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USC University of Southern California
Experiential and Applied Learning



Happy New Year!
Welcome back to USC. It's an exciting time for Experiential Learning in Dornsife.  I took some time during my break to reflect on 2022: from celebrating 50 years of JEP's service-learning programs to our Mock Trial students having a near perfect competitive season, our experiential learning opportunities are growing, and our students are thriving.
2023 is off to a fantastic start for ExL. The Prison Education Project began their Inside Out writing workshop WRIT 320 course where, for the first time, incarcerated students will receive academic credit. Our Washington DC students arrived in our nation's capital and learning through extraordinary internships. We can now share the exciting announcement that two of our Agents of Change students have been selected as 2022 Soros Justice Fellows.
I am thrilled to report that we are full steam ahead with our newly launched EXL Lab @ USC. The inclusion of the Lab to our already stellar programming brings new ways for us to explore how and why we learn through experience via partnerships with members of our Dornsife faculty, and community and corporate partners. Read more about the EXL Lab, its vision, mission, and programs in this issue.
I wish you a year filled with meaningful and fulfilling experiences and look forward to hearing all the wonderful ways in which you seek to ExL.

All the best,

Interview by Gabriella Marquez, ExL Communications Intern

Written by Amber Harris, ExL Innovation and Implementation Manager

Our Spark to Flame series serves to dispel the notion that success is achieved only by crafting and following a well thought out plan, executed by a definitive end date.
Unfortunately, many of our students believe and are often encouraged to choose the path with the highest probability for achieving financial gain. Very rarely are our students encouraged to seek meaning, purpose or self fulfilment. The goal of the ExL office is to offer programming that hopefully speaks to both - offers areas of discovery for self fulfillment while presenting areas for financial success (whatever that may mean to the student).
Dornsife's faculty are comprised of some of the nation's leading thinkers, thought provokers and change agents.  However, they themselves embarked into areas unknown and found success that may have not mirrored their counterparts. Our hope is for students to not only be inspired, but remain patient as they journey to unearth their own spark.
This issue's conversation is with Karen Figueroa, Program Manager of the USC Dornsife Agents of Change: Civil Rights Advocacy Initiative (the first undergraduate civil rights clinic in the nation).  
Karen Figueroa is a civil rights attorney who graduated first in her class at Trinity Law School. She served as editor-in-chief of the law review, and was awarded “Law Student of the Year” at the finish of her third year. Karen was first prompted to pursue law during her first year of college when she learned about the financial obstacles that prevent many litigants from obtaining justice. In the pursuit of her goal to practice law, she joined the USC Trial Advocacy Program, where she excelled at trial advocacy and was hired as a Teaching Assistant. As a member of the program, Karen volunteered with Public Counsel as a rights advocate for persons who were at risk for, or facing homelessness, as well as for persons with disabilities in need of essential resources.
After graduating magna cum laude from USC and before entering law school, she gained more experience in the civil rights field as a legal assistant at Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP and as a case worker at Orange Law Offices, P.C. As a civil rights case worker, she helped defend Title 1 school children who were at risk of losing many of their learning spaces to a charter school takeover.
Karen also worked as a legal writer/case briefer at the Los Angeles Daily Journal, where she wrote legal case briefs for daily publication to attorneys and judges state-wide. In law school, she spent the summer of her second year as a religious rights legal assistant where she helped draft appellate level briefs.
Find out what was the spark that led to her impressive career in her interview with ExL Communication Intern,  Gabriella Marquez.

Written by Robert Gould, President, Imaginosis Media Design/Consulting Director, EXL Lab @ USC

The Office of Experiential and Applied Learning has launched the new Dornsife EXL Lab. Collaborating with national and global thought leaders and media companies from varied sectors, the lab will explore how and why we learn. The EXL Lab believes the world is our classroom; it is where curiosity inspires innovation. Working together within a “maker space” context, we curate and create dynamic tools, methods, and practices for student success and fulfillment in their personal, academic, and professional lives.


We know that our students will have several careers within their lifetime, some of which may be outside their current area of study. We believe the ability to tell an engaging story particularly to a resistant audience is an essential and invaluable life skill.

Through the EXL Lab, we give our students lifetime learning skills, methods, practices, and habits of mind that allow them to successfully navigate the many diverse career opportunities before them once they leave the university. These abilities transcend subject and create a deep sense of personal identity, agency, meaning, and impact.

What We Do:
- Curate and connect commercial companies with academic institutions
- Facilitate and mediate innovative partnerships and projects 
- Create, activate, and evaluate partnership programs and events 
- Serve and support undergraduates and secondary schools in underserved communities 

Our goal at the EXL Lab is to integrate academic study with experiential, applied real-world context and experience with opportunities from our national and international corporate partners: “learning by doing.” We believe understanding the process is essential to learning like the scientific method or design thinking. Knowing how to approach a challenge or problem can be more valuable than "finding the answer." Core EXL Lab learning abilities focus on how to research, curate, communicate, collaborate, compose, design, present, defend, activate, and evaluate.

We believe meaningful learning is spatial; we seek to inspire and support students to move confidently and comfortably between traditional and new media and to introduce them to state-of-the-art, innovative technology, and disciplines while working and creating collaboratively and cooperatively. We integrate state-of-the-art hybrid technology and methods and practices into all lab programs to increase reach and scope of programs nationally and internationally. We believe in giving back to the communities around USC to integrate community service, especially working with regional schools, within all programs, emphasizing the responsibility of global citizenship and local community contribution. 
Undergraduate Programs 

At the EXL Lab, we ground all lab courses and programs in story, narrative, visual ideation, composition, and conversation; the fundamental experiences through which homo sapiens learn and grow. We introduce, integrate, and support experiential “learning by doing” methods into faculty practice, curricula, and student experience. We do this by providing “maker space” experiences for students to apply their academic knowledge practically and within a “difference making” context that builds identity, agency, ethos, and values. We are currently producing programs with the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life and developing programs with the Art History and Thematic Option departments as well as, in active discussion with international communications, experience design, and AR/VR companies. 


The EXL Lab mediates, applies, and supports the transformation of academic content into experiential learning practice in real-life applications that otherwise may be conceptually elusive or challenging. The lab supports faculty members in adopting and implementing experiential learning methods and practices as teaching methods, increasing content appeal, engagement, relevance, and value to students. We offer faculty the opportunity to partner with EXL Lab and use EXL’s resources, assets, methods, and connections on and off campus. The lab enables multi-disciplinary approaches and community connections that inform course content and curriculum as well as enrich and deepen the academic experience of students and faculty involved.
Robert Gould, Consulting Director, EXL LAB @ USC
For over 40 years, Robert Gould has been involved with the development, creation and production of images, design, and story for all media and education. An international award-winning designer, art director, live events producer and experience designer, Robert’s passion and expertise is working with creatives, visual artists, writers, and brands in all media to strategically create, develop, produce, distribute, and manage intellectual properties, brand narratives, and progressive education initiatives. Robert has worked in education though several non-profit organizations for 30 years and was part of the founding team that created The Accelerated School in South LA.  In the past five years, Robert applied his interest in the value of transferable skills and his non-academic experience design assets to his work in education to the creation of the EXL Lab concept. Last year, in collaboration with the Associate Dean of Experiential and Applied Learning, Tammara Anderson, he created the EXL Lab @ USC, where academic and non-academic partners develop and implement experiential learning and maker-based programs based in his philosophy.  

Kiel Shaub, Academic Curator, EXL LAB @ USC
Kiel Shaub is the Academic Curator for the EXL Lab. Since joining the team in May, Kiel has developed and articulated the EXL Lab’s core educational infrastructure, as well as designed and taught its dynamic experiential and maker-focused programs and events in collaboration with USC faculty and the Lab’s non-academic partners. 
Previously, Kiel taught as a lecturer in the English Department at UCLA where he received his Ph.D. in 2020. Kiel’s literary research, focusing on romanticism, aesthetics, critical theory, and the history of science, has appeared or is forthcoming in The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Romanticism, Romantic Circles, the Keats-Shelley Journal, William Blake’s Gothic Imagination, and Female Voices—1770-1830.  
Want to know more about ExL and how we can work together?  Email us at exl@dornsife.usc.edu.
Katherine Owojori       Major: Political Science   Minor: Business Law Graduates: May 2023
Irene Franco Rubio      Major: Sociology          Minor: Race, Ethnicity and Politics                    Graduates: May 2023

Interview by Gabriella Marquez, ExL Communications Intern

Among Open Society's list of 2022 Soros Justice Fellows, were ExL  Agents of Change's very own Katherine Owojori and Irene Franco Rubio.
The Agents of Change Civil Rights Advocacy Initiative is the first experiential undergraduate civil rights clinic in the nation.
The Soros Justice Fellowship funds outstanding individuals to undertake projects that advance reform, spur debate, and catalyze change on a range of issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system. 

Katherine Owojori and Irene Franco Rubio will explore the incarceration and criminalization of young people of color in our public school system through a #SchoolsNotPrisons podcast, YouTube series, and other media. 

Katherine was born and raised in Compton, CA, and is currently a senior majoring in political science with a minor in business law. In addition to being a pre-law student, and advocate with Agents of Change, she is an active member of Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles’ policy team. After graduation, Katherine hopes to earn a JD and become a practicing attorney and work to reform civil rights laws in California. 

Irene is a social justice activist, writer, and community organizer from Phoenix, AZ. Of Guatemalan and Mexican descent, Irene remains grounded in community and is devoted to creating an intersectional movement for change rooted in abolition. She has worked as a local grassroots organizer for the Arizona Coalition for Change and organized nationally for Michelle Obama's nonprofit, "When We All Vote." A writer and public thought leader, Irene is a Public Voices fellow of the Op-Ed Project at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Humanity in Action fellow, John Robert Lewis scholar, Othering & Belonging Institute fellow at University of California at Berkeley, and others.  As a media professional engaged at the intersection of activism and journalism, she has been recognized as a Facebook Journalism Project scholar, Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News scholar, International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) scholar, and ProPublica Diversity scholar. Irene continues to center her activism at the intersection of media and justice as a global citizen and catalyst for change.
Hear what these two impressive change agents have to say about how being a Soros Fellow will allow them to continue to ExL.


Written by Amanda Bloom, Director Fisher Fellowship/Associate Professor (Teaching) of Writing

The Second Annual Fisher Fellows Onboarding Retreat at the USC Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island hosted seven new Fellows.  With current Fellows in attendance to help welcome the new cohort, all attendees spent a weekend filled with hiking, kayaking and a tour of the facility.  The weekend is meant to set the stage for several service projects slated for this semester.
In addition, the fellows participated in bonding exercises and were able to have 1-on-1 meetings with me to start charting short and long-term aspirational goals. 
Our current fellows are thriving and accomplishing many noteworthy achievements. Annmarie Easy, was just admitted to the Global Fellows Program where she'll spend 6 weeks in Asia this summer, Blanca Godoy just started her tenure as a Research Gateway Fellow, Lula Haji just started her PDP in Legal Studies, along with an internship with UCLA Law School, Raymiro Gomez-Galiano was offered an Administrative Internship with LA Metro (starting this month), Bryan Velazquez-Flores was accepted into the Italian Language And Culture maymester in Rome and offered a paid internship with Deloitte's Seattle office this summer, Evelyn Marquez is studying abroad this semester at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands (a partner of USC's Office of Overseas Studies), Jocelyn Leon was tapped as a Community Health Organizer for Keck School of Medicine, Quynh Nguyen is thriving as an intern with the Public Defender's Office (an AOC placement) and Luis Tan was named as a finalist for the USC Latino Alumni Association Dr. John R. Hubbard Recognition Award.
Our fellows are off to amazing start!



Written by Amanda Bloom, Director Fisher

Fellowship/Associate Professor (Teaching) of Writing

Each year, the USC Latino Alumni Association bestows the Dr. John R. Hubbard Recognition Award to an outstanding undergraduate Latino student graduating in the upcoming academic year for their academic achievement, leadership and community service. This year, our ExL Fisher Fellow, Luis Wualdemar Tun Orozco was named a finalist for this prestigious award.

Luis is a first-generation, low-income, indigenous Mayan immigrant, and LGBTQ+ pre-law student born in Muna, Yucatan, Mexico but raised in Newbury Park, California. He is a USC Norman Topping Student Aid Fund Scholar and USC Dornsife Fisher Fellow. 

Growing up, Luis struggled with financial insecurity, being undocumented, and finding his true passion. Being raised by Mexican immigrant parents, he was taught to pursue only two career paths: doctor and lawyer. USC was a transitional period for him and allowed him to gain financial security but also the opportunity to explore and discover other career paths. Both the USC LAA’s mentor and Society 53 (USC Student Alumni Society) gave him the personal and professional opportunity to grow; he was exposed to and guided to explore other career paths. Luis also used his college education to explore different fields of studies and careers; he found he had an interest in data analytics and technology. 

Outside of USC for the past seven years, he has been volunteering and interning with the Westminster Free Clinic––a non-profit focused on providing free healthcare and low-income families in Ventura County––in various roles: medical assistant, student manager, data management analyst, and a Board of Director. He has used his USC education to help advocate for patients and build the clinic’s data management and visualization to show impact to donors, foundations, and other stakeholders. He has worked in various roles, but he holds two items as his biggest contributions to the clinic. The first is being a yearly speaker to other first-generation, low-income high school students and encouraging them to pursue higher education––similar to him. The second is he worked to advocate at the Board of Supervisors for a one-million-dollar funding to open a second clinic in Oxnard to serve primarily Latino farm workers.

Inside USC, he has been part of Society 53 and the USC Dornsife Fisher Fellowship. Through Society 53, he has helped in various roles as Vice President and worked to make programming accessible to low-income and minority students. He has coordinated networking and professional development for USC students. However, Fisher Fellowship has been the most rewarding and meaningful USC organization he has been involved in. From planning over 8 service events, recruiting two new cohorts, building their social media presence, and restructuring the organization, Luis has made it his mission to leave a strong foundation for the fellowship before graduating. He hopes his work will leave a lasting impact and structure for future Fisher Fellows––other low-income and first-generation USC Dornsife students.

Following his graduation from USC, Luis will be working at Goldman Sachs as a Human Capital Management analyst in Dallas, Texas. Luis wants to gain experience in the private sector to network, learn more about the finance sector, and develop his technical skills. After a few years of work experience, he plans to attend a top 5 MBA program and pivot his career into technology or entrepreneurship. He has a vision of creating his social enterprise focused on financial literacy and professional development. He wants to work directly with underrepresented populations, such as the first-generation, low-income, and immigrant Latino communities.
Award winners will be announced during the LAA's scholarship gala held on Saturday, March 11, 2023. 


Written by Robert Gould, President, Imaginosis Media Design/Consulting Director, EXL Lab @ USC

This past fall, the EXL Lab @ USC in partnership with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life hosted the first program in the "TRANSFORMATION" series called Discover Your Gift: The Transformative Power of Gratitude in Action.  
Through select readings, conversations with special guests, journaling, and shared experience, this five-week journey explored gratitude in motion and action. Participants were given tools to activate the immense power of gratitude in both their personal and professional lives.
The course culminated with participants creating a project that spoke to the power of gratitude in their life as a force for inspiration, transformation, and community.

Here's what students had to say:

Interested in learning more about the concepts explored in our Transformation series? Join us for our conversations on Empathy held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-7pm in the University Fishbowl. It's not too late to join!

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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