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USC Dornsife’s Master of Liberal Studies Program Hosts International Symposium

Nearly 100 students, alumni and faculty attended, including three USC Dornsife participants who presented their research papers.

Lee Crystal (MLS '12) shakes hands with Jim Kincaid (right), Aerol Arnold Chair in English and Professor of English, and chair of the MLS Faculty Board in USC Dornsife, after Crystal presented his research at the international symposium. Nita Kincaid looks on. Photo by Emily Loynachan.
Lee Crystal (MLS '12) shakes hands with Jim Kincaid (right), Aerol Arnold Chair in English and Professor of English, and chair of the MLS Faculty Board in USC Dornsife, after Crystal presented his research at the international symposium. Nita Kincaid looks on. Photo by Emily Loynachan.

Under an umbrella in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center courtyard, students from USC Dornsife’s Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) program traded spirited ideas about Friedrich Nietzsche’s “God is Dead” theological movement with students from Dominican University of California.

Soaking up the summer sunshine in the courtyard were other graduate liberal studies students who compared notes on what they had just learned about jazz and the civil rights movement.

From June 23 to 25, nearly 100 students, alumni and faculty from eight universities worldwide gathered at the USC University Park campus for the Sixth Annual Graduate Liberal Studies Symposium, sponsored by MLS and the USC Dornsife MLS Student Association. 

Participating universities included the Dominican University of California in San Rafael, Calif.; Maastricht University in Maastricht, the Netherlands; Marylhurst University in Marylhurst, Ore.; Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles; Reed College in Portland, Ore.; Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada; and Stanford University in Stanford, Calif.

Martin Anderson, director of Dominican’s graduate humanities program, and Linda Paulson, director of Stanford’s Master of Liberal Arts Program, started the symposium in 2007 as a way to give their students the invaluable experience of preparing, submitting and presenting research papers.

“The first symposium was such a success we thought it would be great to have other liberal students programs join in,” Anderson said during the event. “The consortium of graduate liberal studies programs quickly grew. To be selected to present a paper at this international symposium is a great opportunity and an honor for both the presenter and his or her program.”

Three USC Dornsife students and recent graduates were among the 33 presenters. Lee Crystal (MLS ’12) presented his paper on the concept of “crimes against humanity” created by the outcome of the Nuremberg trials and its impact on social behavior. Young Miller (MLS ’12) shared her research on the cultural and linguistic importance of the Korean alphabet Hangul. Lindsey Jones, a current MLS student, discussed the connections between Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Walking” and Michel de Certeau’s essay “Walking in the City.” 

Symposium moderator and USC Dornsife Professor of Philosophy and English Edwin McCann was impressed with the quality of the presenters and all of the symposium participants.

“It’s apparent that these students and alumni will continue to think about their new discoveries after the symposium and will carry with them the thrill of having joined in the debate and having made new connections,” said McCann, who also teaches in the MLS program.

“By participating in these symposia, we overcome the isolation of our own programs,” Anderson added. “Our students and alumni realize they are part of a larger, even global, multi-disciplinary academic community.”

Susan Kamei, USC Dornsife associate dean of advanced and professional programs and director of the MLS program, agreed.

“The symposium format is geared to provide a weekend of social, as well as intellectual, interaction,” she said.

“I didn’t know I would have as much fun as I had,” said Lauren Buisson, a student from Mount St. Mary’s College. 

“The entire time I felt I was among friends,” added Barb Mackraz, a student from Stanford University.

As this year’s symposium hosts, the USC Dornsife MLS Student Association wanted visitors to get a taste of L.A. life, said the association’s president Jennifer Permer, adding that some symposium participants took the new Expo Line to the Union Station for French dip sandwiches at nearby Philippe the Original, while others went out in search of Korean barbeque. 

In her closing remarks, Kamei harkened back to the symposium opening remarks by Jim Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Chair in English and Professor of English, and chair of the MLS Faculty Board in USC Dornsife. 

“Jim encouraged us to get lost in our interdisciplinary wanderings, to lose ourselves with never-ending child-like innocence in new thoughts and ideas,” Kamei said.  “In the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson from his Ulysses, let our intellectual journeys which have brought us to places such as this symposium now take us onward ‘strong in will to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.’ ”

The seventh annual symposium is set to be hosted by Maastricht University. To learn more about the MLS program and GLS symposia, visit dornsife.usc.edu/mls, e-mail mls@dornsife.usc.edu or call (213) 740-1349.