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Freshman Seminars, Fall 2012

For enrollment information, please check the USC Schedule of Classes at


The Art of the Comic Book: Graphic Narratives from Maus to Manga
William Feuer
Monday 2-3:50; Section 34606

Over the last four decades the comic book has grown up.  Once a favorite target of critics, the graphic narrative now garners serious critical attention from literary scholars around the world.  They have recognized Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, Marjane Satrapi, Katsuhiro Otomo, Art Spiegelman, and Frank Miller as just a few of the new masters of the form.

In this seminar, we will explore the work of these artists as well as several other important contributors. We will trace the evolution of the genre and develop our ability to interpret graphic narratives. Students will produce a critical reading of a comic of their choice.  Working in small groups, they will also collaborate on a graphic story.

Bill Feuer received his Ph. D. in American Literature from the University of Southern California. He has been teaching in the Writing Program for two decades and has picked up a couple of teaching awards along the way. He has been reading comic books since he was thirty.


Bob Dylan, The Early Years
Eric Trules
Wednesday 2-3:50; Section 34617

Bob Dylan, The Early Years, will be an investigation of Dylan’s recorded songs, from his first Columbia album, “Bob Dylan” (1962) through “Nashville Skyline” (1969), including “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”, “The Times They Are a’Changin’”, “Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Blond On Blonde”, and more. Each week of the ten weeks of the Seminar, students will be assigned an individual song on a specific album and asked to analyze and “interact” with it, making a presentation to the rest of the class. In this way, we will all be listening to, studying, and learning about the music and the artist together. Bob Dylan is arguably the greatest poet and song writer of the 20th century, and as such, massive amounts of material have already been gathered and published on him. But this class is designed to discover Dylan, his songs, and their lyrics, anew, as if for the first time, by each member of the class… and collectively.

Eric Trules is an Associate Professor of Practice at USC’s School of Theatre and is currently a Fulbright Senior Specialist in American Studies. He has been an Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award winner, a screenwriter, and a USC Phi Kappa Phi “Faculty Recognition Award” winner. He was co-founder of Mo Ming, the renowned dance-theater in Chicago, and director of NYC’s Resident Clown Troupe.  Trules has produced city-wide arts festivals and directed and produced THE POET AND THE CON, a feature length documentary film.  He believes that college can be more than merely the acquisition of knowledge and the preparation for a vocational career, but also about the discovery of oneself, one's voice, and one's passion.


Body Size and Shape
Bob Girandola
Tuesday 2-3:50; Section 34609

This class will look into the continuing national problem of weight control.  Obesity is considered the second most prevalent disease, which is controllable.  Despite this, it has reached epidemic proportions in the USA as well as many other industrialized nations.  We will discuss the complexities of caloric balance and the appropriate methods for weight loss and gain.  Specific emphasis will be placed on young adults, such as college students who do not have the luxury of eating at home. Appropriate dietary patterns for weight control as well as health will be analyzed.  Finally, appropriate exercise programs for maintaining body weight and shape will be discussed.

Students who enroll in this class should be prepared to become actively involved in class discussions.  Many of the myths and fallacies of weight control and nutrition will be revealed, so keep an open mind!! Students should have access to the internet in order to download some of the many materials that are advertised for weight control and obesity.

Robert Girandola received his undergraduate degree in physical education from Hunter College (New York) and his Ed.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in Exercise Physiology in 1970.  He has been at USC since 1973. He teaches classes in Nutrition and Weight Control, Exercise Prescription, and The Science of Human Performance.  His research has centered on Obesity and Weight Control, Ergogenic Aids and Human Performance, Environmental Effects on Human Performance.


Digging in the Hood
Stacie Chaiken
Tuesday 2-3:50; Section 34612

Playwright-performer Stacie Chaiken of the School of Theatre was invited to the Middle East to “write her next play.” She became fascinated with archaeology, went on some digs, sifted through tons of dirt, and found inspiration for a play.  More than anything else, she became fascinated with how curiosity leads to inspiration. Do we really need to travel halfway around the world to get inspired? Could it be that, with the right eyes and sharp senses, we can find it in our own backyard?

This seminar offers a series of adventures and explorations: You’ll visit some mummies, maybe, taste some exotic treats, and go on field trips to places near USC, where you might not ordinarily go. You'll post weekly responses to our adventures to an on-line forum, and mid-semester together we'll create an exhibit based on our experiences together, at Mercado La Paloma, one of the USC community's greatest hidden treasures.

Stacie Chaiken has been on the Performance Faculty of the USC School of Theatre since 2001. She has performed on and off-Broadway, on television and film, in the US and abroad, and is the writer-performer of the acclaimed solo plays Looking for Louie and The Dig. Chaiken has taught as a Fulbright Senior Specialist Scholar at the Tel Aviv University Theatre School, and teaches master classes in autobiographical story throughout the US and abroad.


He Said, She Said, They Said: Making Sense of Opinion Makers and Making Up Your Own Mind
Anthony Anderson
Tuesday, 2-3:50; Section 34610

This course will explore a wide variety of issues that affect us locally, nationally, and internationally. In a discussion format, this class will examine how the politicians, the media, the pundits, the think tanks, the You-Tubers, and the bloggers are all at work in shaping and manipulating public opinion to their own ends. Particular emphasis will be given to the race going on right now in determining who will be the next president of the United States.

Students will learn strategies for both locating and evaluating the opinion makers.  There will be short weekly readings and each student will be required to make one oral presentation in the course of the class.

Anthony Anderson is the Assistant Director of Doheny Memorial Library. He has previously taught two other Freshman Seminars: “‘Can’t We All Just Get Along?’  Ethnic Conflicts in the World Today and the Media,” and “Anne Frank Was Not Alone: Holland and the Holocaust.”


I Love College: Popular Culture and the University
Lacie Donohue
Wednesday, 3-4:50; Section 34628

A glance over the bestseller lists in the past five years reveals a lot about the current generation of college students; not only are you labeled Generation Me and Generation Debt, you are also Smashed, Pledged, Unhooked, Hooking Up, Consumed, and Unprotected.  Opinion pieces in The New York Times have attributed the lack of college student involvement in political and social causes to time spent on Facebook; other articles circulate about constant texting, partying, and “entitlement.”  But in what ways do our individual experiences differ from (or confirm) these arguments -- has college really shifted from a space of higher learning to a site of conspicuous consumption and online networking?  Is it, as some say, the “new high school”?  And really, why are you even going to college in the first place?  What is it all for?

In this seminar, we’ll investigate many aspects of college life in America.  We will explore popular opinions in films, music, history books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and physical artifacts on the USC campus and look at how arguments about college are made, the rhetoric in them and surrounding them.  We’ll write weekly short reflection papers, give brief presentations, and, collectively, define what it means to be a college student at USC in 2011.

Lacey Donohue is an Assistant Professor (Teaching) in The Writing Program.  She received her PhD in English from The University of Texas where she won several teaching awards.  Her true loves are teaching, teaching Rhetoric and Composition, teaching Popular Culture, and watching anything she can find on television.


Law, Life and Morality
Justice Richard M. Mosk
Thursday 11-12:50; Section 34600

The seminar deals with the development of law, its relationship to morality, and its impact upon a variety of areas of life. The subjects touch upon and augment the lessons of a number of undergraduate fields of study, including athletics. The materials consist of extracts from prominent works, court cases, news events, and movie clips. The requirements are attending class, familiarity with the materials, and participation in class discussions. The seminar is not just for those interested in a law career.

Justice Richard M. Mosk is a justice of the California Court of Appeal. His is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law School. He served as a California Supreme Court law clerk, a member of the staff of the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy; a member of the Christopher Commission that investigated the Los Angeles Police Department; and a judge on the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, which was established as part of the settlement of the Iranian hostage crisis. He also was head of parental ratings of motion pictures for the Motion Picture Association of America. Justice Mosk had practiced law in Los Angeles, tried both civil and criminal cases, and argued cases before the California and United States Supreme Courts.  He has taught a law school class and lectured at many law schools in the United States and abroad. He has taught a freshman seminar for a number of years.


Legal Reasoning and Communication
James Brecher
Tuesday, 2-3:50; Section 34611

Lawyers think differently from “normal” people; their professional training enables lawyers to see all the diverse elements which compose a problem. This type of advanced thinking is not only important for success in the legal profession but essential to success in a true liberal arts education. This developed skill is the reason so many business and political leaders have legal training even if they never intend to practice law.

This course will look at the way lawyers examine issues and seek results. We will apply these techniques to a range of problems, especially as their solutions relate to undergraduate problems. We will accomplish this examination by looking at legal commentaries, stories and essays, and case law and learning the practical thinking of everyday lawyers and how they communicate with differing audiences.

James Brecher, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Teaching Professor in The Writing Program at the University of Southern California and has practiced law, worked in the business world, and taught English and American Studies/Humanities at the University of South Florida.  He was awarded the USC College Outstanding Teaching Award in Advanced Writing and was named one of USC’s “best professors” in the September 2007 issue of Saturday Night Magazine.


Mind and Body Fitness
Margo Apostolos
Tuesday, 3-4:50; Section 34626

The human spirit and body in symmetry will be the theme of this Freshman Seminar.  The union of mind and body into a dual component to foster the duality of human thought and action is the goal of this course.  Reading assignments will accompany simple exercises to enhance the mind and body to aid in creative development and stress reduction.

This seminar is designed to promote the union of the physical and mental capabilities with both readings and the practice of simple movement sequences.  The focus of the work is to promote a relaxed and natural state for creative thinking.  Various exercises will include imagery, breath control, and relaxed stretching to coincide with appropriate reading assignments.

Margo K. Apostolos is an Associate Professor and Director of Dance in the School of Theatre at USC.  She earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University and holds a M.A. in Dance from Northwestern University.  Her research includes the exploration of an aesthetic dimension to robotics movement and the use of robots by the severely disabled in rehabilitative settings.


Musical Subcultures of the Sixties
Bill Biersach
Wednesday 4-5:50; Section 34630

During the sixties, due to circumstances within the music industry peculiar to the time, various popular musical styles developed which expressed the social, cultural, religious, political and sexual changes in our society.  While the music of this period survives today and enjoys considerable popularity, much of the meaning behind it has been lost because the context has largely been forgotten.

In this seminar, students will pair off to do research projects involving various aspects of the sixties and how they found musical expression.  Together we will sift through the lyrics, musical styles, facts, tall tales, and contrived myths surrounding various influential people, events, and movements.  In so doing we will try to arrive at an understanding of what was really going on in the music business, the drug scene, the pop culture, political and social trends, and the minds of the youth during those turbulent years.

William L. Biersach has been teaching electro-acoustic media and recording technology in the Thornton School of Music since 1975.  In 1997 he received the USC Gamma Sigma Alpha Professor of the Year Award.  As a studio musician and synthesizer programmer he composed the score for the Japanese cartoon series, Dan Cougar, and the musical theme for the USC Campaign for Leadership into the 21st Century.  His courses on the Beatles and Classic Rock have attracted the attention of Rolling Stone MagazineCNN and Prime Time Live.


Puzzles, Patterns, Games and Illusions
Sol Golomb
Wednesday 3-4:50; Section 34631 

This Freshman Seminar will deal with intuitive and recreational aspects of geometry, without the complex calculations or intricate proving of theorems from axioms so typical of mathematics courses. The seminar is intended for students interested in shapes, designs, and patterns, and no background in mathematics, science, or engineering is assumed or required. Students who enroll will be expected to attend regularly, and participate in course activities.

Solomon W. Golomb spent six and a half years at the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he conducted and supervised research in Space Communications, before joining the USC faculty full-time in Spring 1963. He is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Mathematics, and holds the title of Distinguished University Professor. He is an elected member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. At USC he served as President of the Faculty Senate and as Vice Provost for Research.

In addition to some 200 technical journal articles on mathematics, engineering, and related topics, one of his four books currently in print is Polyominoes, subtitled, Puzzles, Patterns, Problems, and Packings. He has had a lifelong interest in games and puzzles, and has written regular puzzle columns for a number of newspapers and magazines.


Science, Technology and Society
John Slaughter
Wednesday 2-3:50; Section 34616

Science and technology are ubiquitous and integral facets of the human experience.  They invariably have the power to have an effect on society—its elements of culture, economy, security, standard of living, health, etc.  What the effect may be is often unexpected.  Science and technology have the potential to benefit humanity while, at the same time, can be the causes of negative consequences.  Examples abound.  Nuclear reactors can provide cleaner energy than fossil fuels are capable of delivering but can cause untold destruction if they experience radiation leaks.  While the Internet has provided accessibility to seemingly infinite amounts of information, it has inadvertently widened the chasm of opportunity between the economic classes—the so-called “digital divide.”  Scientific and technological advances in bio-medicine offer promise for the cure of debilitating diseases but there are fears that some could unleash dangerous effects if mishandled or used in unregulated ways.  Many other illustrations exist.  Some pundits contend that the onset of the information/knowledge society has been the major source for the structural unemployment that is gripping much of the world.  Conversely, society has the power to influence the directions and achievements of science and technology. The ever-growing desire of individuals to be able to have instantaneous communication capability at hand has led to the evolution of cellphones into multimedia devices found only inscience fiction a mere decade ago.  Similarly, the wish on the part of the public to be able to enjoy music at any time and any place has led to the transition from cassette players to iPods and MP3 devices.  Public opinion and societal concerns about safety and/or the environment have had a deterring effect on the construction of more nuclear power plants, the use of genetically-modified foods or an expansion of offshore drilling activities. 

The Freshman Seminar Course, “Science, Technology and Society,” will be designed to explore the inter-dependencies that exist among science, technology and society.  Students will have the opportunity to identify and diagnose the complex relationships that characterize the co-existence and co-dependencies of these three entities and the influences that each has on the others.  They will examine the directions of today’s scientific and technological pursuits and discuss the risks inherent in those research and development efforts.  In the process, students will discover the connections between the science and technology capabilities and activities of a society and its economics, culture, politics, educational status, etc.  Of interest will be the development of an understanding of how societies support and invest in science and technology.

John Brooks Slaughter is Professor of Education and Engineering with appointments in the Rossier School of Education, Viterbi School of Engineering, and the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.  He has been the Director of the National Science Foundation and president of both the University of Maryland and Occidental College.  His current research and teaching interests include issues of academic leadership, diversity, and the history of technology.


What are Earthquakes and Tsunamis All About?
Henry Koffman
Monday 2-3:50; Section 34608

The University of Southern California is one of the world's leading earthquake and tsunamis research centers.  Virtually every region of the planet experiences earthquakes at one time or another, but California experiences especially frequent events.  When earthquakes occur in major metropolitan areas, effects can be dramatic.  San Francisco is still recovering from the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, and Los Angeles will be responding to the effects of the January 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake for years to come. Earthquakes have become an everyday occurrence through the world.

Our class will trace the history of earthquakes, examine the mechanics of geological faults, and try to understand the emergency and public safety measures taken to cope with earthquakes both before and after the fact.  We study the nature of the forces released, how these forces impact the environment, how these forces are measured, and how structural and foundation designs are intended to respond to earthquake forces.  We will summarize the current state of earthquake research.  The class will take field trips to local facilities and affected sites. We will also research historical and recent tsunamis.

Professor Henry M. Koffman, P.E., is the Director of the Construction Engineering and Management Program in the Viterbi School of Engineering's Civil Engineering Department.  He is a real estate land developer, licensed building contractor, and a registered Professional Engineer in the State of California.


(W)rites of Passage
Susan Harris
Thursday 4-5:50; Section 34629

This Freshman Seminar will explore the rites of passage that mark the transition from high school to college.  The course will offer a space for students to reflect on who they are, where they come from, and where they are headed—and the role of higher education in shaping this dynamic process.  Completing a service-learning assignment through the Joint Educational Project (JEP) has become a kind of rite of passage for thousands of USC students.  All students in the course will become JEP mentors for college-bound high school students from the Los Angeles Unified School District who participate in USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative (NAI). 

As suggested by the course title, writing will play a primary role in the course.  We will work together with NAI teachers and administrators to guide high school seniors as they draft their college application essays.  In addition, the FSEM students will write reflective essays that investigate the roots of the self, critically examining how race, class, gender, education, and other social forces create and constrain individual opportunities.  The USC freshmen will help to orient the high school seniors to college life, sharing their own experiences as new college students.

Susan Harris is the Associate Director for Research & Academic Affairs at JEP.  She designs and implements service-learning projects that are mutually beneficial for the campus and the community.  A sociologist by training, Susan enjoys working with students from a wide range of academic disciplines.


Writing to be Read
Richard Fliegel
Thursday 2-3:50; Section 34619

"No one but a blockhead ever wrote except for money," said Samuel Johnson, but that's not the end of the story.  There is after all a reader or an audience, expecting something.  This is a seminar for writers or for people who are trying to be.  We will focus on the question, "How does it change what I write when I'm determined to affect my readers?"  Writing to express yourself accurately is hard, but it's like falling off a log compared to writing things that succeed in stirring other people's emotions.

Students will be expected to read other writers' work in several genres and to share with the class what they themselves have written, sometimes on the spot.  We promise not to laugh unless it's funny -- and if that isn't scary, the devil knows what is.

Richard Fliegel is the Director of the Freshman Seminar program and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs in USC Dornsife College.  He has published detective novels and tried his hand at some other forms, from poetry to episodic television.