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Freshman Seminars, Fall 2011

For enrollment information, please check the USC Schedule of Classes at

Anne Frank was not Alone: Holland and the Holocaust
Anthony Anderson
Tuesdays, 2-3:50; Section 34609

In German occupied western Europe nowhere did the Nazis pursue their genocidal policies against the Jews with more zeal and devastating results than in the Netherlands. By the end of World War II more than seventy-five  percent of the Jews living in Holland had perished in the Holocaust. This, in a nation which has been and is one of the world’s most tolerant and least anti-Semitic societies.

This course will explore this enormous tragedy which befall Dutch Jewry. Particular emphasis will be given to examining the agonizing ethical choices which confronted the Dutch, both Jewish and Gentile, during the German occupation. The class will follow a lecture/discussion format, with readings and numerous film clips. There will also be involvement with the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation at USC.

Note: students are advised that during  this class they will be subjected to images of the Holocaust, which will be at times graphic and may be distinctly unsettling.

Anthony Anderson is an Arts and Humanities and Social Studies Librarian.  He has previously taught two other Freshman Seminars: “‘Can’t We All Just Get Along?’  Ethnic Conflicts in the World Today and the Media” and “He Said, She Said, They Said: Making Sense of the Opinion Makers and Making Up Your Own Mind.”


The Archaeology of Inspiration
Stacie Chaiken
Tuesdays, 2-3:50; Section 34612

Playwright-performer Stacie Chaiken of the School of Theatre was invited to the Middle East to “write her next play.” She became fascinated with archaeology, went on some digs, sifted through tons of dirt, and found inspiration for a play.  More than anything else, she became fascinated with how we get inspired. Do we really need to travel far? Could it be that, with the right eyes and sharp senses, we can find it in our own backyard?

This seminar will offer a series of adventures and explorations: You’ll visit some mummies, maybe, taste some exotic treats, and go on field trips to places you’ve likely never been, looking for inspiration to make something, anything. And whatever we make, we’ll show in an exhibit late in the fall.

Stacie Chaiken is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the USC School of Theatre, where she teaches Acting and Solo Performance. She has performed on and off-Broadway, on television and film, in the US and abroad, and is the writer-performer of the acclaimed solo play Looking for Louie. Chaiken has served as a visiting Fulbright Senior Specialist Scholar on the faculty of the Theatre Department of Tel Aviv University, and has lectured at Bar Ilan and New York Universities.


The Art of the Comic Book: Graphic Narratives from Maus to Manga
Bill Feuer
Mondays, 2-3:50; Section 34605

Over the last four decades the comic book has grown up.  Once a favorite target of critics, the graphic narrative now garners serious critical attention from literary scholars around the world.  They have recognized Alan Moore,  Lynda Barry, Marjane Satrapi, Jim Woodring, Art Spiegelman, and Frank Miller as just a few of the new masters of the form.

In this seminar, we will explore the work of these artists as well as several other important contributors. We will trace the evolution of the genre and develop our ability to interpret graphic narratives. Students will produce a critical reading of a comic of their choice.  Working in small groups, they will also collaborate on a graphic story.

Bill Feuer received his Ph. D. in American Literature from the University of Southern California. He has been teaching in the Writing Program for two decades and has picked up a couple of teaching awards along the way. He has been reading comic books since he was thirty.


Bob Dylan, The Early Years
Eric Trules
Wednesdays, 2- 3:50; Section 34618

Bob Dylan, The Early Years, will be an investigation of Dylan’s recorded songs, from his first Columbia album, “Bob Dylan” (1962) through “Nashville Skyline” (1969), including “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”, “The Times They Are a’Changin’”, “Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Blond On Blonde”, and more. Each week of the ten weeks of the Seminar, students will be assigned an individual song on a specific album and asked to analyze and “interact” with it, making a presentation to the rest of the class. In this way, we will all be listening to, studying, and learning about the music and the artist together. Bob Dylan is arguably the greatest poet and song writer of the 20th century, and as such, massive amounts of material have already been gathered and published on him. But this class is designed to discover Dylan, his songs, and their lyrics, anew, as if for the first time, by each member of the class… and collectively.

Eric Trules  is an Associate Professor of Practice at USC’s School of Theatre and is currently a Fulbright Senior Specialist in American Studies. He has been an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award winner, a screenwriter, and a USC Phi Kappa Phi “Faculty Recognition Award” winner. He was co-founder of Mo Ming, the renowned dance-theater in Chicago, and director of  NYC’s Resident Clown Troupe.  Trules has produced city-wide arts festivals and directed and produced THE POET AND THE CON, a feature length documentary film.  He believes that college can be more than merely the acquisition of knowledge and the preparation for a vocational career, but also about the discovery of oneself, one's voice, and one's passion.


Body Size and Shape: Fitness and Nutrition
Robert Girandola
Tuesdays, 2-3:50; Section 34610

This class will look into the continuing national problem of weight control.  Obesity is considered the second most prevalent disease, which is controllable.  Despite this, it has reached epidemic proportions in the USA as well as many other industrialized nations.  We will discuss the complexities of caloric balance and the appropriate methods for weight loss and gain.  Specific emphasis will be placed on young adults, such as college students who do not have the luxury of eating at home. Appropriate dietary patterns for weight control as well as health will be analyzed.  Finally, appropriate exercise programs for maintaining body weight and shape will be discussed.

Students who enroll in this class should be prepared to become actively involved in class discussions.  Many of the myths and fallacies of weight control and nutrition will be revealed, so keep an open mind!! Students should have access to the internet in order to download some of the many materials that are advertised for weight control and obesity.

Robert Girandola received his undergraduate degree in physical education from Hunter College (New York) and his Ed.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in Exercise Physiology in 1970.  He has been at USC since 1973. He teaches classes in Nutrition and Weight Control, Exercise Prescription, and The Science of Human Performance.  His research has centered on Obesity and Weight Control, Ergogenic Aids and Human Performance, Environmental Effects on Human Performance.


Bread and Vodka: Food and Community in Russia
Ayse Rorlich
Thursdays, 12-1:50; Section 34602

Food has long played a prominent part in the construction of national identity; what people eat is universally a potent ingredient of national stereotyping. This course aims to provide an introduction to the cultural history of food and diet in Russia.  Because culture is learned, shared, and transmitted, this course will focus on the study of the cultural implications of food and diet in Russia, while investigating the evolution as well as transmission of food culture.

We will identify the socio-economic conditions which made possible the emergence of certain staple foods and then move on to discuss the cultural elaboration that took place.  We will look at the importance of social competition, new raw materials, the relationship between town and country, state and society, as we attempt to identify the forces of differentiation which have shaped the food culture marked so uniquely by the importance of Bread and Vodka.

Azade-Ayse Rorlich is an Associate Professor of Russian History at USC.  She received the Social Sciences Division Distinguished Teaching Award in 1983 and the General Education Teaching Award in 2001.  She has conducted archival and library research in many cities of the former Soviet Union, has traveled extensively through the Russian republic and Central Asia, and specializes in the study of the Muslims of the Russian empire, the Soviet Union and its successor states.  Her research focuses on the study of identity issues with a special emphasis on the place of religion and ethnicity in identity construction.


Conscience and Memory:  Listening and Responding to Survivors of Genocide
Dan Leshem
Thursdays, 2-3:50; Section 34621

The Holocaust was neither the first nor the last genocide of the 20th century, yet it is undoubtedly one of the most evocative symbols of the cruelty, violence, and hatred that swept through the world over the last 100 years. During this period, the terms genocide and ethnic cleansing were coined to describe targeted, government-sponsored murder on a massively destructive scale.  The USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive – containing nearly 52,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies – embodies one major attempt to address the traumatic events of the Holocaust.

This seminar will provide an in-depth examination of the complex intersection of history, memory, and memorialization.   Students will be introduced to a broad survey of the literature – via books, films, websites and guest speakers – on genocide survivors, memorials, and social change. They will also receive practical training in conducting, filming and cataloging life-history interviews. They will work hands-on with video capture and editing devices and learn how to make a visual argument using multimedia content for the course’s final project.

Dan Leshem is the Associate Director for Academic Outreach and Research at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. Before coming to USC, he was program director of the Emory University Holocaust Denial on Trial web resource ( He received his Ph.D. from Emory’s Comparative Literature program in 2009 after completing his dissertation on the ethics of Holocaust representation, The Language of Suffering: Writing and Reading the Holocaust.


Food and Culture
Thomas Gustafson
Tuesdays, 2-3:50; Section 34611

At the heart of the humanities is cultural study, and the study of culture at the university is primarily done through the study of literature, music, art, philosophy, religion, and language itself.  This course, however, is governed by the premise that the pursuit and cooking of food—those twin cooperative acts—give birth to culture, and that sophisticated cultivation of  the way we transform the raw into the cooked to affect taste—the art of cuisine—has become a mark of urbanity.  This course will explore the interplay between food and culture, studying the history of civilizations through the history of food, beginning with a focus on an America and Europe transformed by the collision of cultures that Columbus initiated in 1492 and concluding with a focus on California cuisine and the food commerce and culture of Los Angeles.

The course will include field trips in and around Los Angeles to places such as the Grand Central Market, the Hollywood Farmer’s market, and a heirloom tomato farm. Each student will research a favorite food or spice and how it has proliferated around the world, while examining how political events and scientific inventions affected this progression.   The “final exam” for the course will take place at the Caribbean restaurant “Cha Cha Cha” where we will test the mahi mahi mango taco, discuss its cultural significance, and then head to Pinkberry’s in Koreatown for a dessert of green tea frozen yogurt.   Films such as Like Water for Chocolate and What’s Cooking  will accompany readings for the course drawn from the writings of food lovers, anthropologists, historians and poets.

Inside the classroom, Thomas Gustafson teaches courses in American literature and American Studies.  Outside the classroom, he serves as Faculty Master in a Residential College.


I Love College: Popular Culture and the University
Lacey Donohue
Wednesdays, 3-4:50; Section 34627

A glance over the bestseller lists in the past five years reveals a lot about the current generation of college students; not only are you labeled Generation Me and Generation Debt, you are also Smashed, Pledged, Unhooked, Hooking Up, Consumed, and Unprotected.  Opinion pieces in The New York Times have attributed the lack of college student involvement in political and social causes to time spent on Facebook; other articles circulate about constant texting, partying, and “entitlement.”  But in what ways do our individual experiences differ from (or confirm) these arguments -- has college really shifted from a space of higher learning to a site of conspicuous consumption and online networking?  Is it, as some say, the “new high school”?  And really, why are you even going to college in the first place?  What is it all for?

In this seminar, we’ll investigate many aspects of college life in America.  We will explore popular opinions in films, music, history books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and physical artifacts on the USC campus and look at how arguments about college are made, the rhetoric in them and surrounding them.  We’ll write weekly short reflection papers, give brief presentations, and, collectively, define what it means to be a college student at USC in 2011.

Lacey Donohue is an Assistant Professor (Teaching) in The Writing Program.  She received her PhD in English from The University of Texas where she won several teaching awards.  Her true loves are teaching, teaching Rhetoric and Composition, teaching Popular Culture, and watching anything she can find on television.

Law, Life and Morality
Justice Richard M. Mosk
Thursdays, 11-12:50; Section 34600

The seminar deals with the development of law, its relationship to morality, and its impact upon a variety of areas of life.  The subjects touch upon and augment the lessons of a number of undergraduate fields of study, including athletics.  The materials consist of extracts from prominent works, court cases, news events, and movie clips.  The requirements are attending class, familiarity with the materials, and participation in class discussions. The seminar is not just for those interested in a law career.

Justice Richard M. Mosk is a justice of the California Court of Appeal.  He is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law School.  He served as a California Supreme Court law clerk, a member of the staff of the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy; a member of the Christopher Commission that investigated the Los Angeles Police Department; and a judge on the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, which was established as part of the settlement of the Iranian hostage crisis.  He also was head of parental ratings of motion pictures for the Motion Picture Association of America. Justice Mosk had practiced law in Los Angeles, tried both civil and criminal cases, and argued cases before the California and United States Supreme Courts.


Legal Reasoning and Communication
James Brecher
Mondays, 2-3:50; Section 34606

Lawyers think differently from “normal” people; their professional training enables lawyers to see all the diverse elements which compose a problem. This type of advanced thinking is not only important for success in the legal profession but essential to success in a true liberal arts education. This developed skill is the reason so many business and political leaders have legal training even if they never intend to practice law.

This course will look at the way lawyers examine issues and seek results. We will apply these techniques to a range of problems, especially as their solutions relate to undergraduate problems. We will accomplish this examination by looking at legal commentaries, stories and essays, and case law and learning the practical thinking of everyday lawyers and how they communicate with differing audiences.

James Brecher, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Teaching Professor in The Writing Program at the University of Southern California and has practiced law, worked in the business world, and taught English and American Studies/Humanities at the University of South Florida.  He was awarded the USC College Outstanding Teaching Award in Advanced Writing and was named one of USC’s “best professors” in the September 2007 issue of Saturday Night Magazine.


Lend Me Your Ears: The Power of Speechmaking and the Art of Speechwriting
Holly Bridges
Thursdays, 2-3:50; Section 34620

Ladies and gentlemen, friends, Romans, countrymen, my fellow Americans, citizens of the world:  Speakers have the power to stir, catalyze, persuade, comfort, explain, and galvanize. From ancient Athens to YouTube, from rallies to radio, from tributes to diatribes – speeches continue to be one of our species’ most effective means of communication.

In this seminar we will read, listen to, and watch some of the most influential and artful speeches, from Cicero to Bono.  We will dissect them to discover why they work and how they work, as well as why some are colossal flops. We will try our hand at writing and delivering our own speeches, discovering what experts have to say about body language, appearance, vocal variety, stage fright, and effective organization of words and thoughts. We’ll also look at visual aids such as PowerPoint and determine what works and what doesn’t.

Having started her career as a newspaper reporter, Holly Bridges has been a speechwriter for fourteen years. She now leads a department at USC dedicated to executive communications. The author of three books on spirituality topics, and a published poet, she has been responsible for writing or editing more than a thousand speeches and has spent some time on the local speaking circuit herself. 


Mind and Body Fitness
Margo Apostolos
Tuesdays, 3-4:50; Section 34626

The human spirit and body in symmetry will be the theme of this Freshman Seminar.  The union of mind and body into a dual component to foster the duality of human thought and action is the goal of this course.  Reading assignments will accompany simple exercises to enhance the mind and body to aid in creative development and stress reduction.

This seminar is designed to promote the union of the physical and mental capabilities with both readings and the practice of simple movement sequences.  The focus of the work is to promote a relaxed and natural state for creative thinking.  Various exercises will include imagery, breath control, and relaxed stretching to coincide with appropriate reading assignments.

Margo K. Apostolos is an Associate Professor and Director of Dance in the School of Theatre at USC.  She earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University and holds a M.A. in Dance from Northwestern University.  Her research includes the exploration of an aesthetic dimension to robotics movement and the use of robots by the severely disabled in rehabilitative settings.


Musical Subcultures of the Sixties
William Biersach
Wednesdays, 4 to 5:50; Section 34617

During the sixties, due to circumstances within the music industry peculiar to the time, various popular musical styles developed which expressed the social, cultural, religious, political and sexual changes in our society.  While the music of this period survives today and enjoys considerable popularity, much of the meaning behind it has been lost because the context has largely been forgotten.

In this seminar, students will pair off to do research projects involving various aspects of the sixties and how they found musical expression.  Together we will sift through the lyrics, musical styles, facts, tall tales, and contrived myths surrounding various influential people, events, and movements.  In so doing we will try to arrive at an understanding of what was really going on in the music business, the drug scene, the pop culture, political and social trends, and the minds of the youth during those turbulent years.

William L. Biersach has been teaching electro-acoustic media and recording technology in the Thornton School of Music since 1975.  In 1997 he received the USC Gamma Sigma Alpha Professor of the Year Award.  As a studio musician and synthesizer programmer he composed the score for the Japanese cartoon series, Dan Cougar, and the musical theme for the USC Campaign for Leadership into the 21st Century.  His courses on the Beatles and Classic Rock have attracted the attention of Rolling Stone Magazine, CNN and Prime Time Live.

Puzzles, Patterns, Games and Illusions
Solomon Golomb
Tuesdays, 3-4:50; Section 34625

This Freshman Seminar will deal with intuitive and recreational aspects of geometry, without the complex calculations or intricate proving of theorems from axioms so typical of mathematics courses. The seminar is intended for students interested in shapes, designs, and patterns, and no background in mathematics, science, or engineering is assumed or required. Students who enroll will be expected to attend regularly, and participate in course activities.

Solomon W. Golomb spent six and a half years at the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he conducted and supervised research in Space Communications, before joining the USC faculty full-time in Spring 1963. He is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics, and holds the title of Distinguished University Professor. He is an elected member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. At USC he served as President of the Faculty Senate and as Vice Provost for Research.

In addition to some 200 technical journal articles on mathematics, engineering, and related topics, one of his four books currently in print is Polyominoes, subtitled, Puzzles, Patterns, Problems, and Packings. He has had a lifelong interest in games and puzzles, and has written regular puzzle columns for a number of newspapers and magazines.


Science, Technology and Society
John Slaughter
Wednesdays, 2-3:50; Section 34615

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
                                                                                                -Albert Einstein

Science and technology are omnipresent and integral facets of the human experience.  They invariably have the power to have an effect on society—its elements of culture, economy, security, standard of living, health, etc.  What the effect may be is often unexpected.  Science and technology have the potential to benefit humanity while, at the same time, be a force for negative consequences. 

This Freshman Seminar will explore the inter-dependencies that exist among science, technology and society.  Students will be asked to keep a journal recounting the discussions in class as well as presenting original thoughts that they have on topics related to the subject matter of the class.  Furthermore, students will be required to prepare an end-of semester report on an issue of their choice that reflects the interplay among science, technology and society, including topics such as serious games, virtual reality, nanotechnology, bio-engineering, space exploration, social networks, the Green Revolution, and other issues.

John Brooks Slaughter is Professor of Education and Engineering with appointments in the Rossier School of Education, Viterbi School of Engineering, and the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.  He has been the Director of the National Science Foundation and president of both the University of Maryland and Occidental College.  His research and teaching interests include issues of academic leadership, diversity, and the history of technology.


Technology and Environment
Najmedin Meshkati
Mondays, 2-3:50; Section 34607

One of the most serious existential crisis facing humanity deals with climate change and global warming.  This crisis will have drastic social, economic, political and technological implications for the world.  Developing and implementing a systematic response is probably the most important challenge facing our generation; as the influential author, Thomas L. Friedman in his seminal recent article, The Power of Green, has suggested, “Green has to become part of America’s DNA. We’re getting there. Green has hit Main Street — it’s now more than a hobby — but it’s still less than a new way of life . . . Living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century.”

It has been said that a paradox of our time is “the mixed blessing of almost every technological development.”  The relationships between technology and the environment are also paradoxical, complex and multifaceted.  Technology could be regarded as the source of many environmental problems which at the same time, it is only through further technological development that solutions to these problems can be found.  Cases in point are: preventing global warming and cleaning up hazardous (nuclear and chemical) waste sites.  Furthermore, technology is a major building block of the two pillars of environmental conservation and restoration: pollution prevention and waste management.

In addition to the above topics, the role and activities of major national and international entities in the technology and environment arena such as the United Nations, its specialized agencies (e.g., UNEP) and the World Bank will also be discussed.

Najmedin Meshkati is a recipient of the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation.  He is also Principal Investigator of a research grant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


What Are Earthquakes and Tsunamis All About?
Henry M. Koffman
Mondays, 2-3:50; Section 34608

The University of Southern California is one of the world's leading earthquake research centers.  Virtually every region of the planet experiences earthquakes at one time or another, but California experiences especially frequent events.  When earthquakes occur in major metropolitan areas, effects can be dramatic.  San Francisco is still recovering from the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, and Los Angeles will be responding to the effects of the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake for years to come.

Our class will trace the history of earthquakes, examine the mechanics of geological faults, and try to understand the emergency and public safety measures taken to cope with earthquakes both before and after the fact.  We study the nature of the forces released, how these forces impact the environment, how these forces are measured, and how structural and foundation designs are intended to respond to earthquake forces.  We will summarize the current state of earthquake research.  The class will take field trips to local facilities and affected sites. We will also reserach historical and recent tsunamis.

Henry M. Koffman, P.E., is the Director of the Construction Engineering and Management Program in the Viterbi School of Engineering's Civil Engineering Department.  He is a real estate land developer, licensed building contractor, and a registered Professional Engineer in the State of California.


(W)rites of Passage
Susan Harris
Wednesdays, 3-4:50; Section 34616

Since USC was named "College of the Year" in the 2000 edition of the Time/Princeton Review College Guide due in large part to service-learning programs, completing a JEP (Joint Educational Project) assignment before graduation has become a kind of rite of passage for USC students.  This seminar gives USC freshmen the opportunity to participate in a writing mentoring program facilitated by JEP that is otherwise only open to students enrolled in upper-division courses. 

The Freshman Seminar will explore the rites of passage that mark the transition from high school to college.  The course will offer a space for students to reflect on who they are, where they come from, and who they want to become—and the role of higher education in shaping this dynamic process.  As emphasized by the course title—“(W)rites of Passage”—writing will play a primary role in the course; students will keep a journal and write essays that investigate the roots of the self, critically examining how race, class, gender, education, and other social forces create and constrain individual opportunities.  Given USC’s location in Los Angeles, the course will consider identity formation from a geographic perspective, as well, exploring what it means to be an “Angeleno.”

All students in the course will become mentors for college-bound LAUSD high school students participating in USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI).  We will work together with NAI teachers and administrators to guide the high school students as they draft their college application essays.  And since good writing comes from extensive reading, we will consider excerpts from the 9-12th grade NAI curricula that models how authors (in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry) grapple with their own rites of passage. 

Writing to be Read
Richard Fliegel
Thursdays, 2-3:50; Section 34619

"No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money," said Samuel Johnson, but that's not the end of the story.  There is after all a reader or an audience, expecting something.  This is a seminar for writers or for people who are trying to be.  We will focus on the question, "How does it change what I write when I'm determined to affect my readers?"  Writing to express yourself accurately is hard, but it's like falling off a log compared to writing things that succeed in stirring other people's emotions.

Students will be expected to read other writers' work in several genres and to share with the class what they themselves have written, sometimes on the spot.  We promise not to laugh unless it's funny -- and if that isn't scary, the devil knows what is.

Richard Fliegel is the Director of the Freshman Seminar program and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs in USC Dornsife College.  He has published detective novels and tried his hand at some other forms, from poetry to episodic television.