Hi, everyone! As you may or may not know, I am a sophomore in the Thematic Option program at USC. Thematic Option is an alternative general education program. You must apply before your freshman year to be admitted to the program, but it is open to all majors. This interdisciplinary program is very reading- and writing-intensive, but I have not once regretted my decision to be a part of it. (Prospective freshman- if you love to learn and you’re considering applying, DO IT!)
My most recent mind-blowing TO experience was embarking on a field trip with my CORE 104 class to the Huntington Library. Each class is interdisciplinary, so it’s hard for me to label this class as just “history,” “literature,” or “philosophy.” This particular course, entitled “Americans and Nature” satisfies my “Change and the Future” requirement and examines the shifting relationship between the American people and the natural landscape throughout our national history. The professor, William Deverell, is absolutely brilliant. I was never a huge fan of U.S. history until this class. This man is so knowledgeable about every aspect of American history that sometimes I think he must own a time machine.
In any case, we headed to the Huntington knowing only that 1) we would be entering the “vaults” of the library and 2) that Professor Deverell would “blow our minds.”
He did exactly that. After arriving at the grounds and receiving special stickers granting us access to the general grounds of the library as well as the exclusive back rooms, we entered the Munger Research Institute. Since Professor Deverell directs the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, he arranged for us to view several priceless items directly tied to our class. Over the course of about 45 minutes, we viewed original drafts of Thoreau’s Walden, two first edition prints of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, 19th century dagerotype photographs, and an original print of the book detailing Lewis and Clark’s voyage, among several other incredible artifacts. Professor Deverell also arranged for us to view the knife used by one of John Wilkes Booth’s fellow conspirators to wound the Secretary of State. Being the liberal arts nerd that I am, I completely nerded out.
After this, some of my classmates and I embarked on a cursory tour of the grounds in the half an hour or so left before closing. Despite not having enough time to explore all of the gardens and examine all of the priceless art and artifacts on display, I left the Huntington feeling incredibly inspired. I definitely hope I can return to see the rest of the library grounds!