Chris Wittenberg: Alumnus Advice

MLS: What’s it like balancing graduate school with work and the rest of your life?


CW: You have to get used to a new way of living your life, and I think the beginning is the hardest. It’s a state of shock for the first few weeks! But then I settled into my new life and things get easier after that.  I was able to start enjoying some of the content I realized I was absorbing instead of feeling my mind was in a state of chaos.  Being back in school impacted my wife the most, but I was lucky that she understood that program was important to me.  We rearranged our schedules to make things work.  Other than that, it's nothing more than giving up a few TV shows.


MLS: Did you have a favorite class?


CW: The most interesting class I had was “Language in a Globalizing World.”  I found linguistics to be a topic far more interesting than I expected.   I thought the research was enjoyable because each student chose an area of geographic interest, so I got to chose the subject in which I was the most interested.  I also learned that while I was looking for differences between those geographic areas, I was surprised to find many similarities, as well.


MLS:  Were you surprised by anything you’ve learned or anything that came out of being in the MLS Program?


CW:  Every class brought its own surprises, too many to recount here.  However, one that sticks out in my mind is an assignment in which we had to read about the cuisine of India.  I sat down to read this article and thought, “Why am I reading this!?" As it turned out, that article stuck with me as one of the more surprising and interesting things I’d been presented with.


This experience illustrated to me how I would approach a reading thinking I “know” the answer, or that I am comfortable with my preconceived notion, but instead I came out of it realizing there was a lot more to it than I thought.  It can be humbling to realize that you were somewhat close-minded just an hour before.


MLS:   What did you get out of being in the program?  What goals did you achieve?


CW:  I pursued this program out of very personal reasons. I’ve always admired people who are willing to step out of what’s comfortable in their life and take on a new challenge.  There is a saying that I believe in: “It’s not the summit that’s important; it’s the journey.”  I think everyone in this program is able to look back on what they’ve already achieved and could genuinely feel proud of himself or herself. Another way I look at it is this: After three years, I can look back and realize I’ve achieved nothing important—just lived my life easily. Or, I can look back and be proud of what I’ve struggled through, expanded my experience of the world, and earned a degree that I can be proud of.

MLS:  Do you have any advice for current students?

CW:  Take advantage of every opportunity to ask questions, talk with the faculty, and extend yourself.


  • Master of Liberal Studies
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  • Mark Taper Hall, THH 355
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0355