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Read a Great Book Lately?

From the Dean Fall 2009/Winter 2010


A new year brings a new edition of our award-winning USC College Magazine.

I must confess to a special satisfaction in turning the spotlight on this extraordinary collection of writers, many of whom are on our faculty and others who were taught by our faculty. 

Great writing can transform the world, construct civilizations, educate populations and entertain the masses. Great writing is still the best measure of clear thinking and the most effective instrument of rational persuasion.

In my own personal experience, great writing allows us to reflect on the most fundamental questions of human existence, and maybe more importantly, come into intimate association with the mind and soul of another person.

We all hope for many pleasures in life, but for me, outside of family and work, my life has been most enriched by encounters with the works of great writers.

I was a teenager at a time before computers and cell phones, and it was natural, even expected, that I would always be reading. My parents were not in a position to spoil me too much, but they promised that they would always buy me a book if I wanted one. And I always wanted one.

I still use certain books and writers as mile-markers for my life: Salinger as a teenager, then in college the canonical group of American novelists, and then the discovery of my favorite writer, Vladimir Nabokov, then Tolstoy, Proust, Roth, Milosz, Stevens, Ford, Austen —too many to mention.

Nothing makes me happier than discovering a new writer whose work I love. (Last summer it was Aleksandar Hemon.) If you haven’t done it in a while then I highly recommend it, and I am happy to say that some of the best candidates for writers that you will love (if you don’t already) are featured in these pages.

You will also read about Chinese fossils, dinosaurs, environmental solutions, international student experiences, new leadership for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, foreign policy, Thelonious Monk, elections and polls, comic books, California history — even a College Ph.D. graduate who created a fictional tribal language for a Hollywood blockbuster. You’ll hear about internationally renowned anthropologist and conservationist Jane Goodall, and you’ll be introduced to some amazing students and faculty who joined the College community this year. 

There is one other story that I want to highlight. Working closely with

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, and faculty in the Department of Political Science, I entered into an agreement with the Los Angeles Times to conduct a series of polls between now and the November state election. The University of Southern California Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll will be big news throughout 2010. It is a great opportunity for College faculty and students to address important questions facing the state, and to conduct innovative research on political participation and elections. But I also support this project because I hope that we might be able to contribute to resolving some of the serious challenges facing California. So keep an eye out for the poll, and when new results are announced and discussed, please take pride that it is the USC College community that has made it possible.

One final reminder: Even though in this issue we honor the power of the written word, we also have a wonderful (and also award-winning) new Web site, containing engaging multimedia. Please visit regularly. And if you see, at the end of an intriguing magazine story, a reference to an accompanying video, I would urge you to check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading,

Howard Gillman
Dean of USC College
Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair


Read more articles from USC College Magazine's Fall 2009/Winter 2010 issue.