WRIT 150 is intended to provide students with a rich and rewarding intellectual experience during their first year at USC, as it develops sound practices of writing and reasoning within a context that encourages students to explore topics of relevance to themselves and their generation. Versions of WRIT 150 address different themes (see below), and each version promotes the skills necessary for success in general education and major courses, while inviting students to join on-going scholarly and cultural conversations regarding salient issues. Toward this end, WRIT 150 fosters active, self-directed learners for whom information and ideas are not simply material for examinations but rather “equipment for living” in the academic context and beyond.
Issues in Aesthetics
This thematic provides instruction in writing, critical reasoning, and analytical and rhetorical skills through the lens of art and beauty, affording students a deeper, richer, and more individualized insight into notions of aesthetics. Since Aristotle, philosophers have recognized that a well-lived life—what was sometimes termed a “beautiful, ethical life”—is tied inextricably to notions of the aesthetic and the beautiful: those parts of life that are enthralling, spiritually enriching, and artistically compelling.
This special topics course affords students an opportunity to improve their writing and critical reasoning abilities experientially and personally through projects with community partners. The course asks students to engage the community surrounding USC through writing and critical reasoning to address social needs and to learn from the communities in which our classrooms exist. Beyond the standard work-load for a WRIT 150 course, students will therefore be expected to attend trainings and complete at least 10 service hours with with one of several, diverse pre-selected organizations in the Los Angeles Area; students will engage in collaborative work that requires them to interrogate assumptions about local places and identities and explore the complexities of local social issues such as homelessness, education, and criminal justice. Using experiences with community partners and assigned texts as an anchor, students will engage in the processes of writing and revision and practice skills to craft complex, coherent arguments that imagine new possibilities for local communities in both formal writing projects and a semester-long project.
Issues in Contemporary Economics
This thematic affords students the opportunity to improve their writing and critical reasoning within the context of current economic issues. Students will employ sound practices to analyze questions posed by the interplay of economic, social, and political circumstances, such as the divide between rich and poor, the effects of globalized markets, and the pace of technological change. Students will engage in formal writing projects and ancillary writing assignments designed to cultivate their appreciation of the writing process.
Education and Intellectual Development
This thematic focuses on questions that are relevant for every person, and that are especially resonant for college students. How do we know what we know and why do we learn what we learn? Is public education really in crisis in America and if so, what can we do about it? Is college worth it? What role should education play in an internet-saturated world? Students will be encouraged to reflect on their own experiences, and move beyond them to engage in key debates about education today.
Globalization: Current Issues and Cross-Cultural Perspectives
This thematic offers an occasion for writing and critical reasoning that fosters awareness of human connectedness. Students will engage with issues and perspectives in globalization, including cultural imperialism, international relations, comparative political history, macroeconomics, free trade agreements, immigration reform, revolutions and social movements, and comparative cultural studies in music, film, and the visual arts.
Health and Healing
This thematic encourages students to follow their interests and examine issues in medicine and health care, from the practical to the philosophical, whether these concern the intersection of technology and medicine, bioethical issues, representations of illness in art, or any other matter relevant to health and healing. Students will approach issues as historical and cultural constructions open to human intervention, using them to develop the skills of writing, thinking, and ethical engagement.
Human Values and Belief Systems
This thematic provides students an opportunity to examine the values, belief systems, and ideologies that affect personal, social, professional, and civic life. Students will approach writing as a process of engaged reading, invention, arrangement, revision, and editing. The texts that students produce will demonstrate respect for the needs of readers and will exemplify the ethical rhetoric that has the potential to engage with and influence the world’s values and belief systems in positive ways.
Identity and Diversity
This thematic enables students to practice critical thinking, sound reasoning, and rhetorical awareness through investigation of issues related to identity and diversity. The course will examine identity as a socially constructed phenomenon that determines differentials of power and opportunity in an increasingly diverse and intersectional world. Students will analyze groups whose biological, cultural, and socialized identities are shaped by—and help shape—systems of race, class, gender, sexuality, and/or national power.
Issues in Law and Social Justice
This thematic is designed to invite students to strengthen their writing and critical reasoning skills while exploring the interdisciplinarity of law, justice, and social justice. Students will develop their abilities to enter multiple academic discourses from the standpoint of their own interests and experiences. Along the way, they will have the opportunity to make intellectual discoveries about issues at the intersection of law and social justice while maintaining a clear focus on rhetorical argument.
Issues in Sustainability
This thematic promotes the development of writing, reading, and critical thinking skills in the context of sustainability, which, broadly speaking, is the push to develop societies that are environmentally stable, socially just, and economically equitable. Through formal and informal writing assignments, students will have the opportunity to investigate issues in sustainability such as global warming, biodiversity, food access, resource depletion, urban planning, AIDS, poverty, and environmental justice.
Technology and Social Change
This thematic focuses on how technology shapes and is shaped by society. Students will analyze claims about technological innovation and develop original arguments about the promises, problems, ethics, and ideologies of this fundamental condition of modern life. Areas for exploration include technological determinism, ethical challenges to technology, political responses to technology, utopianism, and technology’s impact on various social systems, ranging from the military to commerce to the family.
Writing Across the Aisle
In our politically polarized age, we are growing increasingly unsure of whether it is possible to converse productively with those who occupy a drastically different position on the political spectrum. This course will explore this question by focusing on rhetorical issues relating to audience, with emphasis on empathy (why do others think differently?), and ethos (why would someone listen to me?). We will also reflect on the socio-political function of writing in our current climate.
Issues in Work and Working Life
There has never been a better, or more urgent, time to examine work and working life. The COVID 19 pandemic brought to a crisis point many of the contradictions that had long been building in relation to work in the United States and around the world: the increasing gulf between CEO and worker pay the valorizing rhetoric around heroic workers like teachers and nurses versus their actual conditions on the job the conventional wisdom that hard work leads to success contrasted with the reality of millions of Americans working multiple jobs while stuck in poverty and the long struggle for social democratic safety nets for workers and their families. This thematic of WRIT 150 invites you to think and write critically about a variety of issues related to work, workers, and the workplace today, and to interrogate the way work intersects with some of the most dynamic social, political, and economic forces of our time, including struggles for civil rights and against exploitation, attempts to navigate the ongoing pandemic, and the challenges posed by climate change. Given that the majority of American college undergraduates are also workers (according to recent estimates, almost 70 percent of college students hold a job while enrolled), and given that almost every student will at some point enter the workforce after their time in formal educational settings, this course affords students the opportunity to examine the current and future landscapes of their own working lives.