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College to Offer Liberal Studies Degree

The courses range from an in-depth reading and analysis of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” to analyzing how globalization is shaping urban patterns and problems.

Beginning this fall, USC College will offer a Master of Liberal Studies degree, aimed at mid-career individuals keen to explore new intellectual territory.

From successful CEOs and teachers to physicians and journalists, this diverse group of students can design their own course of study to meet their personal and career goals.

USC alumni, staff, parents of students and other professionals, or those with a history of volunteer work throughout the region also are encouraged to apply. The 27-unit degree consists of nine classes. Graduate Record Examination scores are not required.

“Our program is thematically organized and intended for a population of students who have been out of college for 10 or more years,” said Jane Cody, the College’s associate dean of academic programs, who led the effort to design the new degree. “Its purpose overall is to update and refine liberal education.”

Said Jennifer Wolch, the College’s dean of graduate programs, “It’s for people who might want a master’s degree to enhance their progress in an existing career, or who may want to change careers.

“It’s not focused on one particular field, but it draws on several fields,” Wolch said. “What unifies the program is that all of the subjects covered have relevance to the problems and challenges facing contemporary society. This will appeal to people who have an intellectual interest in the way in which the world is changing.”

Intended for part-time students seeking a flexible schedule, the program will offer an array of evening seminar-style courses not available in traditional graduate programs.

“The courses are drawn from themes that have brought about revolutions in thought and practice,” Cody said. “They have both global and local relevance.”

For the fall semester, the 3-unit “Introduction to Liberal Studies” course will be offered. The required course introduces students to research methods in the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences as well as the nature of applied interdisciplinary research.

Students taking the fall course also will study epistemology, a branch of philosophy that analyzes the origin, nature and scope of knowledge. In short, epistemology addresses the question, “How do you know what you know?”

The year-round program will offer courses under three themes: urbanization and globalization, changing cultural landscapes, and technological and environmental transformations. Each is limited to 15 students.

The courses range from an in-depth reading and analysis of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” to analyzing how globalization is shaping urban patterns and problems � and affecting the future of indigenous languages. Some are even more distinctive in nature.

For example, under the technological and environmental transformation theme, one course to be offered, “Ecology of Night,” explores the human perception of stars and the role of night in history. The course also examines the impact of artificial night lighting on non-human species and habitat.

The master’s thesis will be a cumulative project completed in consultation with the student’s advisory committee.

By the summer of 2007, the program is expected to offer a field course abroad. But for those who don’t wish to travel outside the country, some field courses will be offered in the Los Angeles area.

“If someone wants to take a course in the diversity of the art world, for instance, they could spend two weeks in museums throughout the region,” Wolch said. “They can take a field course without having to go to Bangkok or Buenos Aires.”

For more information, contact the USC College graduate programs at (213) 740-6104 or e-mail

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