Skip to main content

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

  • Fall 2014

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Jeremy Kagan

    Jeremy Kagan               Wednesday, September 3, 2014, 12 PM  
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe | Lunch Served

    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.

  • Spring 2014

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Ainsley Carry

                   Wednesday, April 2, 2014
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
    Dr. Ainsley Carry began his service as USC’s Vice Provost for Student Affairs on August 1, 2013. In this role, he leads a team responsible for programs and services that enrich students’ USC experience. His team focuses on providing support for students to pursue scholarly aspirations in and outside the classroom. Dr. Carry’s areas of oversight include the Residential Colleges, the Career Center, Student Health and Wellness, Student Advocacy and Support and Student Engagement. His top priorities are connecting with USC students and building innovative academic partnerships to advance student learning. With over two decades of experience in college administration, Dr. Carry brings a broad perspective to higher education leadership, having held administrative positions and faculty appointments at public and private institutions including Southern Methodist University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Florida and Temple University. Prior to joining USC, he served as Vice President for Student Affairs at Auburn University. He is editor of Executive Transitions in Student Affairs, published by NASPA, and several articles. Dr. Carry holds an EdD in higher education, an MS in counselor education and a BS in food and resource economics, all from the University of Florida. He also holds an MBA from Auburn University.

    Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Marilyn Flynn


    Wednesday, March 5, 2014
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
    Marilyn M. Flynn is a transformational leader whose career has spanned appointments in higher education, consulting on strategic planning for county governments and nonprofit organizations, practice in mental health and school social work, and membership on numerous boards at the local, national and international levels. She was appointed dean of social work at the University of Southern California in 1997, only the second woman to hold this position in the school’s 100-year history. During the 17-year period of her tenure, she has expanded the school’s faculty from 23 to 100 full-time faculty, who now offer graduate instruction on campus and across the nation in 38 states.

    Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with James Heft

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
    Father James L. Heft, S.M. was recently honored with the Theodore Hesburgh Award for long and distinguished service to Catholic Higher Education in 2011.
    He served on the board of the American Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and chaired that board for two years. He spent many years at the University of Dayton, serving as chair of the Theology Department for six years, Provost of the University for eight years, and then Chancellor for 10 years. He left the University of Dayton in the summer of 2006 to found the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies (IACS) at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he now serves as Alton Brooks Professor of Religion and President of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies.Father Heft has written and edited 11 books and written more than 150 articles and book chapters. Most recently he edited Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians and Muslims (Fordham University Press, 2006); and Intellectual Humility among Jews, Christians and Muslims (Oxford, 2011), and co-edited Engineering and the Catholic University (Notre Dame Press, 2011). He has recently finished writing Catholic High Schools: Facing the New Realities (Oxford, 2011).
    He is now working on a book on the mission of Catholic colleges and universities.

    Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Jody Aguis Vallejo

    Thursday, January 22, 2014
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
    Jody Agius Vallejo specializes in immigrant integration, race/ethnicity, and social stratification. Her book, "Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican-American Middle Class," (Stanford University Press 2012) examines patterns of mobility and socioeconomic incorporation among the Mexican-origin middle class in Southern California. Her newest project, The Latino Elite: Entrepreneurship, Community, and Mobility, is a study of middle-class and professional Latino entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. Other projects include analyses of middle-class Mexican Americans' experiences of subtle discrimination and microagressions in the white collar workplace and the mechanisms, such as early familial obligations, that lead to differential patterns of educational attainment between Mexican Americans and Chinese and Vietnamese Americans.

    Click here to see the video

  • Fall 2013

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Andrea Hollingshead

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
    The What Matters to Me & Why program presents Andrea Hollingshead, Professor of Communication in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, as the final speaker for the fall semester. Professor Hollingshead also has joint appointments with the Marshall Shool of Business and the Department of Psychology. She is an expert on collective intelligence and group decision-making. Her research identifies the factors, processes, and practices that make some groups more effective than others. She has studied a broad array of groups: from very small to very large: from face to face to those supported by technology across a wide range of contexts. She is also an avid scuba diver, and is the faculty advisor for the USC Scuba Club.


    Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Vincent Vigil

    Saturday, November 16, 2013
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
    Under his leadership as USC's first full time LGBT Director, the Advocate College Guide named the USC LGBT Resource Center as a top 20 Best of the Best LGBT-Friendly Colleges and Universities. He also serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Clinical Education in the USC Rossier School of Education teaching for the Master of Education Educational Counseling Program and the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership Program. Recently, Honor 41 honored him as a Top 41 Influential LGBT Latino Leader in the nation.  Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Raphael Angulo

    Wednesday, October 2, 2013
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
    Rafael Angulo, a clinical associate professor with the USC School of Social Work, is a social worker and filmmaker with 11 years of experience doing investigative work and clinical practice with Child Protective Services. Come hear Angulo discuss what matters to him.

    Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Rob Asghar

    Friday, September 6, 2013
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
    Rob Asghar is a writer and a management and communications expert based in Los Angeles. His essays and commentaries have appeared in more than 30 publications around the world, including the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Houston Chronicle, Providence Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jordan Times, Manila Times and Japan Times. Asghar is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and has written for the online outlets of the Washington Post, CNN, Asia Times and Foreign Policy magazine. His topics have spanned international affairs, domestic politics, sports, psychology, interpersonal relationships, and popular culture. He has been quoted and featured in such outlets as the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fox Business Network and Southern California Public Radio. He is a fellow at the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. He is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School. Asghar has spoken widely to civic groups and at college campuses ranging from USC to the University of Chicago. He has edited numerous books on leadership and on theology, including management books by Warren Bennis, Steven B. Sample and Simon Ramo. He has chaired or served as a board member of a number of nonprofit organizations, including the Hollywood Urban Project. His family opened a school a decade ago in his father’s rural Punjabi village, to make quality primary and secondary education accessible to both boys and girls; that school today serves more than 700 students. Asghar lives in Los Angeles, loves reading, traveling and motorcycling, and dotes on his three young nieces and one nephew.


    Click here to see the video

  • 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.

    Click here to see the video

  • 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.


    Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Hannah Garry

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe

    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. 

    Click here to see the video

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

     Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
     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.

    Click here to see the video

  • Fall 2012 Speakers:

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Nicholas Warner

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012 
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe

    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. 

    Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Stephen Smith

    Wednesday, November 7, 2012 
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe

    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. 

    Click here to see the video

  • What Matters to Me and Why with Lynette Merriman

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012 
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe

    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

    Wednesday, September 5, 2012
    Ground Zero Performance Cafe
     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.