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Michelle: I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to see a pre-screening of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks. And let me just say, it was amazing. No lie, I was tearing up at the end. Aside from being enjoyable and heartfelt, the movie, which revolves around the making of Disney’s Mary Poppins, was especially interesting to me, as I finish a Thematic Option class that included an analysis of and a visit to Disneyland. Hearing two of the actors, B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman (definitely had a small fan girl moment), and the Production Director of the movie answer questions after the screening only added to the awesomeness of the experience.

Nick: Because USC is in the entertainment capital of the world, we often get to see screenings of movies before they come out. Last night the new Disney film Saving Mr. Banks rolled through Norris Theater. While it was cool to see the movie weeks before its release, the really fun part was having stars B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman stop by for a Q&A session afterwards. They were hilarious and extremely laid back. I truly believe that USC is the only university in the country with awesome opportunities like this available EVERY WEEK!

Divya: This week I got to join a film symposium class for a very exciting screening of the movie Saving Mr. Banks! The movie focused on the story behind Mary Poppins, and how Walt Disney actually made the book series (Mary Poppins was a book series!) into a movie. I have found that other live-action Disney movies are entertaining but not lasting in the same way that Disney’s animated films like The Lion King have been. However, this movie was truly remarkable. Tom Hanks was perfect as Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson is just always perfect. I teared up, and I remembered why I love Mary Poppins and Disney so much. Oh, and the after-movie chat with B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman was pretty cool too.

Vijeta: Another Thursday night, another new movie! I’d been looking forward to Saving Mr. Banks ever since I saw the trailer, and I feel so lucky to have seen it before its release. Some parts of the movie were really funny, and the actors did a great job. Definitely made me want to watch Mary Poppins again!

Shannon: Just two weeks ago I was lucky enough to get to attend a free screening of the Disney film Frozen thanks to the generosity of another ambassador who is interning with Disney. This week, thanks to the same friend and the amazing connections USC has to the film industry, I got to see yet another free pre-screening, this time of the Disney film Saving Mr. Banks. It was a heartwarming, humorous, masterful portrayal of the challenging ordeal Walt Disney underwent when he tried to get the author of the novel “Mary Poppins”, P.L. Travers, to sign over the rights to her precious story. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson were a joy to watch, and the story was gripping and fun. Attending the screening was the perfect way to celebrate finishing classes (which I had done earlier in the day). In fact, by complete coincidence, in my last class, which was for my History of Film Music course (for my Popular Music minor), we talked about music in animation, focusing specifically on Disney films. Thus, as part of the class, I got to learn about the Sherman Brothers’ music for Mary Poppins, which deepened my appreciation for Saving Mr. Banks. Watching old Disney and Warner Bros. clips in my History of Film Music course and watching how one of my favorite movies as a kid, Mary Poppins, became the sensation it is today, brought back a lot of great memories. Spending the last day of my second to last semester of college reliving my childhood was a wonderful way to end an unforgettable semester.

Sam: Saving Mr.Banks was amazing! I found myself laughing and crying with the characters and loved the movie. The Q&A after was very insightful as well, and it was great to hear from the actors’ and production designer’s point of view of making the movie.

Caroline: I loved getting to see Saving Mr. Banks on campus! Going in I knew I was going to enjoy it….I mean Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, and Mary Poppins all in one movie? But it’s so much more than just a film with those big names attached – I learned a lot about the inspired true story. After the free pre-screening, in true USC fashion, the production designer Michael Corenblith, and actors BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman came for a Q&A. I enjoyed hearing some behind-the-scenes tidbits on bringing their characters and 1960s Los Angeles to life. The movie is really fun with a great balance of comedy and drama. I definitely recommend it!

Jared: Without giving too much away, I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of Saving Mr. Banks this past Thursday. The film provides an interesting and moving look behind the history of one of the most well-known Disney films, and Hanks and Thompson are fantastic as Walt Disney and P. L. Travers. It’s the perfect holiday film — both charming and enjoyable — that I look forward to seeing with my family soon.


Disney Frozen

SHANNON: One of the advantages of going to a school that is located so close to and has so many ties to Hollywood is there are always opportunities to attend free preview screenings of big Hollywood films. This past Thursday, thanks to a fellow ambassador’s internship at Disney, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film Frozen right here on campus. The film was easily one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. The story was funny, dramatic, exciting, and completely charming, and the animation was gorgeous. I could not have asked for a better study break!

VIJETA: I am so happy I got to watch a free preview screening of Frozen right here at USC. First of all, the film was ADORABLE and getting to watch it before it’s officially released made it even better. We watched the movie with a Film Symposium class on campus, meaning people are taking a class where they just get to watch movies (and hear guest speakers and write papers about the movies, but still —free movies!!). I am totally taking this class in the future. But for now, Frozen is SUCH a good movie. I’m definitely going to go watch it again with my friends. It combines all of the quintessential elements of a Disney movie, and I’m sure everyone who watches it will love it!

TING: Frozen represents a return to the nostalgic Disney magical legacy that raised my generation of twenty-something-year-olds. The stunning beauty of every scene is breathtaking. The music, per Disney tradition, remains sensational and makes you want to hop up and twirl around, belting at the top of your lungs. As I write this, I’m listening to Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” for the umpteenth time, and it loops on repeat. Every listen brings back flashes of the movie. Anyone watching the accompanying scene to the song will immediately recognize its uplifting power. This song reflects Frozen‘s most compelling message, which is also the exact feature that distinguishes it from its predecessors. Contrary to the belief instilled into our Disney-reared generation that the secret ingredient to a happily ever after is seeking “true love” with your Prince Charming, it’s now telling little princesses everywhere: “It’s time to see what you can do, to test the limits and break through.” (Yes, I’ve memorized the song lyrics.) Disney seems to finally liberate its young female audience from the traditional confines of happiness that can only result from being with a perfect man. By effectively widening the definition of “true love” to that very real and equally powerful love from family, Frozen proves that there’s more to happiness than that. Just as a man’s success is measured through his ability to perform in the workplace, his relationships with loved ones, and how he provides for his family, a woman’s success should be gauged with those same standards. A woman’s success is no longer dictated by her lifelong search for happiness through Prince Charming. While endearing and lovable, Disney princesses like Aurora, Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, and Snow White may not reign as role models for little girls any longer if Disney continues on the path it began with Frozen. I didn’t think it possible, but if Disney keeps releasing movies like Frozen, I may become an even bigger fan than I was as a seven-year-old girl.

I love being a psychology major because when I go to class I learn about life. On any given day in a psych class, I’m learning things that I can apply to my own life, and this has never been Leah Psych Classmore true than this semester in my Science of Happiness class. If you come to USC, this class HAS to be on your bucket list. Just as an example, here’s what we learned today:

Why, in many cultures, is it acceptable for males to lose their virginity at an early age, while females are expected to remain virgins until marriage? Why do over 80% of cultures allow polygamy (one man having many wives) but almost none allow polyandry (the opposite)? Why do males exhibit so much more jealousy than females in a romantic or sexual relationship, and why are males so much more willing to take risks and have sex with a stranger than females are?

The answer to all these questions: science! Natural selection, to be exact. Check it out: while males can produce millions of tiny sperm each day, females only produce 270 [relatively] huge eggs in a lifetime. If a male contributes to conception, he can contribute again in a couple hours. On the other hand, a female can’t contribute again for about another year. If you look at it in terms of natural selection, it’s no wonder why females tend to be so choosy and males tend to be much less so. And because of the way we reproduce, females are always certain about who their children are, while males can never be sure. This is where that male jealousy comes from.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about this like it’s black and white. I’m not saying that all guys are jealous and all females are super choosy, or anything like that. What I am saying is that it’s pretty interesting that these trends exist across cultures, and that we can trace their roots back to hard, provable science.

And that’s why I love psychology. It’s an invigorating mix between science, culture, and real life application. We can ask tricky questions and approach them from so many different angles. There’s never one absolute right answer, but that’s why we learn to think critically not only when approaching science but also when approaching real life. My psychology studies have helped me to understand more about my life and will help me in the future to think about all aspects of life in a variety of ways — and that is invaluable.

Anne Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 1

I love USC. You know why? Because not only are there really cool things to do in this city, but there are so many amazing adventures you can go on in the states nearby! Being from New York, I’ve never really traveled around the west coast. In fact, the first time I’d been to California was when I came to visit USC. But this year, I’ve decided to explore as much as possible.

I am a member of Troy Camp, an awesome organization that provides after-school programming and tutoring to under-served youth in the surrounding Los Angeles Area. Troy Camp is great not only because of its mission but also because of the amazing people who are a part of this club. A few weeks ago, in the middle of October, a member of Troy Camp said she was flying home. This was no average trip though. She was going home to New Mexico for the Largest International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, and invited everyone to come with her!

Anne Hot Air Balloon FiestaAt first, I wasn’t sure if I should go because I had just returned from another road trip up to San Francisco for a two-day music festival! But how could I miss out on a hot air balloon fiesta?! This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I got in the car for the second weekend in a row with some friends and made the 12 hour drive to New Mexico. It was so worth it. This was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It felt so whimsical and magical to watch thousands of hot air balloons with different shapes, characters, and colors ascend into the sky. Sitting in a valley between huge mountain peaks with giant balloons over you is indescribable. And to be with people from USC who had the same adventurous spirit and willingness to have fun was unparalleled. We ended the weekend by watching fireworks over the mountains, and it couldn’t have been more fun.

But the adventure did not stop there. Merely a few weeks later, USC offered another opportunity for me to go adventuring with balloons. USC Adventure Lead, another great club on campus, subsidized trips for USC students to actually go on hot air balloon rides! My Troy Camp adventure group and a few friends from my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, jumped at this amazing opportunity. We signed up right away, and before I knew it, I was suspended over wine country in Temecula watching the sunrise!

Going to USC, I cannot believe my life. The opportunities are endless, the adventures are crazy, and my experience is unmatched by any. Believe me, when my friends check out my Facebook photos, they wish they went to USC. ☺Anne hot air ballooning 2

Anne hot air ballooning

I’m a bit of a film buff, so when I saw a tweet from LA Live announcing a film festival with some upcoming movies I was looking forward to seeing (most importantly, with tickets only costing $5), I signed up immediately and got some friends to come along. What I didn’t notice, however, was that the festival was called “Movies for Grownups,” and was sponsored by the AARP. As I sat in an audience largely populated by the over-50 crowd, I watched women sit in large groups laughing over the latest gossip from their book club and an older gentleman walk up the steps of the movie theater slowly, balancing a cane in one hand a very large soda in the other, yelling at his wife to choose seats because neither spouse could hear one another. I couldn’t help but think, “I really hope this doesn’t happen to me.” Never had old age become such a reality as at this AARP film fest, and never did joining the AARP look so good (According to their advertisements before the screening, they offer great discounts, job support for the professional over 50 years of age, and social functions much like this one!).

I saw some fantastic films – Philomena (do yourself a favor and see this movie) and 12 Years a Slave to name a few — but the best story comes from the last screening I went to.

I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the new Ben Stiller film based off the short story of the same name. It’s an enjoyable movie to watch, the inspiring kind that uses great music and inspirational moments to make you feel excited about life. And, after the film, Ben Stiller was on hand for a Q&A session. While most of the questioning was done by a critic for the Hollywood Reporter, a few lucky audience members were able to ask questions (Unfortunately, I wasn’t a part of this group). However, following the Q&A, Stiller was willing to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. So, I bolted to the front of the theater, nudged my way through the crowd (Luckily old age had made them less aggressive), and took a selife with Ben Stiller.

Jared with Ben Stiller

So where am I going with all of this? Obviously, Los Angeles is a great city for film, but there’s so much to do in the city, a lot of which most people have no idea about. A lot of the events I’ve gone to I’ve only found out about by stumbling upon them (following venues in L.A. like LA Live, Staples Center, The Hollywood Bowl, and others on Twitter is a good idea). So go out there, explore, find something really cool, and make your own exciting life experiences with excessively emotional background music (And then maybe you, too, can take a selfie with Ben Stiller).

The Lone Trojan

Being born and raised on the south side of Chicago, I have been around overenthusiastic, proud, fighting Irish fans my entire life. I had heard of the USC-ND rivalry as a child, but I neverMelissa B ND Blog Pic knew how serious it was. Upon coming to USC, I soon realized the history and deep emotion involved with this rivalry and longed to go to the game in South Bend. In August, my friend from Notre Dame told me she had bought me a student section ticket for this coveted game and urged me to come. I was ecstatic and immediately bought my ticket. As the time passed from August to October, I counted down the days and fantasized about beating the Irish. I knew I would be the lone Trojan in the ND student section, but nothing could deter me from going to that game.

On October 18th, I flew back to Chicago before driving to South Bend with another friend the next day. When I arrived to Notre Dame, I have never seen so much green and gold spirit around. It was at that moment I knew I was one of a kind (especially since both of my friends were Fighting Irish fans). Game day at Notre Dame was very similar to game day at USC: alumni barbecues and tailgates all throughout campus, an exorbitant amount of school spirit, and tons of people. The three of us visited several friends and at each one, my cardinal and gold attire was questioned and shamed. In the end, however, I was welcomed and allowed to share in on the fun. There were, however, a few SC tailgates that welcomed me, giving me a much-needed slice of home.

Upon entering their stadium, I soon realized how small it was, which has its pros and cons. For example, there is a lot more camaraderie between students in the stands. On the other hand, there was no space to move. Or breath. At all. Despite these constraints, I still had an absolute blast! I cheered on the Trojan marching band and our Trojans much to the dismay of everyone else around me. No dirty looks or snide comments could prevent me from cheering on my team in the tundra of South Bend. Even though we lost, I can say I survived as the lone Trojan and could not have asked for a better weekend.

Andrew Hollywood SignDuring the past couple months I have had a terrific time participating in Thematic Option sponsored trips. Thematic Option is an alternative liberal-arts program for General Education here at USC, run through the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Students will tell you this program is not for everyone, but all of my classmates and I love it!

Several weeks ago, we went to Griffith Observatory and hiked to the Hollywood sign. The hike in itself was fun; we had the chance not only to get some fresh air but also to get to know one another outside of class and USC life. The view of Los Angeles from above was shocking and beautiful. We could see skyscrapers downtown, mountains surrounding the San Fernando valley, the Pacific Ocean, and home sweet home: USC. It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday.

Not long after, we spent the weekend at Catalina Island. About twenty of us went by boat to USC’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies to hike, snorkel, kayak, and, most importantly, explore.  We were lucky enough to see (and in some cases touch!) leopard sharks, sea slugs, sea lions, and hundreds of species of fish. One of the great things about USC is that events like this one are often sponsored, and for students, don’t cost a thing!

Andrew Catalina Wetsuit

Just last week, some classmates and I went with Thematic Option to the Getty Villa for College Night. This event welcomed hundreds of college students from all over the Los Angeles area to

Andrew College Night

foster excitement and interest regarding the classical history and treasure housed at this historic museum. The Getty Villa is, for those of you who don’t know, a beautiful and highly accurate model of an ancient Roman Villa, located in Malibu and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It displays an enormous collection of priceless artifacts and artwork from Classical times. Personally, I jump at every chance I get to go to this place. One of the coolest things about the night was that we got to go behind the scenes to learn about conservation and restoration techniques. A few friends and I watched as one of the five conservationists on sight worked on a vase that has been preserved for more than 2,000 years since its creation in ancient Greece. I don’t think I’ll have another chance to see history in the same way again, so up close and personal.

These are just the opportunities I’ve taken advantage of in my first semester of TO. These kinds of events are all over USC and happen all the time. I encourage everyone to participate in them as much as possible. It would be such a shame to miss out!

Andrew Catalina Hike

I do not even know where to start — it has been an incredible experience. INCREDIBLE. In all ways: The University of Southern California is fantabulous, Los Angeles is wonderful, and the people here are just great! I’m going to try really hard to convey how I’m feeling right now through my experiences just at USC.


  • I met with renowned physicist Dr. Clifford Johnson. Dr. Johnson came in to discuss quantum physics for our Intro to Physics class, and you can imagine my surprise and excitement Akash - Clifford Johnsonwhen he walked in to the room that afternoon — I had spent my entire high school life watching his rather famous videos on string theory, the origins of the universe, and the more abstract physics that I don’t even pretend to understand (or spell). Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised that he had the time to personally reply to my e-mail let alone want to meet me in person for a couple of hours! We met in between classes on Thursday at a cafe on campus and spent a long time discussing ideas over freshly squeezed orange juice (“Simply Orange”– try it!). It was an absolutely incredible meeting considering that I was meeting one of the people I had grown up trying to emulate. If there is only one memory I am allowed to keep from college, it would undoubtedly be the meeting with Dr. Johnson — and it’s just been the second month of my life at USC (Maybe I’ll keep the memory of keeping the memory so all the memories will be cached… ).
  • I discussed welfare states with my sociology professor, Dr. Dan Lainer-Vos. I have had a more than passing interest in political science and the political structures of communities. It was without question that I was going to enjoy my general education class — we studied not only politics but also the conflict of science and technology with such institutions. I spent numerous hours with my professor both inside and out of class discussing the implications of socialism, communism, and capitalism and how each ties in with the progress of society. What strikes me most about this is just how accessible the professors are — I can openly discuss my view points and enjoy defending them both in and outside of class during office hours, and the professors are incredibly happy to have me there.
  • Resonating with my happiness about the professors being super accessible and nice, I want to mention my meeting with physics research assistant Dr. Lorenzo Campos Venuti. I saw a professor’s request for an undergraduate research student on the university’s SOAR page (an online website that brings together those interested in research and those that have open positions) and e-mailed. He was on sabbatical and referred me to Dr. Venuti, whom I eventually went to meet.  Dr. Venuti was very open to explaining the kinks in quantum physics and how we can manipulate these to make advanced computers that can do incredible calculations (reduce shore’s algorithm from exponential time to polynomial time — if, like me, you looked towards the heavens in utter disbelief because that made zero sense but were awed at the same time, be sure to visit Dr. Venuti!). Although research in theoretical physics as a freshman is so incredibly difficult because of the little material covered in high school, Dr. Venuti gave me the necessary knowledge on how to prepare myself in the next year or so in order to join him or another faculty member in carrying out similar projects. That was absolutely wonderful!

I’m going to make a similar list of my wonderful adventures in the city of Los Angeles, which include trying to find the tallest building near USC, a late night exploration of Hollywood, and a rather eventful evening in downtown. Stay tuned!

Hi all,Pradeep Intro Photo

I’m Pradeep, a sophomore at USC. It was quite a trek to attend here from my hometown, having been born and raised in Irvine, California (45 minutes from campus). I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Economics, with a goal to become an interventional cardiologist involved in medical administration.

I’m a student coordinator for Peer Health Exchange, an organization that teaches health to high school students in LA; I love to play (and win) intramural sports with my friends; and I was a Freshman Science Honors student last year.

USC Dornsife as already begun shaping my life goals and aspirations. I came into USC as a die-hard pre-med student, who was quickly diverted to add an Econ major. Though I am still pre-med, Dornsife has allowed me to explore my interests and find a subject that I am passionate about and would like to corporate in my future career.

My favorite thing that I have done at USC is the Problems without Passports program I participated in last summer. I took a class in tropical medicine in Oxford University! I met some amazing USC students while being taught applied biology by some of the most renowned tropical medicine researchers in the world. PWP provided me with an invaluable learning experience as well as life-long friends and memories.

I can’t wait to see what else USC and LA have in store for me over the course of the next couple years.

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