Series Calendar

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Learning in a Digital Age

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Monday, February 4th 2019
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
When: 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 241
Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - 17:00

Our second session of the spring 2019 series pairs experts from Engineering and Cinematic Arts to examine the issues surrounding LEARNING IN A DIGITAL AGE.

Polymathic Pairing:

Ning Wang, Research Assistant Professor, USC Institute for Creative Technologies

Marientina Gotsis, Research Associate Professor, School of Cinematic Arts

Photo of Ning Wang

Dr. Ning Wang

Ning Wang conducts research in the area of artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction and intelligent tutoring systems. She leads the HRI-Trust project, which works to calibrate trust in human-robot interactions through the algorithmic development of automatically generated explanations for robots. She also leads the DELTA project that investigates the use of virtual role-play and digital doppelgängers to improve learning transfer and facilitate attitude and behavior change. She is a research assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and a research scientist at Institute for Creative Technologies. She received her B.S. in Computer Science and Technology from Hunan University and completed her Ph.D. dissertation on computational social intelligence in pedagogical agents at USC’s Center for Advanced Research in Technology for Education of the Information Sciences Institute. Her research interests include computational social intelligence, pedagogical agents, intelligent tutoring systems, explainable AI, and persuasive technologies. She is currently the chief scientist at Curious Lab.

Photo of Marientina Gotsis

Marientina Gotsis

Marientina Gotsis has a broad background in arts, design and engineering with a special interest in interactive entertainment applications for health, happiness and rehabilitation. She founded and leads USC’s Games for Health Initiative since 2007, connecting health professionals with innovation in various forms of interactive media. She is cofounder and director of the Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center, an organized research unit between the School of Cinematic Arts and the Keck School of Medicine. This center designs, develops and evaluates entertainment applications at the intersection of behavioral science, medicine and public health. Gotsis has tackled a wide range of knowledge domains and disease topics that include developmental neuroscience, wellness, obesity, nutrition, vision health, exercise, autism, child injury prevention, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and upper limb rehabilitation. She earned a BFA in Photography/Film/Interactive Media and an MFA in Electronic Visualization from the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Prior to EVL, Gotsis was classically trained as a fine artist in Greece at Athens College and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Gotsis has lectured about her research and practice at Apple and Karten Design, presented findings at ACM, IEEE and HCI journals and conferences, as well as medical and public health outlets. She has been an invited think-tank participant at the White House, the Institute For The Future and various NIH/NSF/EU-funded workshops.

2019-02-06 17:00 to 18:30
Quadrants Three and Four

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Sunday, February 10th 2019
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
When: 5:00pm - 7:00pm
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 241
Tuesday, February 12, 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.

Photo of Edwin McCann

Dr. Edwin McCann

A philosopher, literary scholar, and historian, Professor Ed McCann’s research interests center in the history of modern philosophy, especially Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Newton, Kant, and the great early 20th century polymath Ludwig Wittgenstein. Professor McCann is a treasure-trove of knowledge who patiently walks students through not only the complex historical conditions, but also the intellectual climate of each era. With his innovative approach to philosophical and historical inquiry, Professor McCann guides his students to view trials as crucial indicators of society coming to terms with threatening concepts and their implications.

2019-02-12 17:00 to 19:00
PolyFaith: The Dialectic Interplay Between Art, the Body, and Spirituality

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Monday, February 11th, 2019
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
When: 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 241
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 17:00

Presented in collaboration with the USC Interfaith Council.


“When I run, I feel His pleasure.” Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire


Whirling dervishes, reggaes’ beat, aromatic incense, and Greek Orthodox iconography all share something in common—they are each unique portals to the ecstatic, conduits to sublimity. For Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell, his spiritual ecstasy came when he simply ran. How might we understand the complexity of this sort of induced sensual/spiritual intoxication, literally and metaphorically?  For our spring 2019 session of the Polyfaith Series, Varun Soni and James Mchugh will guide us through an interrogation of how ritualistic practices of the physical and sensory body—such as movement, sound, smell, and the visual—adorn the spiritual experience and enhance the devotional life. Their conversation will be moderated by Shradha Jain, President of the USC Interfaith Council.

Dr. Varun Soni

Dr. Varun Soni is the Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California (USC) as well as the Vice Provost of Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention, Adjunct Professor of Religion, and University Fellow at the Annenberg Center on Public Diplomacy. He has led a polymathic life, earning degrees from Harvard Divinity School, a J.D. from UCLA School of Law, and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Cape Town. His research has taken him throughout South Asia where he even spent time living in a Buddhist monastery. He is the author of Natural Mystics: The Prophetic Lives of Bob Marley and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Figueroa Press, 2014) and he produced the critically acclaimed graphic novel Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), which is currently being adapted as a television show. His essays and commentaries have appeared in a number of print and online publications, including CNN, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Jewish Journal, Religion Dispatches, CrossCurrents and Harvard Divinity Bulletin. As a national interfaith leader, Soni has organized and hosted many programs and events with prominent spiritual, scholarly and civic leaders, including His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Archbishop Jose Horacio Gomez, Marianne Williamson, Gary Snyder, Krista Tippett, Chade-Meng Tan, Reza Aslan, Rainn Wilson, Pico Iyer, Lisa Ling, Louis Zamperini, Kobe Bryant and Baaba Maal. For two years, he produced and hosted his own radio show on KPFK-Pacifica (90.7FM, Los Angeles) that showcased music from South Asia and its diaspora.

Dr. James McHugh

Dr. James McHugh

James McHugh studies the cultural and material history of pre-modern India. He works on classical and early medieval Indian materials, mainly working with Sanskrit texts. His first book, "Sandalwood and Carrion: Smell in Indian Religion and Culture" (Oxford University Press, 2012) is about is the sense of smell and the use of aromatics in South Asian religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. He is currently working on a second book: "An Unholy Brew: Alcohol in Indian Religion and History" (under contract with Oxford University Press), about alcohol in South Asian history and religions. This book will draw on textual, art-historical, and ethnographic research into drinking. He also has an interest in the history of gemstones and magic in South Asia.

2019-02-13 17:00 to 18:30