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Multiple Degrees of Preparation

Illustration by Michael Klein

Fourteen seniors reap the rewards of eclecticism as USC awards the first $10,000 Renaissance Scholar prizes.

JENNY HUIJU YIEE has always known she would be a doctor someday. Unlike many college students, though, she thirsted for knowledge that couldn’t be pumped from a single well. One major just wasn’t enough.

“I knew I’d have the rest of my life to be in science and medicine,” says Yiee, who is the USC Class of 2000 salutatorian, “so I wanted to choose a major that interested me personally. I’m a people watcher. That’s why I chose anthropology.”

Yiee is one of 14 winners of USC’s first Renaissance Scholar Prizes – $10,000 awards given to outstanding graduating seniors who have distinguished themselves in two or more widely separated subjects. A Las Vegas native with a 4.0 GPA, she epitomizes what USC President Steven B. Sample meant when, in announcing the scholarships last year, he spoke of the “dramatic things that can happen…at the boundaries and bridgings of two disparate fields.”

Indeed, who but Jenny Yiee could have dreamed up an anthropology project exploring Kenyan perceptions of plastic surgery? She conducted her research during a semester abroad in Nairobi, in the wake of an embassy bombing that maimed thousands.

“What was intended to be a four-year dalliance [with anthropology] has turned into a life-long commitment,” she wrote in the essay she submitted to the faculty committee that chose this year’s Renaissance Scholar prizewinners. Other research projects of this violin-playing biologist/ anthropologist have probed the effects of bacteria on burn patients and the effects of multicultural arts education on inner-city seventh-graders.

YIEE IS IN EXCELLENTcompany. Another Renaissance Scholar prizewinner is the Class of 2000’s valedictorian, Marshall Scholar and USA Today’s All-USA College Academic First Team member Jacob Chacko – a biology-gerontology major, health policy management minor who was profiled in the Spring 2000 issue of USC Trojan Family Magazine.

“These students exemplify the Renaissance ideal – what we at USC like to call ‘breadth with depth,’” said Sample, recognizing the prizewinners at the 117th Commencement in May.

Sample clearly articulated the philosophy underlying the scholarships in his commencement remarks: “Due to extraordinary anticipated advances in medical science,” he told the sea of cap-and-gowned graduates, “I would expect that most of you will live beyond the age of 100 and work past the age of 80. You will probably have three or four different careers during your lifetimes…. USC has tried to prepare you for this new reality.”

AFTER THE RENAISSANCE Scholar program was announced in 1999, scores of students stepped forward with far-flung combinations of intellectual pursuits. Among the more colorful of these was Adam Levine’s blending of biomedical engineering and creative writing.

“Whether I’m writing a free-style poem or a C++ program, the beauty lies not in the writing itself but in the rewriting,” observes Levine, who begins another pair of degrees this fall, in medicine and public health policy. (His expository skills may come in handy should he ever fulfill his ambition of running for political office.)

Last winter, 79 such eclectic seniors were certified by a faculty committee as Renaissance Scholar candidates. In February, 55 of the eligible candidates applied for prizes. All, in the words of the committee, were “extremely accomplished,” with GPAs ranging between 3.5 and 4.0 and transcripts showing clear evidence of breadth with depth. The following 14, however, proved “particularly outstanding,” and in May the committee saluted their achievements with $10,000 prizes each:

Jacob Chacko, biology and gerontology major, health policy management minor.
Tatyan Clarke, biology major, theater minor.
Peter Danenberg, classics, philosophy and German major; piano minor.
Sally Ha, business and art history major.
Lindsay Harrison, political science and gender studies major, cinema-television minor.
Adam Levine, biomedical engineering and creative writing major.
Mary Lewinski, political science and phil-osophy major, Russian minor.
Alex Lin, political science and biology major.
Devin Mitchell, biology major, classics minor.
Aditi Nag, economics major, natural
sciences minor.
Han Nguyen, biomedical engineering and political science major; economics minor.
Rebecca Orozco, Spanish and psychology major, natural sciences minor.
Joshua Wolfsohn, humanities/music and biology major.
Jenny Yiee, anthropology and biology major.

ALL THE RENAISSANCE Scholars share a clear-eyed vision of the importance of their eclectic learning. There’s art history and business double-major Sally Ha, who regards her merging of financial sense and aesthetic sensibility as prerequisites for a future attorney working in a museum setting.

There’s Mary Lewinski, who believes her philosophy, political science and Russian studies are a superb foundation for a career in academic medicine. It will shield her from a common flaw among researchers, the tendency to “become imprisoned by their ideologies,” Lewinski writes.

Or there’s Peter Danenberg, whose mastery of German, French, Latin and ancient Greek; virtuosity in piano performance; and rigorous conceptual training in philosophy will make him a redoubtable professor of comparative literature – in his words, “a thinker rather than an academic jack of all trades.”

Eccentric as some of the combinations may seem, they make sense. Classical guitarist and future physician Josh Wolfsohn, for example, carried over elements from his musician’s regimen of daily technical drills and repertoire refinements to his scientific endeavors.

“Rather than study the night before a [biology] exam, I set aside time every week to review the material, so that I became more comfortable with it,” he writes.

A good physician, he contends, like a good musician, seeks a deeper understanding, beyond the “mere memorization of facts.”

– Diane Krieger

Burning to See Bush

Bush Photo by Berliner Photography

BOVARD AUDITORIUM was filled to capacity March 30 for the first USC President’s Distinguished Lecture of the new millennium. The sold-out event featured former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who met with President Steven B. Sample before strolling across campus for a pre-lecture gathering at the Hoose Library.

No stranger to USC, Bush was the 1995 recipient of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development’s Julius Award. “We honored him for his exceptional heroism during World War II and his extraordinary service to the people of the United States,” Sample said in his introduction of the former U.S. president. During his 45-minute talk, Bush discussed contemporary politics, often injecting his signature humor. He tailored his remarks to the university audience, saluting USC’s volunteer work in the community and the importance of the Pacific Rim – a focus of the university’s strategic plan.

The President’s Distinguished Lecture Series was inaugurated in 1996 to bring international leaders to USC. Past speakers have included Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Gen. Colin Powell, Shimon Peres, Brian Mulroney and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the inaugural speaker.

Hold the Phone

The Jetsons may not have cared that callers could see inside their home whenever the phone rang, but real-life Americans aren’t so uninhibited. Now that technology has caught up with the dream, the videophone has a bleak future, says USC communications expert A. Michael Noll. A self-described former “true believer,” Noll designed the videophone used in
2001: A Space Odyssey
and was on the Bell Labs team that developed AT&T’s picture phone (a $500 million flp) in the early 1970’s. People don’t want the person on the other end of the line to see their every action, Noll recently told the
Salt Lake Tribune
. “Science fiction movies may be the only real market for video-phones.”

Pulling Rank

The much-watched U.S. News & World Report rankings reflect continued achievement in USC’s graduate schools.

THE 2000-2001 U.S. News & World Report “Annual Guide to Best Graduate Schools” has named several USC graduate schools and programs among the nation’s leaders.

The USC Department of Occupational Science and Occu-pational Therapy was again ranked No. 1, capturing the top spot among 39 graduate educational programs in occupational therapy. In addition, USC’s graduate programs in Physical Therapy ranked second in that field, besting Duke and Emory.

USC’s School of Social Work was ranked eighth in the nation, holding its slot among the nation’s top 10.

The guide ranked USC’s School of Engineering 12th in the nation and made special mention of the school’s programs in electrical/electronic engineering (14th), computer science (15th), aerospace/aeronautical engineering (21st) and industrial/ manufacturing engineering (21st).

USC’s Law School placed 17th among the nation’s 174 accredited law schools, just ahead of Vanderbilt.

Weighing in at No. 22, the USC Marshall School of Business remains in the top tier of the nation’s 325 accredited MBA programs. The guide made special mention of the school’s graduate programs in entrepreneurship and accounting, ranking them seventh and ninth in the nation, respectively. The school’s part-time and executive MBA programs were ranked seventh and 12th in the nation, respectively, and its graduate programs in general management, international business and marketing all scored in the top 20.

The USC Rossier School of Education placed 33rd. The guide highlighted the school’s graduate program in higher education administration, ranking it in the top 10.

The Keck School of Medicine ranked among the top 50, placing 40th (in a four-way tie with Indiana University, the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University) out of 124 accredited medical schools in the country.

Because U.S. News ranks some disciplines on a three-year rotating cycle, this year’s guide didn’t look at several graduate programs in which USC has previously excelled. In 1998, the School of Cinema-Television was ranked No. 1, tying for the top spot with New York University. The School of Policy, Planning, and Development placed eighth in the nation that same year. The previous year, the USC Thornton School of Music was ranked 12th in the nation, tying with the Manhattan School of Music in New York. Also in 1997, the School of Pharmacy was ranked 18th.

– Zsa Zsa Gershick

Foshay Among the Finest

Photo by Lara Jo Regan – Liaison Agency

HOWARD LAPPIN’S decision five years ago to encourage, cajole and even force his high school students to take college-level classes has paid off on a national scale. In March, Newsweek magazine ranked Foshay Learning Center, a member of USC’s Family of Five Schools, one of the top 100 among America’s 25,000 public high schools. The rankings were pegged to the ratio of Advanced Placement tests taken in 1999 to each school’s total graduating class.

Lappin, Foshay’s principal for the past 11 years, was the driving force behind the move to open up AP classes to all students, even ones with average and below-average grades.

“Most kids don’t think they can take AP classes, but I don’t give them the option,” says Lappin, who in 1997 was named California Principal of the Year. “I force them into this.”

Foshay ranked 95th on Newsweek’s list ( with a ratio of 1.804 – a few points above Beverly Hills High, and just below Manhattan Beach’s respected Mira Costa High. Of Foshay’s 680 high school students, 202 sat for AP tests, and 120 of those were graduating seniors, Lappin says.

In all, 16 California schools were among the 100 top schools, three of them from Los Angeles. But Foshay, at 37th Street and South Harvard Boulevard, was the only inner-city school that wasn’t also a magnet.

Trojan tutoring and mentoring programs contributed to Foshay’s rise to the status of a national model of success, Lappin believes. “USC is all over this school,” he says. “We could not be doing what we are doing without USC.”

“THERE ARE SOME people who don’t believe that everybody is AP material,” Lappin says. “I don’t believe that.” Reserving AP classes for A students is “how we track kids – and I won’t track kids.”

His approach is backed up by solid research data. Newsweek’s rankings hinged on the findings of a U.S. Department of Education study showing that students have a better chance of succeeding in college when they are forced to do college-level work in high school. High school grades, scores and class rank aren’t the strongest predictors of college completion. “What matters instead is how rigorous and challenging students’ high-school courses are, no matter what grades they receive,” the Newsweek article noted. “The factor is particularly important in predicting the success of minority students.”

Lappin says students who are reluctant to take AP classes are sometimes surprised by what they can achieve when challenged.

“My favorite story is about a kid who is now at UC Berkeley. He came to us with almost straight fails in middle school. We pushed him into AP classes. He graduated from here with a 4.1 average, and he has been on the honor roll at Berkeley for about two years. Because we pushed him.”

– Sharon Stewart

Magic With Magnets

In June, a group of Los Angeles transit planners bid for $950 million in federal funds to build a magnetic levitating train connecting LAX with Airports in Ontario and Riverside. Dubbed “maglev,” the $4 billion fast train would hover six inches above the tracks, drawn by giant magnets. USC transportation expert Jim Moore has little faith in such hocus pocus: “We could also move people around in space shuttles,” he quipped to the
Los Angeles Business Journal
. “This is hardly what I would call a cost-effective way of getting people from here to there.”

Heard It Through the Grapevine

Illustration by A.J. Garces

Chatting over the backyard fence is the key to building community, a major USC study shows.

FROM HER DECK in Cheviot Hills, Sandra Ball-Rokeach watched the fires from the 1994 riot spread through inner-city Los Angeles, fueled by mistrust, hostility and confusion.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m a communications scholar. I’m a sociologist. I’m supposed to understand these things,’” she recalls. “Everyone always says that communication is the problem and, therefore, communication must be the solution.”

After the flames had died, the USC professor remained fired up over that conundrum. “I wanted to get at the base of the problem,” she says. “I wanted to make a difference, or at least to try.”

So Ball-Rokeach launched a massive investigation of the communication behaviors and patterns of 1,800 people living in seven historically significant Los Angeles neighborhoods. The initial results of that investigation – dubbed the Metamorphosis Project – were released in May, the first two of 13 planned white papers.

Angelenos, the research shows, feel they belong to a community in direct proportion to the amount of time they spend talking to their neighbors. “The chat over the backyard fence or on the apartment stoop is the fastest and strongest path to a sense of belonging to a community,” says Ball-Rokeach, who has joint appointments in communication and sociology.

HER RESEARCH TEAM used telephone surveys, focus groups, interviews and geo-spatial mapping to examine the city’s communication patterns. The neighborhoods/ethnic groups studied were East Los Angeles (Mexican origin); greater Crenshaw (African-American); greater Koreatown (Korean origin); greater Monterey Park/Alhambra (Chinese origin); Pico-Union (Central American origin); South Pasadena (Caucasian/Protestant); and Westside (Caucasian/Jewish).

The first white paper, titled “Belonging in the 21st Century: The Case of Los Angeles,” reports wide variations in a sense of belonging – ranging from the highest, among African-American residents of greater Crenshaw, to the lowest, among Chinese-American residents of greater Monterey Park/Alhambra.

The second white paper, “The Globalization of Everyday Life: Vision and Reality,” examined how global communication technologies affect everyday lives.

Some of the key findings and recommendations:

Community organizations have a strategic role as “conversation starters.”
In most cases, exposure to mainstream TV programming hurts people’s sense of community.
News stories that typify certain neighborhoods as crime-ridden or unsafe work against efforts to improve an area.
Newer immigrants use the Internet to keep up with their home-lands; longtime residents use the Internet locally and regionally.
Those who take pride in Los Angeles are more likely to have a sense of belonging to their own residential neighborhoods.

Ball-Rokeach sums up the significance of the data: “We find that the revitalization of urban residential areas is not folly,” she concludes.

“Neighborhoods remain central in people’s everyday lives. Moreover, we conclude that communication infrastructures play a greater role in community building than economic or physical infrastructures.”

THE METAMORPHOSIS Project will release another 11 white papers over the next couple of years. These will explore cohesiveness and communication in immigrant communities both old and new; uses of the Internet versus interpersonal communication; community media in immigrant communities; the strength of community organizations; and new and changing means of communicating within urban populations. The project is largely funded by the USC Annenberg Center for Communication.

– Sharon Stewart

Homage to Marathon Mom

Photo by Lucian Perkins, © 1996 The Washington Post

A mother runs, a daughter films – it all comes together in a powerful, prize-winning documentary.

JUDY AND ERIN FLANNERY had set aside the summer of 1997 for a mother-daughter road trip and film project. A world-class triathlete, Judy was to captain the only all-woman cycling team in the 3,200-mile Race Across America. Meanwhile Erin, a graduate student in USC’s School of Cinema-Television, was to videotape her mom’s ride.

But fate intervened when the 57-year-old cyclist, while training on a rural road in Maryland, was struck and killed by an out-of-control car. Undaunted, her teammates pushed ahead with the race under the name “Team Judy Flannery,” and Erin came along to shoot footage for what was to become Judy’s Time.

In March, the 40-minute film took first prize in the documentary category at the 21st annual College Television Awards, a major national competition recognizing excellence in student films and videos. Flannery also won the Bricker Family Award for Best Presentation of a Humanitarian Concern.

Erin Flannery was one of eight USC student filmmakers to receive awards in the competition, which is sponsored by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation. More than 150 Academy members judged this year’s 281 entries in seven categories. Winners were feted at a gala awards ceremony, attended by more than 400 industry people, academy members and others, where they received cash prizes and grants for Kodak film stock.

THE FILMMAKER’S TRIBUTE to her exceptional mom could have easily lapsed into sentimentality. Instead, Flannery, who received her MFA in May, artfully weaves to-gether Judy’s achievements as a triathlete – she started running at 38, and went on to complete three Hawaii Ironman competitions, becoming a four-time world and six-time national age-group triathlon champion – with her roles as stay-at-home wife and mother of five, a volunteer at a Washington, D.C. soup kitchen and a devoted neighbor.

Making her documentary was a very personal journey for Flannery, who composed it from family movies, interviews, still shots, competition coverage and news footage from the fatal accident.

“I’m just really happy that an audience wider than my friends and family responded so well to the movie and got to know my mother,” she says. Someday, Flannery plans to show the film to her daughter, Judy, now 10 months old.

– Christine E. Shade

Knowing Write from Wrong

Most 18-year-olds don’t expect to be busted for plagiarism before they even get to college, but that’s just what happens to those foolish enough to lift an application essay from the Internet and submit it to USC. Dean of admissions Joseph Allen has read ’em all, including the book The 50 Essays That Work. A 30-year-old veteran essay-reader, Allen recently told the Omaha World-Hearld what he and his staff look for as they wade through 26,000 applications to fill just 2,7000 slots: an authentic voice. “Students should write about things they know, things that are real,” he said.

A Mighty Modulator

‘Opto-Chips’ fabricated from a new material are nothing short of a high-speed communications breakthrough.

NEW POLYMERS developed by USC and University of Washington chemists and engineers appear to increase signal speeds and capacity so greatly that they promise to revolutionize telecommunications, data processing, sensing and display technologies.

The polymers are used to create electro-optic modulators, or “opto-chips.” These microscopic devices can translate electrical signals – for television, computer, telephone and radar – into optical signals at rates up to 100 gigabits per second. Opto-chips can achieve information-processing speeds as great as 10 times those of current electronic devices. They have sig-nificantly greater bandwidths than electro-optic crystals currently in use. And the new materials need only a fraction of a volt of electricity to operate, less than one-sixth what crystals require.

“These electro-optic modulators will permit real-time communication. You won’t have to wait for your computer to download even the largest files,” says chemist Larry Dalton, a professor at both USC and UW.

Indeed, tests indicate a single opto-chip can provide more than 300 gigahertz of bandwidth – enough to handle all of a major corporation’s telephone, computer, television and satellite traffic.

Polymeric electro-optic modulators can be used to process data, steer radio waves and microwaves to and from satellites, detect radar signals, switch signals in optical networks and guide planes or missiles.

Other applications are so far ranging, Dalton says, that they make feasible full 3-D holographic projection with little or no image flicker. A device such as the fictional holo-deck seen in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV series might become a reality, allowing users to create elaborate holographic worlds in which they can live out their fantasies.

“It’s a critical decision-determining technology because ‘bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth’ – like ‘location, location, location’ in real estate – is critical in making decisions in communications technology,” says Dalton. “This technology has bandwidth to burn.”

The work of Dalton and his collaborators is described in the April 7 issue of Science. They include USC electrical engineer William Steier, UW chemist Bruce Robinson and USC graduate students Cheng Zhang and Hua Zhang. Lead author Yongqiang Shi received his doctorate in electrical engineering from USC in 1992 and was Steier’s graduate student.

Design and molecular synthesis were done at USC’s Loker Hydrocarbon Institute, where Dalton is scientific co-director, and at UW. Materials were then sent to state-of-the-art production facilities at USC’s Keck Photonic Laboratory, where the modulators are fabricated and integrated with both silica fibers and VLSI silicon chips.

– Bob Calverley

Speed Daemons

Illustration by Michael Klein

A TEAM OF computer wizards from the USC School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute, Microsoft, Qwest and the University of Washington have set the first Internet2 Land Speed Record. The team transferred 8.4 gigabytes of data from Redmond, Wash., to ISI’s East Coast office in Arlington, Va., in about 81 seconds. Using off-the-shelf Windows 2000 and standard TCP/IP stacks, and routing data along high-bandwidth lines of the Next Generation Internet (also known as Internet2), the team achieved a rate of 749 gigabits per second with a single stream of data and 957 gigabits per second with a multi-stream.

To the average computer user, transfer speeds may seem like a force of nature, random and chaotic. Not so, says ISI computer scientist Terry Gibbons. “It’s a real challenge to deliver a high-bandwidth stream to a user’s work-station,” he says, but it’s not impossible. To maximize speeds, “many diverse components – from local workstation parameters to backbone router configurations – need to work together,” he adds.

The team shared a trophy and a $10,000 prize, awarded at the spring 2000 Internet2 Member Meeting in Washington, D.C. “We hope this competition gets people thinking about enabling really revolutionary Internet applications,” says Microsoft-based computer pioneer Jim Gray, the race’s co-creator. The next trial is planned for November, when the reigning champs will try to hold on to their title with a double cross-country route that zips through Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles and then back again.

Smoke Gets in Young Lungs

Gilliland Photo by Carl Studna

CHILDREN WHOSE MOTHERS smoked during pregnancy show signs of impaired lung function even years after their birth, a study by researchers from the Keck School of Medicine reveals. Scientists examined 3,357 schoolchildren in 12 Southern California communities, both urban and rural. Through questionnaires given to parents, researcher Frank Gilliland and his colleagues in preventive medicine studied fourth, seventh and 10th graders’ current and past exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and in utero exposure to maternal smoking. They also took several measurements of the kids’ lung function.

Those whose mothers smoked while pregnant were found to have reduced lung function in most of the tests. The effect was not attributable to later exposure to environmental smoke, Gilliland says.

Current exposure may produce an additional reduction in lung function, the authors note. In the United States, about 15 million children are exposed to household environmental tobacco smoke. Deficits in lung function that persist through adulthood may indicate increased risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases, Gilliland believes. The study was published in a recent issue of Thorax, the journal of the British Thoracic Society.

– Alicia Di Rado


USC Marshall School of Business graduate EDWARD P. ROSKI JR. ’62, president and CEO of Majestic Realty Co. and co-owner of the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers, has been elected to the university’s Board of Trustees. Joining him on the board are philanthropists KATHERINE BOGDANOVICH LOKDER ’40 and FLORA LANEY THORNTON, who have been named honorary trustees in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to the USC’s advancement. Katherine Loker and her husband Donald were the principal contributors to USC’s Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, created in 1977; they also endowed a professional chair for Nobel laureate chemist George A. Olah, the institute’s director. In all, the Lokers have given more than $27 million to the university, placing them among the top five individual benefactors in USC history. In 1999, Flora Thornton gave a $25 million naming gift to USC’s Thornton School of Music, believed to be the largest ever to an American music school. She has also endowed the Thornton Chair in Preventive Medicine and the Flora Thornton Cancer Prevention and Research Education Center, both at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

JOSEPH AOUN, a leading authority on East Asian and Semitic languages, syntax and the logical form of natural languages, has been named dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. A professor of linguistics and member of USC’s interdisciplinary Program in Neural, Informational and Behavioral Sciences, Aoun joined the faculty in 1982 and has served as the College’s dean of faculty since 1994. Aoun succeeds Morton Owen Schapiro, who left to take the helm as president of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

University of Michigan scholar DANIEL A. MAZMANIAN has been named the first dean of USC’s School of Policy, Planning, and jDevelopment (created from the 1998 merger of the schools of Public Administration and Urban Planning and Development). Mamannian, an expert in the formulation and implementation of public policy, was formely dean at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, following a long academic career at Pomona College and the Clarement Graduate School.

Federal broadcasting law scholar MATTHEW L. SPITZER has been named dean of the USC Law School. A chaired professor who joined the school’s faculty in 1981, Spitzer is director of the USC Center for Communications Law and Policy and co-director of the USC Program in Law and Rational Choice, an interdisciplinary program in law, economics and political science run jointly with Caltech. Spitzer succeeds Scott H. Bice, who retired from the deanship after 20years of service and has returned to teaching and research.

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