The People of the Academy

Founder

Sidney Harman
Founder

Sidney Harman

(1918 - 2011)

Sidney Harman was a polymath of our time. Presidential Professor Harman was founder and first chairman of the Academy for Polymathic Study, chairman of Newsweek, and founder/chairman emeritus of Harman International, a leading manufacturer of high-quality audio and video products including digital navigation and information systems for the automotive, consumer, and professional markets. He held a USC Presidential Chair and was the Isaias W. Hellman Professor of Polymathy. He was President of Friends World College, a worldwide experimental Quaker college, from 1970 – 1973 and served as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce from 1977 – 1978. He founded the Program on Technology, Public Policy and Human Development at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Senior Administration

Catherine Quinlan
Dean

Catherine Quinlan

Dean of USC Libraries

Catherine Quinlan was appointed Dean of the USC Libraries effective August 1, 2007. She is responsible for guiding the university’s efforts to establish the model for the 21st-century library by providing leadership for USC’s library staff; collaborating with other university deans, faculty and friends to optimize and develop resources for scholars; and building partnerships with art, museum and library institutions throughout Southern California.

Quinlan came to USC after a decade at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where she headed a library system encompassing 300 full-time staff members and more than 21 sites. Beginning in 2004, she also served as managing director of UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. Before joining UBC, she spent seven years as director of libraries and chief librarian at the University of Western Ontario, and as an adjunct professor in the university’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Previously, Quinlan oversaw the health sciences library at Memorial University of Newfoundland and was a member of the adjunct business administration faculty.

She holds an MBA from Memorial University of Newfoundland, a master of library studies degree from Dalhousie University and a bachelor of music degree from Queen’s University.

Tara McPherson
Senior Administration Member

Tara McPherson

Professor, Director of the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study

Tara McPherson is Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is a core faculty member of the MAP program, USC’s innovative practice based-Ph.D., and also an affiliated faculty member in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department.  Her research engages the cultural dimensions of media, including the intersection of gender, race, affect and place.  She focuses on the digital humanities, early software histories, and various online communities, as well as upon the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship.  Her most recent book is Feminist in a Software Lab: Difference + Design (Harvard UP: 2018).  Her Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP: 2003) received the 2004 John G. Cawelti Award for the outstanding book published on American Culture, among other awards.  She is co-editor of Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Duke UP: 2003) and Transmedia Frictions; The Arts, the Humanities, and the Digital (California UP: 2015) and editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected, part of the MacArthur Foundation series on Digital Media and Learning (MIT Press, 2008.)   She is the Founding Editor of Vectors, www.vectorsjournal.org, a multimedia peer-reviewed journal and was a founding editor of the MacArthur-supported International Journal of Learning and Media.  Tara was among the founding organizers of Race in Digital Space, a multi-year project supported by the Annenberg Center for Communication and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. She has been a fellow at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and participates on numerous boards, film juries, and task forces. With major support from the Mellon Foundation and the NEH, she was the Lead PI on the development of the online authoring platform, Scalar, now situated within the Ahmanson Lab.

Karin Huebner
Senior Administration Member

Karin Huebner

Academic Director of Programs

Karin Huebner received her Ph.D. in history from USC in 2009, her M.A. in history from USC, and her B.A. in history from UCLA.  She received the W. Turrentine Jackson Prize from the Pacific Historical Review for the best essay submitted by a graduate student for her article, “An Unexpected Alliance: Stella Atwood, the California Clubwomen, John Collier, and the Indians of the Southwest, 1917-1934,” which appeared in the PHR August 2009 issue.  As a graduate student, she received the USC University Excellence in Teaching Award in 2005.  In 2012, she received the USC Remarkable Woman Award, 2012, a campus-wide recognition for achievements in scholarship, contributions to USC, commitment to students and women’s issues, community involvement, and professional excellence.  Prior to Dr. Huebner’s career as a historian, she competed on the Women’s World Tennis Tour.  She also captained the UCLA women’s tennis team to its first national championship in 1981.

Image of Curtis Fletcher
Senior Administration Member

Curtis Fletcher

Director of the Ahmanson Lab

Curtis Fletcher's research draws on key questions in the fields of media studies, visual studies, science and technology studies, and the history of technology. His published works examine the history of educational technology, the history of humanities education, and the history of the digital humanities. His work in the digital humanities focuses on multimedia and multimodal authoring and publishing, digital pedagogy, and critical making. He specializes in digital research and writing, with particular expertise in new models for authoring, credentialing, and publishing born-digital humanities scholarship. He is a Co-PI on the multimedia authoring platform, Scalar, and for the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture.

Academic Advisory Board

Leo Braudy
Chair

Leo Braudy

University Professor and Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature and Professor of English

Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, literary scholar and critic, the Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature, film critic and cultural historian, University Professor Leo Braudy is a polymath’s polymath. His areas of expertise are an intersection of multiple disciplines and he has written authoritatively on a wide variety of subjects.

Robin Romans
Vice-Chair

Robin Romans

Associate Provost, Director, Thematic Options Honors Program, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Political Science

Dr. Robin Romans serves as Associate Provost at the University of Southern California. On behalf of the Provost, he oversees the USC Arts and Humanities Initiative; administers all processes related to the university’s accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC); and, manages USC’s strategic planning process. Romans also serves as the Provost’s liaison to USC Arts, a collaboration of USC’s five arts deans (Architecture, Cinematic Arts, Fine Arts, Music, and Theatre), and to the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, for which he wrote the original proposal in 2009. He also directs the Progressive Degree Program, which allows students to earn a master’s degree in as little as one year beyond the bachelor’s degree, and provides support for the Renaissance, Global, and Discovery Scholars programs, which promote excellence in interdisciplinary studies, global studies, and undergraduate research.<br><br>Before moving to the Provost's Office, Romans directed USC's prestigious Thematic Option Honors Program, and served as Assistant Dean of Admission and Honors Programs in the Dornsife College. There he developed undergraduate research opportunities, new honors programs, and was charged with restructuring the Office of College Admission. He represented Dornsife at all major in-state and out-of-state recruitment events.<br><br>Romans earned his doctorate at USC. He teaches undergraduate courses in Political Science, Gender Studies, and General Education, including Ideology and Political Conflict; Sex, Power, and Politics; American Political Thought; and, Body Issues. His teaching interests include classical political thought, Enlightenment thought, Liberalism, Marxism, feminism, and contemporary political thought. He also serves as President of USC's Epsilon Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Adlai Wertman
Academic Advisory Board Member

Adlai Wertman

Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship

Adlai Wertman is Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship in the Marshall School of Business and the Founding Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab. Professor Wertman spent seven years as President and CEO of Chrysalis, the only non-profit in Los Angeles devoted solely to helping homeless change their lives through employment. Prior to Chrysalis, Professor Wertman spent 18 years as Managing Director and Manager of Prudential Securities' West Coast Public Investment Banking Group. Professor Wertman consults with not-for-profits and government groups on fundraising, strategic planning, and governance, and is a frequent speaker on social responsibility, social enterprise and public/private partnerships.

Clifford Johnson Headshot
Academic Advisory Board Member

Clifford Johnson

Professor of Physics & Astronomy

Clifford Johnson always wanted to be a physicist and astronomer.  His research focuses on the development of theoretical tools for the description of the basic fabric of Nature.  Johnson believes the tools and ideas often have applications in other areas of physics (and mathematics) too - unexpected connections are part of the fun of research and very polymathic!  Ultimately, Professor Johnson is trying to understand and describe the origin, past, present, and future of the Universe.  This involves trying to describe its fundamental constituents (and their interactions), as well as the Universe as a dynamical object in its own right. He mainly works on (super) string theory, gravity, gauge theory, and M-theory, which leads him to think about things like space-time, quantum mechanics, black holes, the big bang, extra dimensions, quarks, gluons, and so forth.  As a true polymathic practitioner, he is also an accomplished musician.

Edwin McCann
Academic Advisory Board Member

Edwin McCann

Professor of Philosophy & English

A philosopher, literary scholar, and historian, Professor Ed McCann’s research interests center in the history of modern philosophy, especially Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Newton, Kant, and the great early 20th century polymath Ludwig Wittgenstein. One example of his innovative approach to philosophical and historical inquiry, Professor McCann guides his students to view trials as crucial indicators of society coming to terms with threatening concepts and their implications. Professor McCann is a treasure-trove of knowledge who patiently walks students through not only the complex historical conditions, but also the intellectual climate of each era.

Geoffrey Cowan
Academic Advisory Board Member

Geoffrey Cowan

University Professor, President of the Annenberg Foundation Trust

For more than 30 years, Geoffrey Cowan has been an important force in almost every facet of the communication world—as a public interest lawyer, academic administrator, best-selling author and award-winning teacher, playwright, television producer, and government official.

From 1996-2007, he served as dean of the USC Annenberg School. In 2006, he was named the inaugural holder of the Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership at the Annenberg School and director of the School's Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. He holds a joint appointment in the USC Gould School of Law, teaches courses in journalism, and is directly involved in the work and research of a number of major centers and projects at the Annenberg School, including the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, which he founded, the Norman Lear Center, the USC Center on Communication Law and Policy, the Charles Annenberg Weingarten Program on Online Communities and the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future.

Shrikanth Narayanan
Academic Advisory Board Member

Shrikanth Narayanan

Andrew J. Viterbi Professor of Engineering

Shri Narayanan is the Andrew J. Viterbi Professor of Engineering and holds joint appointments in computer science, linguistics, and psychology.  Professor Narayanan is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, and Eta Kappa Nu, and he holds the first Viterbi Professorship in Engineering at USC. Professor Narayanan’s research interests are truly polymathic and focus on signals and systems modeling with an interdisciplinary emphasis on speech, audio, language, multimodal and biomedical problems and applications with direct societal relevance.