Series Calendar

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Quadrants Three and Four

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Monday, April 8th 2019
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
When: 5:00pm - 7:00pm
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 241
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 17:00

Dr. Edwin McCann conducts a conversational workshop on the third and fourth guiding Quadrants of the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study: (3) the tapestry of knowledge; and (4) communication. Attendance at sessions covering all four quadrants is required for certification as an Academy fellow.

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Dr. Edwin McCann

The Academy for Polymathic Study guides its inquiries through four flexible pathways or Quadrants: (1) critical and integrative thinking; (2) study of the polymaths; (3) the tapestry of knowledge; and (4) communication. In order to explicate these Quadrants more fully, USC professor Edwin McCann will conduct four conversational workshops during the spring semester from a philosophical, historical, and practical point of view. Attendance at these sessions covering all four quadrants is required for certification as an Academy fellow.

2019-04-10 17:00 to 19:00
Data Worlds

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Tuesday, April 9th 2019
Thursday, April 11, 2019
When: 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 241
Thursday, April 11, 2019 - 17:00

Our fourth session of the spring 2019 series pairs two experts from Cinematic Arts and Computer Science to explore the multi-dimensional concerns surrounding DATA WORLDS­including but not limited to: race, gender, cyber security, big data, culture and technology design.

Polymathic Pairing:

Tara McPherson, Chair and Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, School of Cinematic Arts

Emilio Ferrara, Research Assistant Professor, Computer Science, Vitirbi School of Engineering

Tara McPherson

Tara McPherson is Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is a core faculty member of the MAP program, USC’s innovative practice based-Ph.D., and also an affiliated faculty member in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department.  Her research engages the cultural dimensions of media, including the intersection of gender, race, affect and place.  She focuses on the digital humanities, early software histories, and various online communities, as well as upon the development of new tools and paradigms for digital publishing, learning, and authorship.  Her most recent book is Feminist in a Software Lab: Difference + Design (Harvard UP: 2018).  Her Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP: 2003) received the 2004 John G. Cawelti Award for the outstanding book published on American Culture, among other awards.  She is co-editor of Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Duke UP: 2003) and Transmedia Frictions; The Arts, the Humanities, and the Digital (California UP: 2015) and editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected, part of the MacArthur Foundation series on Digital Media and Learning (MIT Press, 2008.)   She is the Founding Editor of Vectors,, a multimedia peer-reviewed journal and was a founding editor of the MacArthur-supported International Journal of Learning and Media.  Tara was among the founding organizers of Race in Digital Space, a multi-year project supported by the Annenberg Center for Communication and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. She has been a fellow at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and participates on numerous boards, film juries, and task forces. With major support from the Mellon Foundation and the NEH, she was the Lead PI on the development of the online authoring platform, Scalar, now situated within the Ahmanson Lab.

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Dr. Emilio Ferrara

Dr. Emilio Ferrara is Research Assistant Professor at the Univerisity of Southern California and Research Leader at the USC Information Sciences Institute. Ferrara holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Messina (Italy), and his research interests include designing machine-learning systems to model and predict individual behavior in techno-social systems, characterize information diffusion and information campaigns, and predict crime and abuse in such environments. His research on social network abuse and crime prediction has been featured on the major news outlets (TIME, BBC, The New York Times, etc.) and tech magazines (MIT Technology Review, Vice, Mashable, New Scientist, etc). He was named IBM Watson Big Data VIP Influencer in 2015, and ranked 28th as Big Data Experts to Follow in 2016 by Maptive. He received the 2016 DARPA Young Faculty Award, and the 2016 Complex System Society Junior Scientific Award. He is a top 0.5% Kaggle competitor and participated in various data science competitions.

2019-04-11 17:00 to 18:30

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Monday, April 15th 2019
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
When: 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 241
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 - 17:00
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Our fifth and final session of the spring 2019 series pairs two experts from Sociology and Law, with special guest moderator Elle Fersan, Director of the Immigrants and Global Migration Initiative.  Through conversation with the panelists and our polymathic student community, we will learn, consider, and generate actionable solutions around the myriad concerns surrounding IMMIGRATION.


Polymathic Pairing:

Jody Agius Vallejo, Sociology

Niels Frenzen, Law

Elle Fersan, IGMI


Photo of Jody Agius Vallejo

Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo

Dr. Jody Agius Vallejo is Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is also associate director of USC’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. Dr. Agius Vallejo holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Agius Vallejo’s research concentrates on: immigrant integration, the Latino middle class, Latino business owners, Latino elites, race and ethnicity, wealth accumulation, and inequality and mobility mechanisms. Dr. Vallejo systematically addresses these issues with a methodological approach that combines the qualitative strengths of traditional sociological inquiry (e.g. in-depth interviews, participant observation, and ethnography) with demographic analysis of representative statistics from the U.S. Census. Her book, Barrios to Burbs: The Making of the Mexican American Middle Class (Stanford University Press, 2012) examines the mechanisms—such as parental legal status, access to higher education, and business ownership—that expedite social mobility and integration into the middle class for Mexican Americans. Dr. Vallejo’s second book, in progress, examines the institutions that support the Latino economic elite, their patterns of ethnic philanthropy, and the challenges and successes they experience in business and in corporate America. She is also a Co-Principal Investigator with Lisa Keister on a project examining heterogeneous integration outcomes of today's new immigrants via the lens of wealth ownership and business ownership. This study, funded by the National Science Foundation, focuses on Chinese immigrant communities and relies on mixed methods including extensive quantitative analyses of large data sets and interviews with Chinese American business owners in Southern California.

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Niels Frenzen

Niels Frenzen specializes in immigration and refugee law and is director of the USC Gould School of Law Immigration Clinic. He has been teaching at USC since 2000 and practicing law since 1985. Prior to joining USC, Frenzen practiced with non-profit law offices: his experience includes working as directing attorney of the Immigrants' Rights Project at Public Counsel in Los Angeles; supervising attorney at the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami; and legislative coordinator of the ACLU of Iowa. He has represented many asylum seekers and other immigrants, has litigated federal court cases challenging the mistreatment of noncitizens, and has litigated immigration court national security cases involving classified evidence. He received his BA from Beloit College and his JD from Drake University Law School. He is admitted to the bars of California, Florida, Iowa, and is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales. Frenzen also writes and blogs about migration from Africa to Europe (

Elle Fersan has recently joined USC as the Director of the Immigrants and Global Migration Initiative. She likes to describe herself as an activist, and works on women, LGBT and immigrant rights in the US and Lebanon. Elle is herself an immigrant from Lebanon and studies the histories of migration from the Middle East to the Americas.

Professionally, she has a career of 15 years in international development, advocacy, campaigning and fundraising working with the US Department of State, the United Nations and Local Governments. Among her accomplishments, she has investigated and uncovered a sex trafficking network of LGBT Syrian refugees, passed the first public non-smoking ban in a city in the Middle East and North Africa region and accelerated in inclusion of women political participation through devising and funding of programs both at the local and national levels in Lebanon.

She is founder and CEO of Global Nexus Solutions, a company that provides expert advice on fundraising and international development to NGOs and universities.

She is a Global Women Leader Eisenhower Fellow (2015), One of UNESCO’s Top 40 Lebanese Women from the Grassroots and laureate of numerous US Department of State honor awards for her contributions to civil society development.

Follow her on all social media platforms at: @ellefersan and @USCigmi

2019-04-17 17:00 to 18:30