Hurrah for Humanism
A new program brings humanists together to bridge disciplinary gaps and spark a liberal exchange of ideas.
ON AN ORDINARY Friday afternoon, 80 professors and graduate students with interests as far flung as Russian lit, TV production and linguistics packed a room at USC for a stimulating intellectual exchange over Ishi, the last known member of the Northern California Yahi Indian tribe.
The audience came to hear UC San Diego scholar Jim Clifford discuss the Stone Age man who had stumbled into 20th-century California. They sat rapt as Clifford described Ishi’s life, his death in 1916, and the controversy surrounding his remains. For the past 83 years, Ishi’s brain has sat in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., preserved for anthropological study. In a joint-custody arrangement, it will likely return to the two surviving Native American tribes most closely related to him.
Such interdisciplinary gatherings happen weekly and are just one piece of the new Humanities Initiative in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Funded by a $2 million grant from the Ahmanson Foundation, the Humanities Initiative is meant to put the spotlight on the liberal arts, says college dean Joseph Aoun – specifically on the arts, history, literature, language, culture and philosophy: disciplines considered the heart of intellectual thought and exploration.
In addition to Friday night seminars, the Humanities Initiative sponsors faculty recruitment, funds research projects and interdisciplinary scholarships and subsidizes travel expenses for graduate students and professors. For example, the initiative recently helped a grad student in Slavic languages attend a conference in Finland, where she presented a paper. The initiative also helped woo philosophy and linguistics professor James Higginbotham from Oxford to USC last year.
BUT THE CENTERPIECE OF the Humanities Initiative is the series of interdisciplinary seminars and conferences. More than a dozen have already taken place, featuring guest speakers from around the world.
Phil Brocato, a second-year education doctoral student who attended five seminars in the fall, says he appreciates the chance for cross-disciplinary discourse. “Some of the discussion groups are pretty small, so graduate students can bring questions to the table and hear what everyone has to say. It creates a very communal feeling,” he says.
The seminars also are drawing scholars from neighboring academic institutions, such as UCLA, the Huntington Library and the Getty Center. Last November Getty Research Institute director Thomas Crow came to discuss his book, The Intelligence of Art. On another evening USC professor of anthropology Janet Hoskins led a forum on post-colonial narratives in history.
“We’ve brought together leading scholars who had worked in the same field for years but never were in the same room at one time. There has been an incredible exchange of ideas,” says events coordinator Athena Perrakis.
The seminars also provide an informal, spontaneous setting in which students can discuss their own research.
“The momentum has really picked up,” says college dean of academic programs Sarah Pratt. “The intellectual life at USC is much richer since the Humanities Initiative was formed. It has played a key role in strengthening the college.”
– Gilien Silsby
Celestial Music and Musings
In February, USC welcomed one of the 20th century’s foremost violinists, the legendary Isaac Stern, to its classrooms and concert stage. During a four-day residency at the USC Thornton School of Music, the 80-year-old virtuoso – whom the New York Times has dubbed “the complete violinist” – gave a music clinic, critiquing the Thornton Symphony’s reading of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony. (Stern initially called the students’ rendition “prissy,” but soon responded with an appreciative “Thaaaaaaaat’s it!”) Stern’s residency at the USC Thornton School of Music culminated in a Feb. 9 President’s Distinguished Artist Series concert, his only Los Angeles performance for 2001. Conducted by Sergiu Comissiona, the program featured Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture and Ravel’s Boléro. Stern joined the Thornton Symphony in Dvorák’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra, Beethoven’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra in F, and Kreisler’s Liebeslied and Schön Rosmarin. Thornton Symphony concertmaster Wilson Chu partnered with Stern in Rosmarin’s Viennese duet. “I feel really grateful that I got to play three phrases with Stern,” says Chu, who recently won an audition with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. “It was a really important experience in my life.”
Introduced by fellow physicist and USC provost Lloyd Armstrong Jr. as “one of the world’s greatest scientists,” Stephen Hawking took a sellout Bovard Auditorium crowd on a journey from a nutshell to the ends of the universe in a March 21 lecture sponsored by the Caltech-USC Center for Theoretical Physics. Almost motionless, scrunched in a wheel chair, speaking via a voice synthesizer that produced long pauses, Hawking – who suffers from ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) – retraced the origin, shape, size and history of the universe and scientific efforts to understand it. As he plunged ever deeper into cosmology – abstract realms that most physicists express in mathematics – Hawking proved himself a master communicator, though many in the audience eventually reached a point where they could no longer wrap their minds around the soaring ideas. Hawking acknowledged as much: “How can our finite minds comprehend an infinite universe,” he questioned. “Isn’t it pretentious to make the attempt?” Yet Hawking clearly thinks people should make the attempt. The 59-year-old Hawking is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a post previously held by Isaac Newton. His 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, has been translated into 40 languages and sold 25 million copies.
Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony has remained just that, but Jane Austen’s compositions aren’t so blessed. Some 80 spinoffs have been published, including a new “extension” by novelist Julia Barrett that USC English professor James Kincaid recently panned in the New York Times.
Within two paragraphs of where Austen’s Sanditon ends and Barrett’s Charlotte begins, the heroine sounds “oafish, tone-deaf, toadying and pedantic,” Kincaid complains. Still he admits that it’s tough ghostwriting for a literary great. “I know I would have trouble were I given the first eighth of, say, the Iliad and told to carry on,” Kincaid muses. “Maybe I’d want to introduce a few new characters, some un-Homeric twists in the plot.”
On Your Mark, Get SAT, Go!
USC subsidizes test prep workshops to give area high schoolers a better shot at college admission.
IT’S PRETTY MUCH an open secret: kids who take an SAT prep course score higher on the standardized exam than those who don’t. And higher scores mean more offers of admission from better colleges. This year, USC decided to extend these advantages to hundreds of kids from the university’s own neighborhoods.
Through a $30,000 USC Neighborhood Outreach grant, 400 sophomores and juniors from Foshay Learning Center, the USC MaST High School and Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet paid just $5 for a “Taming the SAT” prep course that normally runs $200. The weekend workshops were conveniently held on the University Park Campus and at Bravo High.
Created by the USC Rossier School of Education, Taming the SAT is now an independent organization that offers prep courses under contract with the university.
Students in USC neighborhood schools “have very few opportunities to participate in costly test preparation courses because their parents can seldom afford the fees,” says Taming the SAT program coordinator Peggy Hentschke. “We’ve got some very capable students from our neighborhoods. All we’re trying to do with Taming the SAT is level the playing field,” she says.
SAT preparation courses go back to 1938, when education entrepreneur Stanley Kaplan began tutoring students in his basement. Today, millions of students spend up to $500 an hour on a growing variety of programs designed to help them bone up for the SAT.
“Affluent parents who want their kids to go to college often get them started in seventh, eighth and ninth grades by paying for SAT preparation courses,” says Foshay principal Howard Lappin. “With this new grant, more of our students – whose parents care just as much as those parents who can afford expensive test preparation programs – are able to boost their scores.”
USC officials anticipate that the program will have a ripple effect come the fall. “As a result of these workshops, we hope to see an increase in scores as well as an increase in the number of students who select our university as their college of choice,” Hentschke says.
– Sharon Stewart
Molding Future Latino MDs
A group of Latino students at the Keck School of Medicine of USC have “adopted” 39 science-minded fifth graders from Eastman Avenue Elementary School in a new project called Educación Primero (“education first”). Run by USC’s Chicano/Latino Medical Students Association, the program aims to keep the Eastman kids, who have indicated an interest in science and medicine, on track as they prepare for college. Located about 5 miles south of USC’s Health Sciences Campus, Eastman is bursting with nearly 1,450 students, more than 99 percent of them Latino. “We really want to guide these kids,” says Kevin Marmolejo, a second-year medical student (shown at left, demonstrating how to make a helicopter from paper). USC students kicked off Educación Primero in the winter, busing the 39 youngsters in for an all-day visit, complete with lunch, entertainment and a tour of the campus. The tour included a stop at the medical student MDLs, or “multidisciplinary labs,” where the kids got to experiment with microscopes and stethoscopes. In the coming year, the med students plan to teach the kids about the cardiovascular system and how to prevent the diseases that can harm it. The Keck School students say they plan to continue mentoring these kids through high school, even as program founders graduate and new USC students come to take their place.
– Alicia Di Rado
Bachelor’s at Any Age
Seasoned by life experiences, about 100 “mature” undergraduates turn their attention to academics.
English major Ron Sparling, 46, and creative writing major James Ruff, 31 – two more senior members of the student body.
AT 46, RON SPARLING was an ambitious account executive earning a lucrative salary. Despite his success in the business world, however, something was missing. “It always seemed like I was swimming against the tide because I didn’t have my bachelor’s degree or my MBA,” he says. Now an English major, Sparling is one of more than 100 undergraduates age 28 to 65 who entered USC last fall. Most are transfer students from junior colleges. Many have given up jobs and dipped into their savings to attend USC.
They represent a small but important faction of students, according to dean of admission Joseph P. Allen. “They are particularly motivated. I think their younger peers can learn a lot from their experiences,” he said.
Brenda Robison, 43, enrolled at USC after working for more than two decades at an engineering firm, most recently in upper-management. To keep advancing, she needed an MBA. – which meant getting a bachelor’s degree first.
“In business, I had to work twice as hard as my colleagues with degrees. Writing well was especially difficult,” says Robison, now a business major taking a leave of absence from her job.
IT ISN’T ALWAYS EASY for older undergraduates to transition from workers to full-time students. “Getting into the college routine was torturous at first,” says creative writing major James Ruff, 31, who had been an electrician for years. “Time management skills had to be figured out.”
Taking final exams struck terror in Sparling. Sitting in classes with students young enough to be his own children was another adjustment. Some of the collaborative aspects of undergraduate learning eluded him. Sparling’s years in the competitive business world had made him a go-getter. “I was very confrontational at first. I realize now that I have to check my ego at the door,” he says.
There’s a difference socially, too. “I’m not going to frat parties or socializing. I’m strictly here for school and that’s about it,” says Ruff.
But the motivation behind it all is universal: “My goal is just to be a student and enjoy the process of learning,” says Sparling.
“I’m doing it for me – no one else,” echoes Ruff. “I have a real thirst for knowledge. The more courses I take, the more I realize how much there is to learn.”
– Gilien Silsby
Dog Days in the City
This town’s going to the dogs, literally. In Harmony, Fla., urban planners have designed an animal-lover’s utopia. Among the amenities: dog parks with their own waste disposal systems, a human-animal wellness clinic, pet-sitting, wildlife rehabilitation and training for service dogs. “The ways we can make cities more friendly to animals also make cities more sustainable,” said USC geographer Jennifer Wolch, commenting on the project in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Wolch makes no bones about the importance of bringing urban dwellers cheek-to-jowl with furry friends. “This distancing of ourselves from nature is really damaging,” she says.
Of Human Chattel: Trial transcripts from Antebellum courtrooms yield surprising insights into the South’s “peculiar institution.”
Double Character: Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom by Ariela Gross Princeton University Press, $39.50
ARIELA GROSS SOMETIMES wept as she read the age-yellowed documents detailing slavery-related courtroom battles waged by white defendants and plaintiffs in the Deep South. “There are so many of these little stories, so long forgotten and so heart-rending. I found it to be both very emotional and very humbling,” says Gross, an associate professor in the USC Law School who holds a Ph.D. in history.
In Double Character: Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom, Gross traces the thousands of legal disputes that arose out of the buying, selling and hiring out of human beings as chattel.
“The book is about this double character of white racial ideology,” Gross says. “On one level, whites believed that slavery was the best condition for black people. But on another level, in everyday life, they quite unconsciously dealt with slaves on a very individual basis as people.”
Courtroom contests gave slaves a humanity they weren’t supposed to have, Gross argues. Plaintiffs seeking civil damages for injury to a slave, for example, would often contradict the stereotype of blacks as lazy, childlike and stupid, instead describing their human property as industrious, intelligent and trustworthy. And though slaves were barred from testifying in court, their testimony often entered the record as second-hand accounts repeated by white witnesses.
The book reveals as much about the European-American buyers and sellers as it does about the slaves. “Courtrooms were the fora not only for battles over a slave’s character, but for battles over the character of his master,” Gross says. For instance, legal disputes that hinged on whether an owner sold a slave who was a known runaway risk called into question the seller’s honesty. “Every single case put a white man’s honor on trial. If the case revolved around a slave’s behavior, it immediately reflected on the master’s ability to manage the slave.”
Combining the methods of cultural anthropology, quantitative social history and critical race theory, Gross brings to life the law and culture of slavery from the perspective of litigants, lawyers, doctors and the slaves themselves. “I spent weeks and months … looking at records that hadn’t been touched in 150 years,” she says. “It was like being presented with a window.”
Double Character reveals the surprising extent to which a Southern lawyer’s practice was based on civil lawsuits arising out of slavery. “It was their daily bread,” Gross says. “They had no compunction about representing slave traders.”
Doctors, too, were deeply involved in legitimizing the institution. “Much of medical practice was either in the slave marketplace certifying a slave as fit, or in the courtroom, testifying about a postmortem,” she says.
Gross demonstrates just how central slavery was to Southern society. “This study is an example of how the law is lived by ordinary people,” she says. “It shows that laws aren’t just handed down by the Supreme Court and the legislature, but are testaments to what people make them.”
– Sharon Stewart
How to Proceed in Business
A new program brings humanists together to bridge disciplinary gaps and spark a liberal exchange of ideas. The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle by Kathleen Kelley Reardon Currency Doubleday, $24.95
This may be the book your boss doesn’t want you to read. The Secret Handshake explores what it takes to scale the corporate ladder and break into the inner circle of business.
USC management professor Kathleen Reardon doesn’t look at the technical skills needed to succeed in business but at mastering company politics. Beyond technical competence, she says, that is the key to breaking into top management.
“Many hidden rules in business aren’t spelled out in employee handbooks and aren’t publicly stated,” says Reardon. “The path to the inner circle is purposely left ambiguous because, in some cases, those in power don’t want you to take their jobs. In other cases, they simply don’t take the time to mentor.”
Reardon’s book is based on interviews with more than 100 executives on how they successfully learned the art of organizational politics.
Jack Welsh, CEO of General Electric, and Laura Tyson, former economic adviser to President Clinton, are both featured. Also interviewed are USC President Steven B. Sample and Barry Munitz, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust.
Woven between the interviews with executives are tips from Reardon, a longtime corporate consultant, including how to become more visible to the central players and how to head off such hardball tactics as public put-downs. Reardon and many of the executives agree on a key point: Climbing to the top requires political savvy.
“No matter how high up you go, no matter how much pressure to achieve you’ve put behind you, if you want the brass ring, you need to handle people astutely,” she says.
Navigating the often-tricky road to business success sometimes requires help. Finding a mentor and “seeing entryways invisible to others” is the skill to which Munitz credits his success. Taking chances, however scary, is also key – especially at what Reardon calls “political pivotal moments,” when one’s reputation is on the line or a chance for visibility is at hand.
“You can’t sit around and wait for people to discover you,” she says. “The important thing is to make things happen and shake things up. If you can’t move your office, you can get out of your office and mingle with key players.”
Interestingly, a quarter of the corporate executives Reardon interviewed for Secret Handshake asked her to disguise their identities, proving that “even those at the top worry about their positions and stability,” she says. “Inner circles are constantly shifting. That is why no matter how high you go in business, politics is never-ending.”
– Gilien Silsby
Words and Music
Tierney Sutton: Unsung Heroes
a CD by Tierney Sutton Telarc, $16.97
In this release, USC jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton invokes the great instrumentalists whose compositions are seldom sung. Using trumpet-like phrasing, the clear-voiced soprano renders Joe Henderson’s “Remember Me,” Wayne Shorter’s “All for One,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” and a half-dozen other jazz standards with “an almost unearthly clarity,” in the words of one reviewer.
Managing the Dream: Reflections on Leadership and Change
by Warren Bennis Perseus Publishing, $16
In this volume of personal reflections, USC futurist Warren Bennis turns away from making predictions and dwells on such present-day themes as the problem of ageism, the implicit social contract between employers and employees, how to get a balance between work and home life and the “churning out of CEOs.”
A Friend of the Earth
by T. Coraghessan Boyle Viking, $24.95
The year is 2025, global warming is a reality, the biosphere has collapsed and most major mammalian species are extinct. From this premise, novelist and USC English professor T.C. Boyle weaves a darkly funny novel about love, activism and the future of the planet. Ty Tierwater is a 75-year-old ex-environmentalist and ecoterrorist who now manages a rock star’s mini-zoo. “To be a friend of the earth,” the protagonist quips, “you have to be an enemy of the people.” In what one critic calls “an extended homage to early Vonnegut,” Boyle satirically renders a Sierra Club nightmare that’s “gritty and surreal, frightening yet touching.”
New “Virtual Microphone” technology transforms old audio’s brittle delicacy into concert hall majesty.
CHRIS KYRIAKAKIS invented a time machine for sound. It can put you in the front row at Carnegie Hall to hear the Beatles or in a 1940s ballroom with Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra.
The USC electrical engineer has developed a new technology, called Virtual Microphone, that transforms old one- or two-channel audio recordings into true concert-hall quality sound, mimicking the acoustical characteristics of a hall so precisely that it feels like you’re in the best seat in the house.
It’s difficult to accurately reproduce sound from a concert hall. Recording engineers typically use 20 or more microphones in their attempts to capture all the sound produced by a large orchestra within such a complex acoustical environment.
“If you don’t have a mike right next to the flute, for example, you won’t be able to hear it in the final mix,” says Kyriakakis, who is an assistant professor in USC’s School of Engineering. Sound waves bounce off walls, the ceiling, the floor and other surfaces, so a human listener present in the hall hears sounds from different directions and at slightly different times.
Kyriakakis “maps” concert halls or other venues by placing an array of microphones in different locations. He creates an algorithm for each mike. These algorithms compare the sound captured by the array with the sound captured by a single central reference mike. The algorithms can then act as a digital filter to exactly recreate a hall’s unique acoustics from the sound picked up by a single reference mike.
“Once we have worked out the algorithms for a concert hall, we need only the sound from one microphone to generate sound equivalent to what you would hear in the best seat in the house,” says Kyriakakis. “It sounds just like you were in the room during the recording.”
The USC researcher can manipulate the sound to place the listener in different spots, or even to move the orchestra to a different venue. “Even if we don’t know the room – perhaps it’s no longer in existence – we can make a very good approximation.”
TODAY THE TWO-CHANNEL stereo format is being challenged by the DVD audio format, which boasts six channels. The shift threatens to orphan hundreds of thousands of one- or two-channel recordings, particularly of classical music. Virtual Microphone technology can convert these historic recordings into true concert-hall experiences and deliver on DVD audio.
“You get a rich, reverberant sound with multichannel audio that you don’t hear with stereo,” says Kyriakakis. “And when you hear a live performance in that format, you’ll go ‘wow!’ That’s the wow factor that everyone talks about for commercial success.”
Kyriakakis has been asked to map concert halls in Europe in preparation for converting music to the new DVD format for a record company with a large German classical music library. USC and the researchers have filed for a patent for the Virtual Microphone process, and USC is negotiating licenses with a venture capital firm and two music companies.
– Bob Calverley
Virtual Microphone promises to be the key to another digital audio conundrum: How to transmit fully immersive, high-quality sound over the Internet without hogging precious bandwidth and relying on distortion-producing data compression. USC researcher Chris Kyriakakis simply designed a few digital filters, and voilà. “We can send the single audio channel from the reference mike over the Internet, accompanied by the appropriate digital filters, and produce concert-hall quality sound at the other end,” he says. “With a single microphone in [the concert hall], you could listen to the Boston Pops on your six-channel surround-sound system in your living room in Southern California, in real-time.” A single channel of audio commonly traverses the Internet today unaided by compression technology, but high-quality audio files usually need some compression. Virtual Microphone technology delivers the best of both worlds.
– Bob Calverley
Heart and Seoul
A new digital archive lays bare the roots of Korean expat culture and the emerging Korean-American community.
“Picture bride” Kang-Aie Shinn with daughter Sonia Shinn Sunoo (now a noted Korean oral historian), c. 1915
TO KOREANS, MARCH 1 is synonymous with Independence Day. On that day in 1919, 2 million citizens took to the streets in peaceful national protests against Japanese rule. What better day, then, to unveil USC’s newest digital archive – one devoted to the study of Korean expatriates in the United States?
The Korean American Digital Archive (KADA), which was introduced March 1 before a crowd of Korean and Korean-American well-wishers, contains papers and images from the Korean National Association Building, the Los Angeles headquarters of many Korean-American civic and political organizations. Together, these organizations document many of the major events of the first 60 years of Koreans in America.
KADA (www.usc.edu/isd/locations/cst/idala/ collections/collections_kada.html) also gives searchable Internet-based access, often in graphic format, to other important private document collections, as well as MP3-format sound files from an oral history project of the Los Angeles-based Korean American Museum. In all, KADA currently comprises some 11,000 pages of documents, 1,300 pictures and the sound files.
Many hundreds of documents, written and pictorial, relate to Rev. Soon Hyun. Hyun was a key participant in the March First Movement of 1919 and later served as Minister Plenipotentiary from the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai to the United States.
Children in the 1920 March First parade held in Dinuba, Calif., a large Korean enclave near Fresno.
A Methodist clergyman, he spent much of his life in exile, working for Korean independence and democracy. Hyun died in Los Angeles in 1968.
“This digital archive represents an important part of the cultural patrimony of the overseas Korean community, one that has previously been largely unavailable to researchers,” says Ken Klein, director of the USC East Asian library, which houses the USC Korean Heritage Library. “By placing it online, we have opened it to interested community members and researchers, not just in Los Angeles but in Korea and the rest of the world.”
The Korean Heritage Library already contains one of the most significant collections of Korean materials in North America. KADA underscores “the library’s role as a major center for Korean and Korean-American studies,” says Klein.
– Eric Mankin
KADA photos courtesy Korean Heritage Library
Requiem for Radio?
What to do about the 115 million Americans starved for media distraction along their daily commute? That’s the challenge facing a radio industry on the eve of revolution. Next spring, American carmakers will begin pumping 100 channels of sound from orbiting satellites into every new car, reports American Journalism Review. Only trouble is, “there is a lack of unique programming,” says USC communications scholar Titus Levi, who compares this time of rapid change to the 1940s and ’50s, when FM radio debuted amid hoopla and hours of dead air. A third of U.S. radio stations already offer their sound via computer, and Levi predicts Web-stream radio will be a mass medium in two more years. Here’s hoping it brings better fare than Howard Stern and Don Imus.
Whether on Capitol Hill, on campus or on Skid Row, USC dean Harold Slavkin is a leader for all dentistry.
ABOUT A THOUSAND people a day come to the School of Dentistry’s clinic at USC, and Harold Slavkin ’63, DDS ’65, cares about every one of them. He waits with patients, chatting easily, but doesn’t tell them he’s the dean of the school.
“My immigrant parents taught me that life is a journey of making the world a better place than you found it,” he says.
Slavkin’s journey began at 17, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a dental technician at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. When he got out, Slavkin came to USC – at first to study English, later to study dentistry.
He joined the USC faculty in 1968, wrote hundreds of scientific papers and book chapters and edited nine books. Developmental Craniofacial Biology established him as a world authority on craniofacial development.
Slavkin’s next stop was a return in 1995 to Washington, D.C., now as director of the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), one of the National Institutes of Health. Another opportunity to make the world better.
“I had never seen children with mouth cancer. I didn’t know that when women get breast cancer they also have dental problems,” he says. “I never really thought about how a democracy works, and I found out,” he says.
In Washington, Slavkin served as lead on the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health (www.nidcr.nih.gov/sgr/sgrohweb/home.htm), getting all of government to speak with one mouth. There are huge health disparities in America, says Slavkin, and even larger oral health disparities. While 43 million Americans have no medical insurance, 110 million have no dental insurance.
After five years at NIDCR, Slavkin prepared to return to USC to continue doing research and perhaps affect social policy. Instead, he came back as the new dean. Now Slavkin has given himself seven or eight years to raise the highly regarded USC School of Dentistry, founded in 1897, to the highest level.
He is especially proud of his school’s work at the Union Rescue Mission in L.A.’s Skid Row, where the dental school opened a clinic a year ago. The health disparities described statistically in the Surgeon General’s report are on stark display there.
“These are people who live in cardboard boxes. This is today’s reality,” he says. “We’re training dentists for the 21st century. Most dentists learn to take care of the young and healthy, but they also must care for people who are severely health-compromised.”
– Bob Calverley
Enrich to the Last Drop
The Neighborhood Academic Initiative – a program singled out for special praise by Time magazine in naming USC “College of the Year” 2000 – has a new executive director, Karin Mae. “Pre-college enrichment education is my passion. It is my love,” says Mae, who previously held a similar post with San Jose State University’s Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement program. “Working with people who believe in reaching out to these youngsters is what drives me.” A collaboration between USC and the Los Angeles Unified School District, NAI is a grueling six-year college prep academy for inner-city youths. It has awarded full USC scholarships to more than 350 South-Central Los Angeles youngsters since its creation in 1989. NAI has frequently been spotlighted in the national media; now Mae hopes to increase its visibility locally and forge new partnerships with industry and the university community. “I’m especially interested in building relationships with the Rossier School of Education, the School of Engineering and with the math, science and English departments of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences,” says Mae, who holds a doctorate in organization and leadership from the University of San Francisco. Among her other goals: collaborative relationships leading to summer and part-time employment for NAI scholars at USC and in the community; and a standardized curriculum for all NAI teachers.
– Sharon Stewart
Coach First Class
NFL veteran Pete Carroll takes Trojan footballers in hand.
“THIS IS A GREAT opportunity for me,” says Pete Carroll, who has signed a five-year contract as USC’s new head football coach. “There’s a great heritage at USC.”
Athletic director Mike Garrett named Carroll to the post in January. “About a dozen high-profile coaches expressed interest in this job,” Garrett says.
“With Pete Carroll, I believe we will be successful. He’s an outstanding teacher with high personal values. His players grow and overachieve.”
Carroll, 49, who led the New England Patriots to the NFL playoffs twice in three years, has 26 years of coaching experience, including 10 years at the college level. He was head coach of New England for three seasons (1997-99) and the New York Jets for one year (1994). He guided the Patriots into the playoffs in his first two seasons, winning the AFC Eastern Division title at 10-6 in 1997, then posting a 9-7 regular season mark in 1998. The Patriots advanced to the second round of the playoffs in each of those seasons.
Carroll photograph by Michele Smith
Tangled Metal Detector
“It’s like a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. When you put all the pieces together, you will get a picture,” says Mike Barr, describing the task at which he excels: combing through plane wreckages. As head of the USC School of Engineering’s Aviation Safety Program, Barr teaches people how to investigate aircraft accidents. About 80 percent of the aircraft accident investigators in the United States, and roughly half the world’s investigators, have been trained at USC. Students come from national and international air carriers, aircraft manufacturers, government air safety agencies, police departments, the military and agencies such as the Forest Service and the Border Patrol. While investigating plane wrecks requires technical expertise from many fields, Barr does not view it as an overly complex endeavor. “This isn’t brain surgery,” he says. The smashed and tangled metal, melted plastic, electronic records and broken bodies of an airplane crash all tell stories. One of the nation’s most quoted experts on air disasters, Barr spent 23 years in the Air Force and flew 137 combat missions in Vietnam.
– Bob Calverley
Mark A. Stevens, ’81, MS ’84, a general partner at Sequoia Capital, a major high-tech venture capital firm, has been elected to the USC Board of Trustees. Stevens, 41, joined the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company in 1989; he focuses on Internet and semiconductor-related investments. Stevens is a member of the Board of Councilors of the USC School of Engineering and the Board of Directors for the school’s Integrated Media Systems Center. Last year, he contributed $2 million towards construction of a new engineering building at USC.
Crispus Attucks Wright ’36, LLB ’38, a retired civil attorney, has been named an honorary trustee of USC. Wright, whose father was born into slavery, established a law practice in South-Central Los Angeles and co-founded the John M. Langston Bar Association, which remains the area’s principal black legal association. He was chairman of Southern California’s oldest continuously published black newspaper, the Los Angeles Sentinel. In 1997, Wright endowed a $2 million student aid fund in the USC Law School.
USC gene therapy researcher Donald B. Kohn has received the prestigious Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award, a $1.5 million prize for outstanding translational (“bench-to-bedside”) research. The five-year grant will support his efforts to cure diseases such as AIDS and sickle cell anemia. A professor of pediatrics and microbiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Kohn is also director of the gene therapy program at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.