Call for Catalina Student Retreat Committee Applications

“A polymath is one who not only mastered one or several disciplines, but one who uniquely synthesized them, integrated them.” — Sidney Harman


for the Fifth Annual Harman Academy for Polymathic Study

Student Retreat on Catalina Island

March 22-24, 2019

The USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study at the USC Libraries announces an exciting opportunity for intellectually curious and creative students.  Four to six participants will be selected to form an intensive, multi-disciplinary committee for the planning and organization of the 5th Annual Harman Academy Student Retreat on Catalina Island, March 22-24, 2019. 


The Harman Academy offers a variety of programming that encourages an integrative approach to problem solving that draws from across the disciplines. The annual Student Retreat lets students take the lead in identifying a topic for discussion and in formulating a weekend retreat at USC’s Catalina facilities. In spring 2015, twenty-five students grappled with a variety of issues under the rubric, “Gaps in Communication;” the spring 2016 retreat centered on the theme “Narratives and Environments;” the 2017 retreat explored ideas around “Generating the Future;” and last year’s retreat approached “Perception” as a polymathic concept.  At these retreats, students and more than a dozen faculty discussed and interrogated multiple modes of inquiry through structured daytime and evening sessions, outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, and games, and late-night continuing vibrant discussions.  All events are free for USC students.

A panel of student organizers will be chosen in the fall via an application process to select the theme, review submissions, and organize the participants for the spring 2019 Student Retreat. The entire conference will be student organized and led, with professors and other guests participating by student invitation. The Student Retreat has already proven an exciting addition to Academy programming that allows students to become engaged in polymathic thought and discussion at a deeper and more sustained level. We look forward to seeing what this year’s committee designs.

For more information, please visit our website.


The committee will consist of four to six USC undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds who will meet overall several months to organize, plan, and coordinate the retreat in March 2019. The planning meetings will vary based on committee members’ availability and the workflow of the planning process but require a firm commitment from committee participants.

With guidance from the Harman Academy leadership team, the committee will be entirely responsible for the genesis and execution of the retreat – from determining a theme to reviewing applications and selecting participants to inviting faculty and other guests. The shape and nature of the weekend will come entirely through the committee’s efforts, fulfilling the Harman Academy’s desire to create an undergraduate retreat that is both by and for students. The retreat will reflect the Harman Academy’s commitment to synthesizing and integrating diverse and multi-disciplinary viewpoints. This is an opportunity to shape an exciting part of Harman Academy and USC programming for you and your peers.


We are inviting applications for undergraduate scholars to plan and organize the conference. We are looking for a diverse mix of creative, intellectually curious individuals who will energetically embrace this unique and challenging opportunity. Participants will be expected to attend planning meetings as needed beginning in October 2018 through the culmination of the retreat in March 2019.

Committee member duties include: formulation of retreat theme and panel topics; issuing a creative call for applicants; review of applications and selection of student retreat participants; extending invitations to faculty and guests across USC and beyond; and working with the Harman Academy staff on event logistics and budget.

To apply, please send a CV, indicating two references and your answer to the following two questions:

  1. What potential theme would you propose for a polymathic (integrated interdisciplinary) retreat? What makes the theme engaging or relevant, and what type of activities might you include?  (200-250 words)
  2. What relevant experiences do you bring to the planning committee?  (100-150 words)

Applications are due Monday, September 24th. Please send all materials (pdf) to Dr. Karin Huebner, Academic Director of Programs, USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study Selected participants will be notified by Tuesday, October 9th.