Spring 2017 Student Retreat: Generating the Future

Spring 2017 Student Retreat: Generating the Future

Friday, March 31 - Sunday, April 2 on Catalina Island

Application due Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A three-day student initiated and designed workshop held at the USC Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island. A student cohort in collaboration with invited faculty engage a topic from multiple, polymathic modes and perspectives.

“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” -Yoda, Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back

“I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.”– Ray Bradbury

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” -George Orwell, 1984

Do we shape the future in trying to predict it? What can historians teach us about the future in their study of the past? In these tumultuous times do even well-rooted political, social, and religious institutions stand a chance against the winds of change? Is the future as dark a place as popular fiction believes it to be? Why are millennials obsessed with the apocalypse?

In a world where fiction fuels our visions of the years ahead, values of the past collide constantly with pressing policies of the present, feelings and facts fight to the death, and tomorrow seems anything but promised, is the future a fantasy to fear or a reality towards which humanity must boldly go? Futurism, the study of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures, is a practice ever-growing in popularity amongst academics, politicians, scientists, artists, and others.

While historians attempt to understand that which is already set in stone, their parallel counterparts, futurists, study the past and present to determine what is likely to continue and what could possibly change. Through the analysis of alternative histories, future borders, technological innovations, utopic/dystopic works of fiction, ancient methods of fortune telling, and more, we cordially invite you to join the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study in embracing your inner futurist.


Please create a document of your own with the appropriate information and send in PDF format to Karin Huebner at khuebner@usc.edu by Tuesday, February 21, 2017. Do not feel compelled to meet the word counts; the limits are not minimums. Have fun! The questions are entirely open-ended and meant to allow creativity. More information about the Harman Academy and the student retreat is available on our website at polymathic.usc.edu. We will inform you of our decision by Friday, March 3rd.

Full Name:

Student ID:



Expected Graduation:


1. Briefly, how might you consider yourself to be polymathic in your pursuits?

2. This weekend-long conference will facilitate collaboration among students with diverse academic backgrounds. What unique perspective can you contribute to this collaborative venture? (150 words or fewer.)

3. Write an alternate ending to a historical event. (250 words or fewer.)

4. 2050? Go. (250 words or fewer, or maybe an image?)

5. Pick 1 of 4 questions below:

      a) Write a fortune cookie in eight words.

      b) Favorite utopian/dystopian work of fiction.

      c) America loses WWII. Redraw the world map. (Attach a separate piece of paper with single-sentence explanations of new borders.)

      d) In 50 words or less, design a hypothetical virtual reality experience.