Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

One of the most gratifying aspects about my role as the director of the USC Master of Liberal Students Program is to help my students identify the topic of great personal interest to them on which they will write their thesis.  Then comes shepherding the team effort with the program faculty in supporting them as they research and produce their thesis.  The graduating students present a summary of their projects at a colloquium right before graduation to an audience of our faculty, students, alumni, their family, and friends.  The colloquium always is a great celebration which tees up Commencement Day.

Students who have completed their theses and those who have made substantial progress on theirs have the additional opportunity to submit abstracts for consideration for presentation at an annual summer symposium.   This annual symposium, international in scope, is really a wonderful thing.  Six other directors of graduate liberal studies programs and I have worked together for seven years to give our students the chance to experience what it is like to convert a large work into an abstract for submission, and then, if selected, into a 20-minute presentation to the students, alumni, and faculty attending from all the participating programs. 

It’s an honor to be selected – not every submission is – and over the years, my students have come to see the benefit of putting in the extra work to prepare their submission and then prepare for their presentation.  Once Commencement is over, we turn our attention to practice sessions to get the timing down and the Powerpoint finessed. 

This year, I had six students submit and be selected, our largest USC contingency ever.  So this past weekend, we all traveled to the site of this year’s symposium, the charmingly beautiful campus of Dominican University of California in Marin County, right across the Golden Gate and Richmond bridges from San Francisco.  I couldn’t be prouder of the great jobs which each of them did.

Us directors also feel our symposium is important in giving all of our students and alumni the chance to experience being part of a larger academic community and get to know colleagues from institutions such as Reed College, Stanford, and Maastricht University in the Netherlands.  Us directors also have become good friends over the years and truly look forward to our time together.  As the symposium location has rotated around, from Palo Alto to Portland to Vancouver, down to LA last year when I was the host, and this year back to the Bay area, we have thoroughly enjoyed one another’s campuses and hospitality.  Us directors also are proud of the fact that we do this symposium as an informal consortium on a financial shoestring, which I think accounts for why we have been able to keep it going for a good stretch. 

I know my students are relieved to have their presentations behind them now.  I’ll be encouraging a few of them to push their presentations into the next iteration to submit for publication in a journal.  As one of my law professors said about making law review, it’s rewarding hard work with more hard work.  In a way, I’m sorry to have this year’s symposium over: there’s so much anticipation, and it seems our lovely weekend, even when I was the one worrying about AV and the lunch delivery last year, is over all too quickly. 

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