends who would become some of the finest photojournalists of their time; Robert Capa, David "Chim" Seymour, and Gerda Taro.

    The suitcase, a metaphor, takes us through the narrrative with the voices and memories of survivors and with the stories of the subsequent generation of exiles. This film is about photographs taken in the past (1937 to 1939) recovered in our present (2009); a film that looks at the power of memory and asks who owns our memories? Where do our memories live? Who has the power over our narratives and how do we reclaim our stories and our pasts?

  • Levan Coffeehouse Conversations on Practical Ethics: THE AUTHENTIC SELF

    Wednesday, November 9, Noon - 1:30 PM (Ground Zero Café)

    Does our "self" depend in any meaningful way on our ancestral history? Could we reject that inheritance while preserving our identities? Is our identity at any given time nothing more than the result of our life experiences up to that point? Or is there an "essential" self that survives through all the changing causal influences that affect our desires, ambitions, and roles in life?



    Moderated by: Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, USC Dornsife

    Guest Panelists:

    Ara Astourian, Graduate Student of Philosophy, USC Dornsife

    Ronald Garet, Carolyn Craig Franklin Professor of Law and Religion, USC Gould School of Law

    Rebecca Lemon, Associate Professor of English, USC Dornsife

    Ed McCann, Professor of Philosophy and English, USC Dornsife

  • HAPPY: An evening with filmmaker Roko Belic

    Tuesday, November 29, 7 PM (Ray Stark Family Theatre)

    Co-sponsor: USC School of Cinematic Arts

    Does money make you HAPPY? Kids and family? Your work? Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution?

    Roko Belic, director ofthe Academy Award® nominated "Genghis Blues" now brings us HAPPY, a film that sets out to answer these questions and more. Taking us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts to Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.

    This screening is part of the Levan Institute's Cinema of Substance Series.


    Student Workshops in Self-Examination and Self-Fashioning. Program Director James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics, USC Dornsife

    Strategies for the Art of Living Workshop by USC Thematic Option students (CORE 102)

    Thursday, December 1, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM (Davidson Conference Center, Figueroa Room)

    Some philosophers don't just present arguments. Rather, they present the sort of person that aheres to particular arguments. They write literature that explores what make these sorts of people good and beautiful. Students will brief the audience about their work this semester with these different literary characters, how self-construction can work in philosophical literature, and then will create an experimental performance space in which the audience will be able to move and interact with dramatic renderings of philosophical personae.


    Euripides' Hippolytus, adapted and read by USC students of Ancient Drama (CLAS 337)

    Tuesday, December 6, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM (Zumberge Hall 352)

    This play, first produced for the city of Dionysia in Athens in 428 BC, is full of characters that believe they know themselves until they have to wrestle with appetites, emotions, and voices, which they had long neglected. Euripides offers a psychologically complex look at how people variously cnostruct and commit to ideas about themselves and what constitutes virtuous living. Students will offer a dramatic reading of their adaptation followed by reflections on their scholarly and creative engagement with this ancient drama.


  • California Regional Ethics Bowl

    Saturday, December 3, 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

    The National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (APPE) is a tiered competition. During November and December, ten regional ethics bowls take place at various locations throughout the United States. The top scoring 32 teams in the regional ethics bowls qualify to compete in the National Competition in March 2012. The Levan Institute is coordinating this year's California Regional Competition at USC.

    Click here for more information

  • Documentary: Education Under Fire

    Friday, February 3, 7 PM (Norris Cinema Theater)


    USC Co-sponsors: Office of Religious Life, School of Cinematic Arts, Center for International Studies, Center on Public Diplomacy and the Baha'i Student Association

    Film screening followed by a Q&A with Rainn Wilson of the acclaimed television series The Office.

    In 1987, the semi-underground Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) was formed to give young Baha'is in Iran their only chance for a university-level education. Education Under Fire profiles the growth, struggle and inspiring spirit of the BIHE.

    Following the screening, actor-comedian Rainn Wilson and activist Reza Aslan join director Jeff Kaufman, USC alumnus and executive producer David Hoffman and Shabnam Kolrala-Azad for a panel discussion moderated by USC Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni.

    Click here for more information.

  • Witness and Responsibility

    Tuesday, February 7, 10 AM - 7 PM (Various Venues at USC)


    Presenting Sponsor: USC Shoah Foundation Institute

    Co-sponsors: USC Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Hebrew Union College, USC Hillel, USC Libraries, USC Office of Religious Life, USC School of Theatre

    How can artists use and/or respond to videotaped testimonies and other artifacts of "what happened" historically in the creation of something new and immediate and now? Can theater serve in shaping an audience's perception and ultimately the world?

    Please join us for a daylong event focused on artistic work that engages with catastrophes and other shattering events - personal and worldwide - that challenge our sense of normalcy.

    The event is part of the Association for Jewish Theatre's four-day international conference in Los Angeles, Reflecting and Shaping a Shifting World.

    Click here to see the workshop schedule.

  • MIRRORS AND WINDOWS - Understanding Oneself by Knowing Others

    Wednesday, February 8, Noon - 1:30 PM (Ground Zero Café)


    Can we gain self-knowledge through the study of the lives of other people, historical or fictional? Join our panelists from literature, classics, philosophy and history to discuss how learning about the lives of others can affect one's sense of self.

    Moderated by Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, USC Dornsife


    • James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics, USC Dornsife
    • Thomas Habinek, Professor and Chair, Classics, USC Dornsife
    • Greg Thalmann, Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature, USC Dornsife
    • Hillary Schor, Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies and Law, USC Dornsife and USC Gould School of Law
    • Miruna Barnoschi, Inquisitive Undergrad, International Relations, Philosophy and Classics, USC Dornsife

    A Levan Coffeehouse Conversation

  • Levan Annual Distinguished Lecture: Nikki Giovanni

    Wednesday, February 22, 4 PM (Tutor Campus Center, The Forum)

    Nikki Giovanni is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist and educator. As a young poet in the late 1960s, Giovanni gave voice to the passions of the black power movement. Over the past 40 years, her outspoken writing and lecturing have kept her boldly in the intersection of art and politics. One of the most widely read American poets, she prides herself on being a “Black American, a daughter, a mother, a professor of English.” Her focus is on the individual, specifically the power one has to make a difference in oneself, and thus in the lives of others.

    Over a distinguished career, Giovanni has received the NAACP Image Award for Literature and the Langston Hughes Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters. She has also received some 25 honorary degrees, and been named Woman of the Year by MademoiselleLadies' Home Journal andEbony. The prolific author’s recent books include The 100 Best African American PoemsRosa and Bicycles: Love Poems. She is a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

  • Achieving the Mission Statement: Cultivating Wisdom and Moral Discernment Among USC Students

    Thursday, March 1, 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM (Friends of Doheney Memorial Library, 240)

    Co-sponsor: USC Center for Excellence in Teaching

    “We strive constantly for excellence in teaching knowledge and skills to our students, while at the same time helping them to acquire wisdom and insight, love of truth and beauty, moral discernment, understanding of self, and respect and appreciation of others.”---USC Mission Statement

    How can USC achieve these goals in meaningful and appropriate ways? How does one teach wisdom and respect?

    USC faculty, teaching assistants and students are invited to engage these questions in this lunch-hour roundtable and workshop.

    Moderator: Edward Finegan, Professor of Linguistics and Law, Director of USC Center for Excellence in Teaching


    • Alex Capron, University Professor; Vice Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs; Scott H. Bice Chair in Healthcare Law, Policy and Ethics (USC Gould School of Law); Professor of Law and Medicine (Keck School of Medicine); Co-Director, Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics
    • Pat Haden, USC Athletic Director; Former Chairman of the Academic and Student Affairs Committees, USC Board of Trustees
    • Darline Robles, Professor of Clinical Education, USC Rossier School of Education, Former Superintendent of Los Angeles County Office of Education and of the Salt Lake City and Montebello School Districts
  • Levan Annual Ethics Essay Contest

    Deadline: Friday, March 2, 2012

    The Ethics Essay Contest aims to recognize the best-written works on ethics by undergraduates across the curriculum. Papers may consist of a discussion of a current ethical issue or a critical case analysis of recent ethics violations in a professional field (engineering, business, health sciences, law, politics, etc.). The contest will award a cash prize to an overall winner, as well as winners in the following categories: Organizational Ethics, Ethics Across Borders, Professional Ethics and Social Justice.

  • Cinema of Substance Series: Poetry

    Wednesday, March 7, 7 PM (Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre, SCA 112)

    Co-sponsor: USC School of Cinematic Arts

    On a whim, Mija enrolls in a poetry class at the local cultural center and begins a personal quest to find the perfect words to describe her feelings. When her world is turned upside down by the discovery of a monstrous crime, it is Mija’s unique and touching poetry that allows her to defy the weight of shame and distance herself from a painful proximity to violence.

    “With an understated visual style and perfectly paced narrative, [writer-director Lee Chang-dong’s] Poetry has created a portrait of a woman who has, by the end, become an extraordinary vision of human empathy.”

                —Manohla Dargis, New York Times

  • STORIES: Finding Meaning, Discovering Art, Spirituality and Meaning

    Wednesday, March 7, 7 PM DCC Embassy Room

    Sponsors: AGO, ADX, Cru, Navigators, Intervarsity, Christian Challenge, Calvary Chapel, Athletes in Action, Sisters in Spirit, Fresh Faith, South LA Christian, Life Christian Fellowship, YoungLife, Epic, Bridges International

    Co-Sponsors: Office of Religious Life, Dornsife English Department, Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, Institute for Global Health

    This year, the Veritas Forum will be hosting John Shepherd, Founder President of Mpower Pictures (BellaThe Stoning of Soraya M., and Snowmen) and Neal Baer, M.D., and screen writer behind ER and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to engage and discuss the question, What makes stories meaningful and why?

  • Roundtable: How Do We Bring the Rule of Law to Places That Don't Have It?

    Tuesday, March 20, 12:30 PM (Tutor Campus Center Forum)

    USC Levan/Carnegie Global Ethics Network Event

    The rule of law is one of the most cherished governmental principles in dozens of countries around the world. What factors are necessary to help bring the rule of law to places that don’t have it? How can accountability be instituted and impunity ended in states that don’t have it? What powers do judicial officials require in order for their rulings and orders to be impactful?

    Moderator:  Lyn Boyd-Judson, Director, Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, USC Dornsife and Carnegie Global Ethics Fellow


    • Richard Dekmejian, Professor and Director, Political Science, USC Dornsife

    • Naama Haviv, Assistant Director, Jewish World Watch

    • David Ritchie, Associate Professor of Law and Philosophy, Mercer University and Carnegie Global Ethics Fellow

    • Edwin Smith, Leon Benwell Professor of Law, International Relations and Political Science, USC Gould School of Law

    Co-sponsors: Blackstonians Pre-Law Honor Society, Dornsife Political Science Department, USC Center for Law and Philosophy, Armenian Students'Association, Jewish World Watch, Unruh Institute of Politics, USC STAND: An Anti-Genocide Coalition, USC Journal of Law and Society

  • Hard-Wired: Do We Choose Our Politics, or Do Our Brains Choose Them for Us?

    Wednesday, April 11, Noon (Ground Zero Café)

    Recent research in neuroscience suggests that political preferences reflect differences in the very structure of the brain. How does this affect our ability to defend our political affiliations on rational grounds?

    Watch a video of the full conversation here

    Moderated by:

    •Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law and Political Science, USC Dornsife

    Guest Panelists:

    • Jesse Graham, Assistant Professor of Psychology, USC Dornsife

    • Dan Schnur, Director, Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, USC Dornsife

    • Wendy Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business, USC Dornsife

    • Vanessa Singh, Ph.D. Candidate, Brain and Creativity Institute, USC Dornsife

    • Ben Rolnik, Senior, Interdisciplinary Studies & Biology, President of the USC Philosophy Club


    A Levan Coffeehouse Conversation

  • Performing Wisdom


    Tuesday, April 24, 4 PM (Ground Zero Café)

    Program Director James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics, USC Dornsife

    Join us for a performative reading and informal conversation about BIRDS by Ancient Greek playwright Aristophans

    First performed at the City Dionysia in Athens in 414 BCE, Birds 

    is a comedy about two men disillusioned by the hustle, politics, war-mongering and responsibilities of Athenian life. They fly off to join the birds and start a new, carefree city. But while trying to protect their new settlement in the sky from Athenian visitors, they end up reproducing much of what was wrong in the city they left.

    Visitors are invited to join in the performance!

  • From Me to You: Conversations of Passion

    Friday, April 27, 4:30 PM - 7:00 PM (Mudd Hall of Philosophy, 101)

    A USC Philosophy Club initiative

    Undergraduate and graduate students from across all disciplines will host 15-minute micro-seminars on topics of their choosing. Conversations of Passion is a series of short discussions where students can explore and learn from each other. Talks include: "Meditation and Self-Mastery," "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics," "Translate, Transport, Transplant," "Behavioral Economics and You," "The Morality of Power," and "Practical Learning and Memory Techniques."

    email with questions

  • Call for Papers and Participants, Global Justice (II): Ethics and Practices of Responsibility (Paris, November 19-20, 2012)

    This two-day workshop conference will discuss topics of common interest around continuing questions of global justice raised by our first collaborative conference in April 2011 at USC. We aim to move beyond describing problems and toward developing themes of responsibility in creating justice and remedying injustice.

  • Watch the video of Levan Institute/Carnegie Council Global Ethics Network event: Roundtable: How Do We Bring the Rule of Law to Places That Don't Have It?

    See the full conversation here.

    Moderated by:

    • Lyn Boyd-Judson, Director, Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, USC Dornsife and Carnegie Council Global Ethics Fellow

    Guest Panelists:

    • Richard Dekmejian, Professor and Director, Political Science, USC Dornsife
    • Naama Haviv, Assistant Director, Jewish World Watch
    • David Ritchie, Associate Professor of Law and Philosophy, Mercer University, and Carnegie Council Global Ethics Fellow
    • Edwin Smith, Leon Benwell Professor of Law, International Relations and Political Science, USC Gould School of Law


  • Click the links below to see 2011-2012 speakers from our series: