Skip to main content

On Common Ground

USC College Dean Howard Gillman announces new event series the College Commons.

On Common Ground

Emphasizing the importance of USC College faculty coming together as a community, Dean Howard Gillman has announced the creation of The College Commons.

Driven by faculty, The College Commons will provide opportunities for more communication and collaboration across the College’s many departments, disciplines, centers, institutes and programs.

“The College Commons is designed to engage all of you in the creation of a special set of signature programs that will, with some regularity, bring us together as a community around compelling conversations that have broad appeal across the disciplines,” Gillman said during his Sept. 9 address to faculty. These programs will “highlight the excitement of our world of ideas and the importance of our distinctive mission.”

The College Commons may begin as a series of signature or interrelated workshops, lectures, debates or colloquia. But Gillman added, “It is our hope that the success of The College Commons will weave its way into the fabric of our community, build new relationships, spark new ideas, enrich the classroom experience, drive learning communities, inspire new programs, revive our passion for ideas, and attract new people to our community — students, faculty, supporters.”

Gillman also expressed the hope that as The College Commons develops it will have a broader impact on the cultural life of Los Angeles.

Hilary Schor, professor of English, comparative literature and law, will oversee The College Commons.

“I'm tremendously excited about the opportunity to create The College Commons. We have a terrific group of faculty on the committee, but our job isn't to dream up all the programs ourselves," Schor said. "Our job is to encourage faculty throughout the College to collaborate with their colleagues, invite speakers, host events and think of innovative ways of engaging their graduate and undergraduate students.

“We will certainly have traditional programs that bring fascinating people in from the outside, but we will ask them to interact with us in new ways. For every formal event we host, there will be an informal workshop, an ongoing research seminar, an undergraduate class or a graduate workshop — activities that are designed to continue and even expand the conversation,” Schor said.

The College Commons steering committee members are University Professor Michael Arbib, holder of the Fletcher Jones Chair in Computer Science and professor of biological sciences and psychology; David Bottjer of earth sciences and biological sciences; Jo Ann Farver of psychology; Karen Halttunen of history and of American studies and ethnicity; Clifford Johnson of physics and astronomy; Karen Pinkus of French and Italian and of comparative literature; and Greg Thalmann of classics and comparative literature.

The committee will soon release a call for proposals, and events for The College Commons are slated to begin in the spring of 2009.

Schor underscored the goal of The College Commons as having a broad impact on the future of USC College.

“The College Commons can serve as a kind of laboratory for future programs, allowing us to experiment and find new ways of talking with each other — and if that conversation is as rich as I expect it to be, it will draw in participants from across USC and from the greater Los Angeles community.”

She added: “As I said to the members of the committee when I invited them to join us, wouldn't it be wonderful to be happy to drive into work each day because you knew something new and unexpected would happen? That's the pleasure we all experience in the life of the mind. It’s why we're all still here in the university, and it is our great gift to the larger community. That’s what it means to be part of the College.”