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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.

Ethical Issue of the Month: 

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience - Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response in an ordinary, non-meditative state


Featured in USC Dornsife News: Humanitarian Spring

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

September Spirit of the Law Series featured in the Daily Trojan

The Honorable Bernard J. Kamins spoke about his 22 years on the bench. Read the full article here.




ZYGO Series—PHARMACEUTICAL ACCESS: Global Drug Management and Underserved Populations

October 24, 2014, DML 241 | 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM | Lunch Provided


Co-sponsored by the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study

The pharmaceutical industry is frequently criticized as being focused entirely on making a profit and not truly caring for the wellbeing of the people. This seminar will explore if pharmaceutical companies have any ethical obligations towards underserved populations, or if, like any other company, ultimately serve to gain profit.

The Agreement of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights was passed by the World Trade Organization in 1996, enabling countries without access to patented pharmaceuticals to apply for compulsory licenses and produce generic copies of drugs without the permission of the patent owner. Since 2003, compulsory license holders can also export generic drugs to other countries that lack production capabilities. Panelists will
consider how compulsory licenses both improve and complicate the landscape of pharmaceutical access on a global scale. More

ModeratorSucharita Yellapragada, ZYGO Student Program Manager

Jeff McCombs, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Economics & Policy, USC Schaeffer
Erin Quinn, Associate Dean for Science and Health, USC Dornsife
Heather Wipfli, Associate Director, USC Institute for Global Health and Assistant Professor, Department of Preventative Medicine and School of International Relations, USC Keck
Harleen Marwah, Graduate Student, Global Medicine, USC Keck

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

What Matters to Me and Why with Diane Winston

November 5, 2014, Ground Zero Cafe | 12 PM | Lunch Provided

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

What is important to a national authority on media and religion?  Join us for a talk with Diane Winston and learn more.

Diane Winston holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  A national authority on religion and the media as both a journalist and a scholar, her expertise includes religion, politics and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and the Chronicle of High Education.

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.

"Medicine and the Image: The Visible Human"

Fall 2014 Conference and Public Gallery Exhibit

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 | 8:30 AM - 7:00 PM 
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 240


Public Gallery Exhibit
Monday, November 3 - Friday, November 7, 2014
Von KleinSmid Center Courtyard

From the anatomical drawings of Vesalius to contemporary MRI and CT scans, images create and popularize medical knowledge as well as influence diagnosis and treatment. This one-day conference will explore how the human body and its experiences of illness are imagined and made visible in medical research, practice, and education. How does representation, both visual and literary, construct and complicate facts about a medically knowable body? How does it also change our individual and societal perceptions of illness, disease, and health? In what ways do technological advances in imaging techniques, including virtual reality simulations, influence medical practices? How can the analysis and creation of art enrich medical education?

The conference aims to facilitate an interdisciplinary conversation by bringing together scholars from a variety of fields including Art, History, Literature, Communications, Anthropology, Medical Illustration, and Medicine. Events for the day will include research presentations on the relationship between medicine and images; a career roundtable for students interested in the health humanities; a keynote lecture on the use of entertainment applications at the intersection of behavioral science, medicine and public health; and a public gallery exhibit of medical images.

Keynote SpeakerMarientina Gotsis, Director & Co-Founder, USC Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center; Research Assistant Professor, Interactive Media & Games Division, USC School of Cinematic Arts

Organizing Sponsor: USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics

Co-sponsors: USC Office of the Provost, Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Center for Feminist Research, Department of Comparative Literature, Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture Doctoral Program, Visual Studies Research Institute, and Keck School of Medicine’s Program in Medical Humanities, Arts, and Ethics

Film Screening: "Northern Light"

November 6, 2014, The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108 | 7 PM


Co-sponsored by the USC School of Cinematic Arts

Winner, Most Innovative Feature, 2013 Visions Du Réel, Switzerland
Winner, Best Cinematography, 2013 New Orleans Film Festival, Louisiana

Set against the backdrop of a town’s annual snowmobile race, Northern Light interweaves captivating stories of recession-era America. The lives of three families change profoundly in the north woods of Michigan, where winters are unforgiving, jobs are hard to come by, and the line between living life and merely surviving is razor-thin. More

"Cool in tone and temperature, Nick Bentgen’s “Northern Light” turns white vistas and blue language into a sneakily compelling, endlessly patient observation of three working-class families in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan." —Jeannette Catsoulis, 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.

SPIRIT OF THE LAW featuring Craig Keys, Associate Senior Vice President, USC Civic Engagement

To Be Scheduled, Gould School of Law | Lunch Provided

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

Craig S. Keys joined USC as associate senior vice president for civic engagement in January 2012. Reporting to the senior vice president for university relations, Keys is responsible for working in partnership with community leaders, nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and USC faculty, staff and students in support of the university’s engagement priorities. He also plays a key role in building and maintaining strong relationships between USC’s research and outreach programs, in facilitating and implementing President Nikias’ community initiatives, and in documenting and evaluating community involvement at USC. Keys holds a bachelor’s degree in social theory and mass communications from UC Berkeley, a master’s degree in sociology and law from Columbia University, a J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law, and a certificate in real estate finance from the USC Marshall School of Business’ Ross Minority Program in Real Estate. More

Spirit of the Law features legal professionals discussing how they find meaning, purpose, and identity in the law.



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

Carnegie Council International Student Photography Contest, 2014: Fairness and Its Opposite


Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs announces its second annual International Student Photography Contest. The contest is part of Ethics for a Connected World, a three-year global education project in celebration of the 2014 Carnegie Council Centennial.

In a world with huge gulfs of wealth and power, how do we ensure that everybody has access to opportunity? Carnegie Council believes that part of the answer lies in fairness—the means by which a society balances the rights and responsibilities of its citizens, toward each other and toward the state.

The contest will be conducted on Carnegie Council's Global Ethics Network, a social media platform for exploring the role of ethics in international relations. Check out last year's winners on the theme of Living with Differences and click here for details on how to participate.

PHOTO TOPIC: Fairness and Its Opposite

CONTEST DEADLINE: October 31, 2014

Levan Campus Grant Program


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


WOMEN AND WAR featuring Nimmi Gowrinathan

October 23, 2014, TCC 350 | 7-9 PM

Join us for this talk on women and war zones. While women are often framed as victims in war zones, they are often also political actors, occupying a variety of roles in violent spaces. Women are by and large disproportionately impacted by the fallout of war (displacement, militarization, and rape). These experiences shape women in marginalized communities in distinct ways. In Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, lived experiences with violence often shape the politics of women, forcing us to recognize that women can be both victims and agents in complex conflicts around the world. More

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life and USC Spectrum

Levan Coffeehouse Conversations on Practical Ethics—COLLEGE ATHLETICS: Play or Work?

October 8, 2014, Ground Zero Cafe | Noon | Lunch Provided

College sports can be big business, generating enormous revenues for schools and salaries for coaches, while their athletes receive only scholarship, room and board.  Currently, pending lawsuits seek to remove caps on player compensation and to allow players to share in profits from the use of their likenesses.  Debate is growing over whether college athletes should unionize as employees.  What is a level playing field for college sports?

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

John Dreher, Associate Professor of Philosophy, USC Dornsife
William Morgan, Professor of the Division of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy and the Annenberg School of Communication
Michael Pressman, Ph.D. Candidate, Philosophy, USC Dornsife

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.

ZYGO Series—HOBBY LOBBY: The Ethics of Healthcare between Corporation, Church and State

October 3, 2014, DML 241 | 12:30 PM | Lunch Provided

Co-sponsored by the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study

In September 2012, Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores, filed a lawsuit against the United States over a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which mandated that health insurance provided by employers must include access to emergency contraceptives. Hobby Lobby stated that this provision violated their religious beliefs, and argued that they were protected by the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Supreme Court eventually ruled in their favor. This panel will discuss the various ethical issues associated with the intersection of religion and health care, and the implications of this ruling. Is it ethical for a corporation to determine the exact services included in government- mandated health insurance for religious reasons? Furthermore, did this PPACA provision prevent Hobby Lobby from freely exercising religion, for which the RFRA was initially enacted?

Moderator: Varun Awasthi, ZYGO Student Director

Hilary Schor, University Professor, English, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies and Law
Varun Soni, Dean, USC Office of Religious Life
Alida Liberman, Ph.D. Candidate, Philosophy, Levan Graduate Fellow
Drew Schmidt, Undergraduate Student, Philosophy, Politics, and Law, Levan Undergraduate Fellow, 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

What Matters to Me and Why with Sherman Jackson

October 1, 2014, Ground Zero Cafe | 12 PM | Lunch Provided

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

Named one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, Professor Sherman Jackson speaks about what is important to him in this second program of the series. Sherman Jackson holds the King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and is a Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC.  His research interests focus on issues of race, immigration, liberalism, democracy, religion in the modern world, pluralism, and constitutionalism.

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.


September 29, 2014, THH 201 | 5 PM | Pizza Served

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

Join us for a wide-ranging discussion that tries to get at the virtue of courage. Why might it be important for us to determine the limits of courage? When is an act courageous? When might the same act instead be cowardly or reckless? Can someone act with courage without understanding what courage is? What is the relationship between the virtue of courage and other virtues like wisdom, justice, and reverence? How might we best be courageous in our daily lives? All who are interested in participating are welcome. The discussion will be guided by students from Thematic Option and Levan Institute Fellows and will be moderated by James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics.

SPIRIT OF THE LAW featuring Hon. Bernard J. Kamins, Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court (Ret)

September 23, 2014, Gould School of Law Room 2 | 12:30 PM | Lunch Provided

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Kamins served 22 years on the bench and served as a public defender prior to being appointed a judge. After graduating from USC Law School in 1968, Kamins became a Deputy Public Defender and served as deputy in charge for the LA Juvenile Hall Court. He then was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court by George Deukmejian in 1985 and was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court the following year. Kamins spent all but one year of his judicial career presiding over criminal cases and briefly presided over the widely publicized Rodney King beating case in 1991. From 2000 to 2007, Kamins ran Drug Court for the entire western portion of LA County. Though formally retired, Kamins currently serves as a judge at the Van Nuys Courthouse in the assigned judge program and is working on creating a prostitution diversion program for the local court. Kamins holds a B.A. in Sociology from UC Santa Barbara and a J.D. from the University of Southern California. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Pepperdine University’s law school.

Spirit of the Law features legal professionals discussing how they find meaning, purpose, and identity in the law.

VISION & VOICES: "The Amygdala and the Stethoscope: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine" - A Lecture by Danielle Ofri

Monday, September 22, 2014, Mayer Auditorium, USC Health Sciences Campus | 11:30 AM

Book signing and reception to follow. Admission is free.

As part of the Medical Humanities, Arts, and Ethics Series, which engages core health issues in society today, we will present an afternoon with essayist and physician Danielle Ofri. Renowned for her use of dramatic stories, Ofri will explore how emotions permeate clinical decisions and provoke physicians, despite their commitment to the scientific method, to act in ways that are not nearly as rational and evidence-based as they may think.

Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, has her clinical home at Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the country. She writes about medicine and the patient-physician relationship for the New York Times and is the founder and editor in chief of the Bellevue Literary Review, the first literary journal to arise from a medical setting. Ofri is the recipient of the John P. McGovern Award from the American Medical Writers Association for “preeminent contributions to medical communication." More

Organized by Pamela Schaff (Pediatrics and Family Medicine), Alexander Capron (Law and Medicine), and Lyn Boyd-Judson (Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics).

Co-sponsored by the Keck School of Medicine’s Program in Medical Humanities, Arts, and Ethics, the USC Pacific Center for Health Policy and Ethics, and the  Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics.

GIVE & TAKE NARRATIVES: Information Session

September 17, THH 215 | 3:30 PM

The Give&Take Narratives is a film narratives project on the ethics of volunteering. The Give&Take Narratives project provides students the opportunity to use film as a tool to reflect upon their own perceptions, encounters, and ethical dilemmas in their domestic and overseas alternative break trips. If you are interested in exploring narrative research, filming your own Alternative Break or other volunteer trip, or editing documentary footage submitted by students, please join us for this meeting. RSVP here.

LEVAN-OXFORD WORKSHOP: The Ethics of Human Rights and Development in the Twenty-First Century City

September 7-14, 2014 | New York City, NY

In partnership with the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, Yale University, Quinnipiac University, and the UN Development Program, the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics will run an intensive workshop in human rights and development. The academic component of the seminar will involve morning and afternoon sessions dedicated to a critical analysis of the field of development ethics, including: basic needs; capabilities and human development approaches; participatory planning and community action; deliberation and agency; the role of law, institutions and social movements; and global public health initiatives.

For more information, click here

What Matters to Me and Why with Jeremy Kagan

September 3, 2014, Ground Zero Cafe | 12 PM | Lunch Provided

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religious Life

Jeremy Kagan is a Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts and the founder of the Change Making Media Lab at USC.  An Emmy award winning director, writer and producer of feature films and television, he has been on the National Board of the Directors Guild of America and is Chairperson of its Special Projects Committee, which provides cultural and educational programs for its 15000 membeers.

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.


Fall 2014 Training Sessions

Wednesday, September 3, 2014, THH 212 | 7-9 PM
Thursday, September 4, 2014, THH 108 | 4-6 PM

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