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USC University of Southern California
Experiential and Applied Learning



Welcome to Spring 2024!

As we embark on this new semester, I am particularly excited about the following dynamic opportunities to expand Experiential Learning at USC Dornsife and beyond: 


STUDENTS SAY EXL LAB DELIVERS TRANSFORMATIONAL EXPERIENCE - Kiel Shaub, Academic Curator for EXL Lab, continues the Lab’s Transformation Series to rave reviews by students. This semester, PART IV -- Discover Freedom: An Experiential Journey of Acceptance in Action. 

FINANCIAL LITERACY IS A VALUABLE LIFE SKILL IN & AFTER COLLEGE–Eager to give back to both Dornsife and the local community, Alumna, Veretta Everhart makes a generous gift to the Financial Inclusion Program.  


I encourage each of you to explore the ExL website, engage with the opportunities they present for our students. 

Here's to a semester filled with growth, discovery, and success!

All the best,

Interview by Gabriella Marquez, ExL Communications Intern

Our students are facing the incredible challenge of balancing self-discovery while navigating a world filled with disqualifiers. In one instance, we tell students the path to success is more than resume building then require an extensive list of "accomplishments" to be considered for achievements ranging from scholarships to honor societies. 
If ever a spark were to be ignited, some of our students would be too overwhelmed with crafting the perfect dossier to foster the flame that brings passion, growth and ultimately success - whatever that looks like.
Our Spark to Flame series serves to dispel the notion that success is a linear path with no room for error or deviation.
In this edition of Spark to Flame, we are delighted to shine a spotlight on the remarkable Dr. Ivette Gomez, whose journey as an educator has been nothing short of inspiring. Since the fall of 2010, Dr. Gomez has been an integral part of the USC community, dedicating herself to the art of teaching and fostering a deep appreciation for the Spanish language and its rich cultural tapestry. Her pedagogical ability extends from instructing foundational Spanish language courses, predominantly Spanish II and Spanish III, to leading upper-division courses that explore the intricate relationships between literature, arts, politics, and societies in Spain and Latin America. Dr. Gomez's commitment to experiential learning takes center stage as the director of the Cuba Maymester program, a transformative four-week initiative that immerses students in the dynamic intersection of contemporary arts production and political and societal issues in present-day Cuba.
Having earned her PhD at the University of California Irvine in 2009, specializing in Hispanic Caribbean and Latin American Cultural Studies, Dr. Gomez brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role. Prior to joining USC, she taught at Pomona College in Claremont, laying the foundation for her impactful career in academia.
Join us as we delve into Dr. Ivette Gomez's journey, celebrating her passion for teaching, cultural exploration, and the profound connections she fosters between students and the diverse landscapes of Spain, Latin America, and Cuba - from sparking curiosity to igniting a flame of understanding.


We are pleased to welcome two new instructors to the Washington DC Program.
This spring semester, our signature politics course, “How Washington Works” is being taught by esteemed journalist and politico, Chuck Todd. Mr. Todd is a five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist and NBC News’ chief political analyst. Previously, he was NBC News’ political director and the moderator of the longest-running show on television, Meet the Press, for nearly a decade. During that time, Todd served as a primary anchor for the network’s primetime political and election programming and spearheaded NBC News’ political coverage across all the network’s platforms and news programs. Currently Mr. Todd is NBC’s chief political analyst. 
In our effort to bring a little DC to LA, the Dornsife Washington DC Program welcomes our first foreign policy fellow to campus. Mr. David Livingston is the first practitioner in residence. He joins us after leaving his position with the Biden administration where he was senior advisor and managing director for energy in the office of U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry. He provided strategic counsel to Secretary Kerry on matters related to energy, trade, and investment. 

An alumnus of USC, Mr. Livingston is an expert on the geoeconomics of energy and a faculty member in the Dornsife Washington, DC Program since 2014. He will teach an environmental studies course on the global energy transition and  is his first course taught in Los Angeles.

Welcome to LA!

USC’s new Yoga and The Healing Sciences Teacher Training Program (YHSX) is a unique, rich, diverse, comprehensive, and therapeutic approach to Yoga. With classes held from January 13 – May 5, 2024 on the University Park Campus, the YHSX program is ideal for students and working professionals and is a joint collaboration between the PEMBH department, YogaUSC, and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. 

Led by Dr. Eden Goldman, Malibu chiropractor, celebrity Yoga therapist, wellness author, and lecturer in the USC Physical Education & Mind-Body Health Department,  and Sara Ivanhoe, lecturer in the USC Physical Education & Mind-Body Health Department, the YSHX program features 25+ of L.A.’s top Yoga instructors, Yoga therapists, and Yoga-oriented Doctors on our guest faculty who will help guide you in evolving your Yoga practice. 

Mark your calendars and visit PEMBH for more information and to register!


Paracosm: Surviving the Trials of Reality by Creating Worlds of Fantasy  
Paracosms are alternative destinations of refuge and revelation, born out of need, desire, or fear. They are a distanced but intimate place to manifest your desires, fears, aspirations and hope; a world where you can discover who you are by the consequence of choices and trials. The worlds of Paracosm hold a secret: they may be the creation of your mind and imagination, but once brought alive and given form, they will choose their own path through light and darkness and take you where they are going.

In our digital Social Media culture that thrives on attention and approval by others, what fantastic avatars of ourselves are we neglecting in alternative realities of our own creation? How do these imaginative worlds serve us in our communication and relationship with others in the external world?

In this six-week program, we will dive deep into the worlds of Paracosm created by writers, filmmakers, poets, and composers, some of whom will join us on our journey. We will discover the world-building tools they use and the foundations on which their worlds reside. We will experience and share how to use tools and skills within our imagination to construct our own worlds that will serve as destinations of refuge and sanctuary, inspiration and renewal.

Program Duration: 6 Weeks (Jan 31 – Mar 20)
Day & Time: Wednesdays, 5-7 pm
Place: URC Fishbowl
Program Lead: Kiel Shaub, Ph.D.

Click here for more information.
Discover Freedom: An Experiential Journey of Acceptance in Action 
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” -Carl Jung

 “For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 Recall a time when you felt truly accepted. It’s that powerful combination of contentment, joy, and calm that floods in when we are welcomed into a new community, or told by someone we care about that we are enough, just the way we are. 

Perhaps even more vividly do we recall the opposite of acceptance, those times when we felt ostracized or excluded from a person or community we wanted to be a part of. What does that exclusion do to someone? What does it do to you? 

Now what happens when we turn this feeling around? What happens when we turn acceptance into an action? When acceptance becomes something we do, how does that action have the potential to transform our lives? to free us from the burdens we were laboring under? 

In this five-week program, we’ll experience, explore, and share the power of radical acceptance from these different angles. We’ll learn to accept ourselves, so that we can accept others. We’ll reflect on those aspects of existence we struggle to accept, to discover the light dawning just beyond. 

Only when we radically accept can we truly be free. Join us, and discover the transformative power of acceptance for yourself. 
Program Duration: 6 Weeks (Feb. 13th – April 2nd)
Day & Time: Tuesdays, 5-7 pm
Place: URC Fishbowl
Program Lead: Kiel Shaub, Ph.D.

Click here for more information.
The National Systems-Impacted Writers Awards
Contest Theme: PLACE

Deadline: March 15th, 2024

In an original creative piece (specific criteria below) reflect on the theme of “place” - however you interpret it. A place can be real or imagined, here or over there, somewhere you choose to go to or somewhere you are placed within. We can think of a place as it is, as it was, or as it could be. Tell us about your childhood home, the country you’d most like to visit, or a utopian place that doesn’t yet exist outside of your imagination. We’re interested in reading your reflections, your stories, your memories, and your dreams. 

Use the guidelines above to frame your piece and demonstrate a genuine grappling with the topic, employing specificity and detail. (Note: you do not need to include the word “place” in your piece, though you may if you would like to.) Please submit either a traditional essay (max: 1000 words) or a piece in a different genre, which could be a piece of fiction, poetry, songwriting, rap lyrics, journalistic exposé, comic strip, or another genre that interests you. We are also accepting 2D art entries for the cover of the chapbook.

1. By submitting to the USC PEP Systems Impacted Writers Contest you confirm that you      are the sole owner of the Work and have the full power to grant the USC PEP the rights to publish the Work. 
2. You agree the Work is original and has not been published anywhere else or in any other form, either in print or digitally. 
3. We will not consider submissions under review elsewhere (e.g., other contests and publications).
4. If your submission is accepted for publication, you grant the Prison Education Project a royalty-free license to use your submission in all formats and media published or distributed by the Prison Education Project or its partners and affiliates.

Deadline: Entries must be received by March 28. Entries received after March 28 will be considered on a case-by-case basis at USC PEP’s discretion.
Winners will be notified by May 15, via post or electronic mail.

Payment: USC PEP will work with winning creators to facilitate payment. Because every artist’s situation is unique and many of our winners are in-custody, please be aware that payment may take up to six months to receive after notification. In-custody writers may be asked to select a proxy who is not in-custody to receive payment (e.g., a family member, a trusted friend, etc.). If a proxy is unavailable, we will work with you to determine another method of payment.    

This year we will be awarding a first-place, second-place, and third-place prize, as well as ten honorable mentions. All winning pieces will receive a publication fee ($500 for the cover artist, $500 for first, second, and third-place winners, and $100 for each of the honorable mentions). The winning pieces will be featured in a chapbook published by the USC Dornsife Prison Education Project. All winners will receive copies of the chapbook.

Please either submit pieces via email to pep@dornsife.usc.edu or mail them to us at: 

National Systems-Impacted Writers' Contest, 
USC Prison Education Project
950 W Jefferson Blvd., JEF 150
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1293
Students or faculty who are interested in participating in processing, evaluating and judging manuscripts, please contact:
Jessica Hatrick


Extraordinary Community Service

This $1,000 cash award is given to a graduating senior or progressive Master student for their service to the community

Find the application form for Spring 2024 here!

Grace Ford Salvatori Community Service Scholarship

Three of these $10,000 tuition scholarships are given based upon a proven record of community service, civic leadership, high academic performance, and demonstrated financial need. Open to current sophomores and juniors with Dornsife majors or minors.

Find the application form for Spring 2024 here!

Desiree Benson Work-Study Grant

This $2,000 grant is open to sophomores and juniors who have been awarded federal work-study in their financial aid package and have demonstrated service to the community with emphasis on the neighborhoods surrounding our USC campus.

Find the application form for Spring 2024 here!

Barbara Seaver Gardner Award

This $1000 award is open to a graduating senior and was established in 2008 by then Vice President of Civic and Community Relations, Samuel Mark, who wanted to honor JEP’s founder and first director, Barbara Seaver Gardner, who retired in 1990. This award recognizes one graduating senior, who through successful participation in JEP (over several semesters) has demonstrated steadfast commitment to community service, with an emphasis on the community surrounding the University Park Campus.

Find the application form for Spring 2024 here!


The Dick Cone Award for Graduate Engaged Scholarship

Named in honor of Richard “Dick” Cone—JEP’s Executive Director from 1980-2002—the Cone Award is intended to honor and recognize the efforts of graduate students who bring advanced awareness and skills to address specific needs in the community.  This work can take a variety of forms, including:

1. A research project conducted with or on behalf of a community agency or organization;
2. A film, article or other media project that addresses community concerns, gives voice to and/or assists community agencies or institutions in carrying out their missions;
3. Curricula designed to address some identified community need;
4. An established or pilot program that is structured is such a way that it will be maintained beyond the time the student is guiding it;
5. A grant proposal written with or on behalf of a community agency or institution
6. Pro bono professional consultation
7. Any other work that promotes community development/empowerment

Non-progressive degree Master and Doctoral students eligible.

Find the application form for Spring 2024 here!

For more information on how to ExL in Experience, visit the ExL website.

Watch our ExL trailer.

Support ExL experiences by donating here.

Donate to ExL


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