The Quadrants

Four quadrants or central concerns will structure the core program of the Academy: critical/integrative thinking; a study of the great polymaths of the past; the tapestry or narrative of polymathic thought; and the communication of polymathic insights. View a video introducing the Quadrants.


This quadrant is both methodological and epistemological, addressing the processes of critical and integrative thinking as students become self-conscious about the processes by which they address problems in their fields and how other fields may go about considering similar problems. Key to this quadrant will be helping students to detach engagingly: even while committing themselves fully to their home discipline, to explore its limits and assumptions, while seeking to bring together disciplines to illuminate and inform the central discipline and to enrich its insights. The aim here is to foster productive junctions among disciplines, methodologies and areas of expertise that illuminate the problem at hand in original ways.


This quadrant examines the study of polymathic thinking as epitomized by the polymaths— not what they did and thought but how they thought and did. This process would be illuminated by focusing on discussion of historical and contemporary polymaths and how their particular thinking resulted in new insights, solutions or leaps of imagination. Polymaths seem to share readiness to challenge, in systematic and fruitful ways, established orthodoxies in thought and practice. This quadrant fosters the collaborative environment that encourages students to ask questions, to challenge assumptions and established methodologies, and to arrive at shared understandings of the nature and potential of polymathic thinking.


The tapestry metaphor has the purpose of dramatizing the inter-relatedness of technology, art, and philosophy. The central assumption of this quadrant is threefold. All phenomena are interrelated and interdependent, function within a sustaining matrix, and by their very functioning constitute a narrative. In this quadrant, students will first examine the foundational base of technology, arts, and philosophy—the threads and weave of the tapestry. Secondly, students will experience swatches of tapestry that have been woven, or are currently being woven, especially here at USC. Thirdly, students will create a narrative triggered by their experience of a polymathic swatch.


This quadrant will focus on honing the skills students will need to communicate, collaborate, persuade, and lead. These skills include writing, public speaking, and story telling. Each of the quadrants requires these skills, and the curriculum proposed in each will assist in developing them. The Academy will assist students in acquiring a use of language, written and spoken, that is at once precise and encompassing. The critical evaluation and application of information will also be stressed.