Skip to main content

The USC Levan Institute engages students with the timeless values at the core of our humanity, promotes moral reflection and understanding of self, facilitates multidisciplinary dialogue, and encourages students to make a positive impact across society and the globe.

In this effort, the Institute collaborates with departments, professional schools and programs across the university to bring students and faculty together with authors and artists, philosophers and practitioners, and the ethical voices of our time.

New Series:
Following the Virtues and Vices discussion on courage, we will now move to the virtue of justice and its role in everyday life. Please join us on February 2, 2015 at 5 PM in the Mark Taper Hall of Humanities and RSVP below.

Virtues and Vices: What is Justice?

Levan Institute in the News

Daily Trojan: "Superior court judge speaks at Gould series"
The Honorable Bernard J. Kamins spoke about his 22 years on the bench at the September 2014 Spirit of the Law event.

USC Dornsife News:

"Crime and Punishment"
A Levan Institute Coffeehouse Conversation on Practical Ethics event presents a panel of experts from USC speaking on the death penalty.

"Humanitarian Spring"
USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics’ director Lyn Boyd-Judson leads seven undergraduates to the University of Oxford for a five-day workshop on human rights and humanitarian action.

"Advocates for Ethics"
USC Dornsife students Amanda Schmitt and Marissa Roy present their ethics research at the 2013 Global Ethics Fellows Conference in New York.



February 2, 2015, 5 PM | THH 212 | Pizza Served


Co-sponsored by the Levan Institute Undergraduate Fellows and the Thematic Option Honors Program

Following the workshop on courage, we will now move to the virtue of justice. Aristotle noted that, among the canonical virtues, justice is a special case primarily because people mean so many different things when they appeal to it. Sometimes what is lawful is just, while at other times justice may require unlawful action. Sometimes justice can be equated with fairness, and yet at other times justice may require actions that seem inequitable. According to Aristotle, justice is also difficult to determine because, of the two parties which it involves, one often has a higher status than the other. We will navigate this difficult terrain with special focus, as ever, on how we might best be just in our daily lives. More

The discussion will be guided by Levan Institute Fellows and students from Thematic Option and will be moderated by James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics.

The Virtues and Vices Series encourages student discussion about virtues, vices, and their role in everyday life.

"The Social Justice Review"

Submission Deadline: February 9, 2015

Want to have your work read around the world? The Social Justice Review (SJR), a journal sponsored by the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, is now accepting outstanding submissions for publication in our inaugural Spring 2015 issue.

As a global platform for social justice, The Social Justice Review offers a forum for undergraduates worldwide who engage—utilizing the written word—with issues of ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, religion, or other social issues or inequalities. More

Levan Coffeehouse Conversations on Practical Ethics—SPEECH WITHOUT BORDERS: Disentangling Free Speech, Hate speech, Irreligious Speech, and Seditious Speech

February 11, 2015, Noon | Ground Zero Cafe | Lunch Provided


The recent massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Saudi Arabia’s caning of a blogger for religiously offensive speech, and the French government’s crackdown on speech in support of terrorism have intensified debate worldwide over the meaning and limits of public expression.  What sorts of speech should be protected and on what grounds? More

Program Director and Moderator:
Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy, Law, and Political Science

Levan Coffeehouse Conversations on Practical Ethics encourage faculty, staff, and students from every part of our USC community to talk about the ethical questions of the day.

HUGO SLIM: "Humanitarian Action in the Syrian Crisis: Obstacles and Innovations"

February 11, 2015, 4 PM | Herklotz Room, Doheny Memorial Library (DML G24)


Dr. Hugo Slim is the University of Oxford Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict Associate Director and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations. From 1983-1994, he worked as a frontline humanitarian worker for Save the Children UK and the United Nations in Morocco, Sudan and Ethiopia, the Palestinian Territories and Bangladesh. He is currently leading research on humanitarian ethics that will deliver the first major practical text on humanitarian ethics in war and disaster and will develop new standards of care and accountability in humanitarian organizations. Dr. Slim is the lead instructor for the Levan-Oxford Workshops.
Co-sponsored by International Human Rights Clinic, USC Gould School of Law; USC Spectrum; USC Program Board Speakers Committee; Oxford Consortium for Human Rights; and Levan Institute Undergraduate Fellows

ZYGO SERIES—MEDICINE IN THE MEDIA: Ethical Obligations to Viewers

February 20, 2015, 12:30 | Doheny Memorial Library 241 | Lunch Provided


Medically themed TV shows cover a wide range of genres; they include comedies such as Scrubs, dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, and soap operas such as General Hospital—the longest-running American soap opera currently in production. However, the scientific-relevance of presented treatments is often difficult to grasp and may well be inaccurate. Research presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in 2010 accordingly found that 46 percent of seizure cases depicted on medical dramas were subject to inappropriate treatments. Additionally, American news outlets are often criticized for presenting health-related news items in a sensationalist and distorted manner. Panelists for this event will consider the relationship between health issues and their representations in the media. Do TV producers and filmmakers have any ethical obligations to accurately present medical cases? How do current depictions of health on TV and in the news impact the way viewers seek out and view medical treatment? More

Moderator: Varun Awasthi, ZYGO Student Director

The ZYGO Series is organized by USC students in health and medicine who seek dialogue with USC faculty across disciplines in order to increase the integration of ethical themes into their curriculum.

zygo / ˈzʌɪgəʊ, ˈzɪgəʊ / pref. relating to union or joining

HARRIET WASHINGTON: "Medical Experimentation: Unearthing the History of Medicine in America"

February 24, 2015, 7 PM | TCC, The Forum

Harriet Washington is a medical ethicist and the author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present and Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself - And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future.
Co-sponsored by USC Department of American Studies and Ethnicity, Black Student Assembly, Academic Culture Assembly, African Americans in Health, Levan Institute of Humanities and Ethics, Dornsife Pre-Health Advising Office, Dornsife Science and Health Program, and USC Spectrum


Contest Deadline: March 6, 2015

The Levan Ethics Essay Contest aims to recognize the best written work on ethics by USC undergraduate students. More

Suggested areas for essays:
Global Ethics: Moral problems with an international focus
Professional Ethics: Examination of the ethical component of a profession, or of a specific ethical problem faced by members of the profession
Social Justice: Critical analysis of a moral issue of primarily social significance

Awards will be announced at the April 2015 Annual Undergraduate Writer's Conference.


Human Rights In and After Conflict

March 21, 2015 - March 27, 2015 | Oxford, UK

The Levan Institute partners with the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict annually to offer a workshop at the University of Oxford. Areas of study include human rights in and after conflict, humanitarian action, conflict trends, human rights law, and peacemaking with a focus on recent armed conflicts. The module is a healthy mix of seminars, working groups, and student presentations. More

View photos here from the Levan-Oxford Spring 2014 Workshop


Contest Deadline: April 30, 2015

Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs announces its third Trans-Pacific Student Contest, a pioneering exercise in U.S.-Asia collaboration. The contest is part of Ethics for a Connected World, a three-year global education project to mark the Council's 2014 Centennial. Winners will receive a trip to New York City.

ESSAY OR VIDEO TOPIC: What is the future of U.S.-Asia relations or of the United States and one of the Asian countries listed on the Trans-Pacific Contest website?

Contest Information



The Levan Fellows serve as ambassadors for the institute and work closely with Dr. Lyn Boyd-Judson, director of the Levan Institute, on designing and implementing mission-related projects. The program provides an interdisciplinary cohort-based experience that offers students the opportunity to integrate their academic interests with Dornsife programming and events.

For more information, click here



Mindful USC is a new university-wide initiative that launched Fall 2014 to make mindfulness practices integral to the culture of the Trojan Family. It offers ongoing training, practice groups, faculty workshops, media resources, research, and special events. Mindful USC encourages meditative and contemplative practice for faculty, staff, and students in all disciplines, departments, and domains of the university.

For more information, click here

Search Inside Yourself featuring Chade-Meng Tan
October 22, 2014 | Bovard Auditorium, USC
Click here to see the video



Grants are available to students, faculty, and staff across the College who need funds for activities that coincide with the Levan Institute's mission. Student groups and student-focused projects are given a strong first priority, as are collaborative efforts across departments and schools. More



FILM SCREENING: "Norte, the End of History"

January 25, 2015, 1 PM | The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108

Co-sponsored by the USC School of Cinematic Arts

Official Selection: 2014 Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard)
Nominated for Best International Film by the 2015 Independent Spirit Awards

An embittered law student commits a brutal double murder; a family man takes the fall and is forced into a harsh prison sentence; a mother and her two children wander the countryside looking for some kind of redemption. Lav Diaz’s epic reimagining of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is both an intimate human drama and a cosmic treatise on the origin of evil. Unfolding across the sun drenched fields and dark city streets of the Filipino island of Luzon, Norte, the End of History is a tale of murder, hate and hope from one of the world’s most uncompromising cinematic visionaries. More

"There is also, above all, an almost inexhaustible humanism at the heart of this remarkable film. It is the work of a director as fascinated by decency as by ugliness, and able to present the chaos of life in a series of pictures that are at once luminously clear and endlessly mysterious." —A.O. Scott, The New York Times

The Cinema of Substance Series showcases meaningful films from around the world that explore who we are and how we might be.

ZYGO SERIES—QUARANTINE: Balancing Human Rights with Medical Best Interests

January 23, 2015, 12:30 PM | DML 241 | Lunch Provided

The first known usage of quarantine dates back from 1377 in the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia when ships suspected of carrying the Black Plague were subjected to a 40 day hold before being allowed to enter the port. Quarantine is distinct from isolation in that it is solely a preventive measure enacted to seclude individuals who may be at risk of spreading a certain disease. Although quarantine has not been frequently implemented in recent history, during the recent outbreak of Ebola, entire villages in Liberia were subjected to quarantines, and in the US, multiple states implemented mandatory quarantines for health care workers returning from West Africa. These quarantine policies were heavily criticized by many as violating basic human rights and simply being unnecessary. Panelists for this forum will consider the medical relevance and necessity of quarantine and the human rights concerns associated with it.  

Moderator: Varun Awasthi, ZYGO Student Director

Sofia Gruskin, J.D., MIA, Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Gould School of Law, and Director, Program on Global Health & Human Rights, USC Institute for Global Health
Alison Dundes Renteln, Professor of Political Science, Anthropology, and Policy, Planning, and Development, USC Dornsife
Paul Holtom, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Orthopedics and Program Director, Infectious Disease Fellowship Program, USC Keck School of Medicine                                                   
Abelard Podgorski, Ph.D. Student, Philosophy, USC Dornsife
Jacob Roberts, Undergraduate Student, Economics and East Asian Languages and Cultures, USC Dornsife

The ZYGO Series is organized by USC students in health and medicine who seek dialogue with USC faculty across disciplines in order to increase the integration of ethical themes into their curriculum.

zygo / ˈzʌɪgəʊ, ˈzɪgəʊ / pref. relating to union or joining


Spring 2015 Training Sessions

Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 6-8 PM | THH 110 
Thursday, January 22, 2015, 7-9 PM | THH 110 

The Teaching Ethics Program (TEP) trains undergraduate volunteers each year to introduce competing ethical perspectives and lead ethics case study discussions in neighborhood high schools. Undergraduate students can participate in TEP as volunteers or for course credit (if enrolled in a participating TEP affiliated course).  Attend a 2-hour training session and join a team of three USC students to teach a series of four class sessions over four weeks.

For more information, click here


January 21, 2015, 12 PM | Ground Zero Cafe | Lunch Provided

Co-sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

Erin Quinn is the Associate Dean for Science and Health at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. She has played a key role in medical education at USC for more than 30 years, serving as dean of admissions at the Keck School of Medicine of USC from 1998 to 2011, associate dean for women from 1993 to 1998, and assistant professor of clinical family medicine since 1991. 

What Matters to Me and Why is a program that encourages reflection about values, beliefs and motivations. It aims to help students and others better understand the lives and inspirations of those who shape the University.