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What Matters to Me and Why

Co-Sponsored by the Office of Religous Life

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.

Presenters are encouraged to talk about choices made, difficulties encountered and commitments solidified. They are also free to choose any other topic that fits their definition of "what matters to me and why."

2011-2012 Speakers                                                       Watch Past Speakers on YouTube

2010-2011 Speakers                                                       Click here to nominate potential speakers

2009-2010 Speakers

  • Spring 2013 Speakers:
  • What Matters to Me and Why with Marty Kaplan

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 from 12:00pm to 12:50pm

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe 

    Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Kaplan's uncommonly broad career has also spanned government and politics, the entertainment industry and journalism. He was associate dean of the Annenberg School for 10 years and is the founding director of the School’s Norman Lear Center, whose mission is to study and shape the impact of media and entertainment on society. His Lear Center research includes the political coverage on U.S. local TV news broadcasts; the metrics of audience engagement with media; the impact of public health messages in entertainment storylines; best practices in and barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration; and the depiction of law and justice in popular culture. 
    He created and hosted So What Else Is News?, the nationally-syndicated Air America Radio program examining media politics and pop culture. He graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude in molecular biology, where he was president of the Harvard Lampoon. As a Marshall Scholar, he received a Master’s in English with First Class Honours from Cambridge University in England. He holds a Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University.

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Francille Wilson

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013 from 12:00pm to 12:50pm

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe 

    Francille Wilson is an intellectual and labor historian whose current research examines the intersections between black labor movements, black social scientists, and black women's history during the Jim Crow era.  Her book, The Segregated Scholars:  Black Social Scientists and the Creation of Black Labor Studies, 1890-1950, was awarded the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize for the best book in African American Women's history by the Association of Black Women Historians. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Wilson to the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women in December 2007 and she was its president, 2009-2010.  In 2011 Wilson was appointed to a four year term on the State Board of the California African American Museum by the Governor.  Wilson was awarded the 2008 Bethune Award for Excellence in Education by Our Author's Study Club of Los Angeles.  She has served on the boards of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the Labor and Working Class History Association, and is a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Hannah Garry

    Wednesday, March 6 

    Hannah Garry is the clinical associate professor of law and founding director of USC Gould School of Law's International Human Rights Clinic. Garry specializes in international human rights law, international criminal law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law. Garry's legal practice has included being a Legal Advisor in 2011-2012 to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. From 2004-2007, she was legal officer and Deputy Chef de Cabinet in the Appeals Chamber and Office of the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She has worked on international human rights and international criminal law issues since 1994 in Africa, Asia and Europe with a number of international human rights organizations. 

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Norberto M. Grzywacz


    Wednesday, April 3

    Norberto Grzywacz is Professor of Biomedical and Electrical Engineering. His area of research is neuroengineering. His recent work has focused on both retinal coding of natural images and the re-engineering of degenerating retinas. Norberto is currently the Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, having been previously the director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program. He was a graduate of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a postdoctoral fellow and a research faculty member at MIT, and a scientist at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. 

  • Fall 2012 Speakers:
  • What Matters to Me and Why with Nicholas Warner

    December 5, 2012 

    Nicholas Warner is a professor of physics, astronomy and mathematics at USC. His research areas of field theory and string theory are applied in the areas of particle physics, critical phenomena and quantum integrable systems. His most recent research uses the ideas of classical integrable systems and shows how they can be used to understand some of the recent work on the phase structure of the strong interaction in particle physics. Warner is a graduate of Australian National University and the University of Cambridge, and is currently a fellow at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. 

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Stephen Smith

    November 7, 2012 

    Stephen Smith is the executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and is one of the world’s leading advocates of Holocaust education and genocide prevention. He was founding director of the UK Holocaust Centre—Britain’s first dedicated Holocaust memorial and education institution—and he was the inaugural chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the body that runs national Holocaust commemoration in the UK. He also founded the Aegis Trust, an agency that works globally to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. 

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Lynette Merriman

    October 3, 2012 

    In her role as Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Lynette Merriman overseas the department of Student Support and Advocacy's troubleshooting and student crisis support and response efforts, along with the offices of Fraternity and Sorority Leadership Development and Parent Programs, and the Center for Women and Men. Merriman is also an assistant professor of clinical education in the Rossier School of Education. She has worked at USC and mentored USC students for 25 years.

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Jack Halberstam

    September 5, 2012 

    Jack Halberstam is Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity, Gender Studies, and Comparative Literature at USC.  Halberstam is the author of five books including:  Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters, Female Masculinity, In a Queer Time and Place, The Queer Art of Failure, and Gaga Feminism:  Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal.  Halberstam has written articles that have appeared in numerous journals, magazines and collections, and is currently working on a book on Fascism and (homo)sexuality.