Spring 2018 Student Retreat: Perception

March 2, 2018 - March 4, 2018
Catalina Island, Wrigely Institute
Friday, March 2, 2018

Spring 2018 Student Retreat: Perception

Friday, March 2 – Sunday, March 4 on Catalina Island

Application due Sunday, January 28, 2018


The Harman Academy for Polymathic Study announces an exciting opportunity for intellectually curious and creative students. The retreat is 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.


“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for… In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, the botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.”

 - John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In


“Do not look too far for you will see nothing.”

            -Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun


“To learn to see - to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.”

            -Frierich Nietzche, Twilight of the Idols


“In the presence of the Moon nobody see stars.”

            -Amit Kalantri


I see white and gold, and you see blue and black. I see bigotry, and you see your way of life under attack. Perception divides us and guides us. Our perspectives clash and compete, and the chaos of soundbite culture corrodes civil discourse. Whether the sight of color, the sound of accents, a bad taste left in one's moth or the feeling of self-righteousness, perception is polymathic by nature. Unlearning our most deeply ingrained preconceived notions, and learning how to understand and empathize with each other's perspectives will take not just psychologists and linguists, opthalmologists and communication strategists, but also political scientists and poets, engineers and English teachers. Much of the discord in our relationships with others and ourselves can spring from false perceptions. Cultivating understanding, empathy, and the courage to see beyond the obvious -  the problems and possibilities of perception - will be the focus of our Catalina Polymathic Retreat this year. 





Please create a document of your own with the appropriate information and send in PDF format to Karin Huebner at khuebner@usc.edu by Sunday, January 28, 2018. 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 for 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 Sunday, February 4.


Full Name:


Student ID:






Expected Graduation:




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


  1. This weekend-long conference will facilitate collaboration among students with diverse academic backgrounds. What unique perspective can you contribute to this collaborative venture? (100 words or fewer.)


  1. “We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” - André Berthiaume. What does this quote mean to you? (200 words or fewer.)


  1. What piece of art/media has most profoundly altered your perception of something? How did your perception change? (100 words or fewer.)


  1. Pick 2 of 4 questions below.  Feel free to be creative in your replies.


    1. You have carte blanche to create a Virtual Reality Simulator. What kind of simulation would you create and why? (150 words or fewer.)


    1. What is a mundane part of your life that you could not imagine living without? Why do you consider it so important? (150 words or fewer.)


    1. What is your favorite joke related to the retreat theme?


    1. What person in your life perceives the world most differently from you? What do you think is the cause for this gap in perception? (150 words or fewer.)