Harman Academy for Polymathic Study Inducts New Fellows

On Thursday, May 15, the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study inducted 23 new fellows—it largest class yet. This year’s inductees continue a tradition of excellence and academic engagement, with many of them either pursuing exciting career options or furthering their studies with graduate work at USC, Harvard, Stanford, and Purdue, among others.

Dean Catherine Quinlan of the USC Libraries congratulated the inductees on their commitment to interdisciplinary learning and remarked on the continued growth and success of the academy. Associate Professor of Critical Studies and Harman Academy Director Tara McPherson introduced three students—Jung-Hwa (Judy) Kang, Allison Wisniewski, and Adeel Mohammadi—to reflect on their experiences in the Academy.  Each spoke of their love of interdisciplinary learning and ways in which they take a polymathic approach to life, all qualities that founder Sidney Harman had envisioned the Academy would foster.

Kang, an art history major, discussed her numerous career transitions, from a finance degree in Australia, to an acting career in her home country of Korea, to her current program at USC. She spoke of how her experiences in the academy provided a framework for her own diverse life experiences, helping her build connections between seemingly disparate areas and understand the value of her polymathic path.

Wisniewski, an industrial and systems engineering major, related how the Harman Academy gave her an opportunity to explore topics outside her discipline. She described a pivotal moment with University Professor Kevin Starr during her Induction interview. He clarified her major’s importance, relating it to her current career path, starting as a consultant at McKinsey and Company in September.

Mohammadi, a polymathic scholar of astonishing proportions, graduates USC with double majors in biological sciences and religion and minors in economics and Middle Eastern studies. He illustrated how his time in the Harman Academy allowed him to draw connections between his fields of study and encouraged him to pursue his diverse set of degrees. Mohammadi described how the Harman Academy embodies the Arabic word for student, Talibe, which translates literally to seeker, as the Academy provides an environment for passionate thinkers to seek knowledge and connections beyond their discipline.

Both Wisniewski and Mohammadi participated in the Harman Academy for all four years of their undergraduate experience, having been freshmen in the year the academy was founded.

Following the students’ remarks, McPherson welcomed each inductee to the podium to be formerly inducted as Fellow into the Harman Academy. Dr. Karin Huebner, Director of Programs at the Academy, bestowed a special stole upon each inductee, while McPherson awarded them with a certificate.

Quinlan concluded the ceremony by noting Mohammadi’s special distinction as an honoree at all three USC Libraries commencement ceremonies—for Phi Kappa Phi, the Wall of Scholars, and the Harman Academy.

Finally, Quinlan honored University Professor Kevin Starr with a framed map of California from 1772. Starr was instrumental in bringing the academy to the USC Libraries with Sidney Harman and served as the inaugural director its first three years. The map was chosen to reflect both his deep interest in California history and his role in charting the future path of the academy.

This year’s inductees are: Mathew Babadjouni, Grace Chediak, Erica Christianson, Lauren Christianson, Ryan Cohn, Elli Hanson, Otana Jakpor, Lindsey Jones, Jung-hwa “Judy” Kang, Da Eun “Danny” Kim, Vera Kutepova, Julia Li, Ian Malave, Nicole Marcione, Adeel Mohammadi, Sara Nofeliyan, Anh Tran, Marco Valdez, Andrew Woodham, Allison Wisniewski, Camille Wu, Songyu Zhu, and Hao Ji Zhu.