Introducing the 2012 Dornsife Scholars

The inaugural class of scholars will receive $10,000 prizes to be used for graduate or professional school studies.

The USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is delighted to recognize its first class of Dornsife Scholars for 2012.

The 10 outstanding graduating USC Dornsife seniors were selected based on their academic achievements across all spheres of knowledge that address basic questions of human value and vital social challenges facing the nation and the world.

“We are incredibly proud of this inaugural class of Dornsife Scholars,” said Howard Gillman, dean of USC Dornsife. “These students’ extraordinary academic and personal accomplishments are varied and vast. They are wonderful representatives of the important and exciting work that takes place everyday within the USC Dornsife community.”

Honoring Dana and David Dornsife, internationally renowned philanthropists with the highest regard for education, the program underscores that excellence in the core academic disciplines of the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences is the best preparation for students who wish to make a positive impact on the world.

“Dana and I are excited to introduce this first group of Dornsife Scholars. After reading about all of their accomplishments to date, our dream is that these funds will help them continue on the paths they have taken toward changing the world,” USC trustee David Dornsife said.

The Dornsife Scholars program combines the talents sought in USC’s Discovery, Renaissance and Global Scholars programs with an added emphasis on positive human impact. Offering university-wide recognition, the designation is available exclusively to outstanding graduating seniors whose major course of study is in USC Dornsife.

The 10 Dornsife Scholars will be awarded $10,000 prizes to be used for graduate or professional school studies.

2012 Dornsife Scholars

James Aluri, a double major in biological sciences and music, has maintained a 3.96 GPA. For the last three years, Aluri has conducted reviews of health partnerships in South Africa and India, as well as researched S. Mutans transcriptions in Professor of Biological Sciences and Chemistry Myron Goodman’s lab. Aluri studied abroad at King’s College London and traveled to South Africa to further his research on public-private health partnerships. As a community leader, Aluri has been involved in leading missions in the Dominican Republic to service the poor, working to feed and aid the residents of Los Angeles’ Skid Row, and reading to first-grade students in elementary schools near USC through Adventures Ahead.

Alexa Cohen, a double major in linguistics and English, has maintained a 3.67 GPA. This semester, Cohen is researching psycholinguistics with Associate Professor of Linguistics Elsi Kaiser and pursuing an independent project on discourse and pronouns at the USC Language Processing Lab. After being inspired during her semester at King’s College London, she worked with USC Dornsife postdoctoral fellow Michael Shepherd (Ph.D., linguistics, ’10) to explore literary dialect stigmas, especially in English literature.  Outside of the classroom, Cohen co-directs the USC Chamber Ballet Company as well as serves as editor of Paláver Magazine and a member of SCribes literary journal. After graduation, Cohen will complete a doctoral degree in linguistics.

Ian Cox, a neuroscience major, has maintained a 3.97 GPA. Since the summer of 2010, Cox has been researching the history of the magmatic arc in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. He published and presented his findings at the USC Undergraduate Research Symposium in Spring 2011, as well as an American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. Cox studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain, where he volunteered and researched Spain’s healthcare in the palliative care unit of a local hospital. Within the community, Cox has volunteered with Reading to Kids, USC Interaxon, and at Mission Hospital in Orange County.

Nicole Cruz, a double major in psychology and Italian with a minor in chemistry, has maintained a 3.83 GPA. Cruz developed a passion for improving early science education during her time in USC Dornsife, amassing experience through volunteering with USC Dornsife’s Joint Educational Project and USC’s Chemistry with Kids. Cruz has contributed to community development by volunteering with A Better LA and Inspiranet, and through work as an independent contractor for Community Training Connections in Chatsworth, Calif. Cruz engaged in research with Professor of Psychology and Education Frank Manis on adult dyslexia and creativity for her psychology honors thesis. In the summer of 2010, Cruz studied at Itialdea in Rome.

Abel Delgado, a history major with a minor in human resources, has maintained a 3.61 GPA. Delgado’s research experience includes participation in the McNair Scholars Program, U.S. Department of Education TRIO program, and research with Assistant Professor of History, Law and Gender Studies Diana Williams. As a community advocate, Delgado has volunteered with the USC Gould School of Law’s Street Law program, has served as a college mentor through the Los Angeles Team Mentoring program, and was a teaching assistant for AP United States History at Manual Arts Senior High School. Delgado received an International Travel Award through the USC Marshall School of Business to visit Queen Mary, University of London, where he later studied for a semester.

Mary Ellen Jebbia, a triple major in religion, East Asian languages and cultures, and business with a minor in international relations, has maintained a 3.53 GPA. During the 2009–10 academic year, Jebbia received training on building an interfaith campaign around the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals in London, Malawi and Chicago with the support of a Faith Acts Fellowship through the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Jebbia was invited to give the keynote address at the Parliament of the World’s Religions Conference in Melbourne. Additionally, Jebbia studied abroad in Japan for a year to research Japanese Buddhism. At USC, Jebbia served as the president of the USC Interfaith Council, vice president of the Society for Trojan Archeologists, and is a researcher in the USC Archeology Research Center.

Brian Rodysill, an environmental studies major with minor in natural studies, has maintained a 3.92 GPA. In March 2010, Rodysill thought he would never walk again after he was injured a ski accident and on the verge of being paralyzed. However, thanks to modern medicine he has experienced a nearly full recovery. Rodysill interned at the Mayo Clinic as a liver transplant surgery researcher, sustainability analyzer, and has been published in the American Association of Liver Disease Liver Transplantation  journal for his work on cell therapies for liver disease. In the community, Rodysill served as the committee head for the USC Sustainability Leadership Committee and head coordinator for CALPIRG at USC, was a founding member of USC Student Energy Network and USC Academy for Polymathic Study, and volunteered at the Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital.

Christine Sur, an environmental studies major, has maintained a 3.71 GPA. She has participated in two Problems Without Passports summer courses: “Integrated Ecosystem Management in Micronesia” (Guam and Palau) and “The Role of the Environment in the Collapse of the Ancient Mayan Civilization” (Belize). Since Fall 2011, Sur has conducted her own independent research on sea grass density off the coast of Catalina Island with the support of David Ginsburg, lecturer in the environmental studies program, and has helped facilitate projects in Professor of Biological Sciences David Caron’s microbial ecology lab. Sur’s research with marine environmental biology doctoral fellow Beth Stauffer was submitted to Harmful Algae. Sur has volunteered as a teaching assistant with the Joint Educational Project’s Young Scientist Program, has tutored middle and high school students in English, is vice President of SC Outfitters, and participated in the USC Alternative Spring Break to Orcas Island.

Jonathan Truong, political science major, has maintained a 3.91 GPA. Through his research as an assistant to Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity Leland Saito, Truong became interested in social, economic and spatial inequalities. This interest brought him to head Campus and Community United to promote affordable housing and education on campus. Truong has published research in the USC McNair Citations Journal titled, “Resisting the Growth Machine: Esperanza Community Housing and the L.A. Live Community Benefit,” which he presented at the 25th Annual Politics of Race, Immigration, and Ethnicity Consortium. His community service involvement ranges from coordinating an activist training program to combat gentrification, to participating in the United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement steering committee, to co-founding Nook Open Mic and Youth for the American Dream, both forums for progressive thought and collective action.

Brenda Yang, a double major in neuroscience and interdisciplinary studies, has maintained 3.84 GPA.  Yang is the founder of Interaxon, a program that teaches neuroscience to local elementary school students. She has conducted research with University Professor Michael Arbib on the brain’s perception of eye movements and presented their results at two scientific conferences in San Diego. She has also presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium  for her research on estrogen receptors in breast cancer progression with Dr. Radna Vadlamudi, which was funded by a SURF grant. Yang is the undergraduate chair at the USC Center for Excellence in Teaching as well as a Joint Educational Project veteran and an intern at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s neurosurgery department. Yang traveled to Honduras with Global Medical Brigades to deliver medicine to the critically underserved.