A Message from Associate Dean Tammy Anderson
A Message from Associate Dean Tammy Anderson
Having trouble viewing this email? Click here to view it online.
USC University of Southern California
Experiential and Applied Learning



What if learning experiences were focused on making a difference in the world? What if we provided the opportunity for young people to take on the biggest challenges of our time? Learners focused on solving issues and making a difference in their local communities and globally are our best hope at getting things right in the future.

At ExL, we see the pandemic as an exceptional opportunity to shift the focus in schools from an obsession with test scores to recognizing the importance and value of social emotional and service learning. The past year has been deeply challenging for all of us, but also offered profound learning opportunities for emotional self-management, conversation, collaboration, cooperation, teamwork, and the sharing of ideas through media. These are the tools by which students will create their future when their grade point average is long forgotten.

These selections from innovative and progressive learning thought leaders, Tom Vander Ark and Emily Liebtag’s insightful and important new book, Difference Making at the Heart of Learning: Students, Schools, and Communities Alive with Possibility address the power of service and informs the mission, values and programs of ExL.

Tom cites the importance of contribution and service embodied in the goal of “Difference Making.” At ExL, we share this vision and place contribution and service as core values when providing programs that offer activities geared to enrich and empower our students.

Here’s Tom and Emily:
"Our first work is to connect, and to create communities and schools where people feel a sense of belonging. We need to start with young people where they are, what they need, and what they care about. Through community-connected projects, young people connect with their strengths and interests, and they gain a sense that they can make a difference."

ExL's focus is to expand on the already impressive array of experiences made available by our incredible faculty and community partners. We have been successful in facilitating experiences that are centered around "engaging students in solving authentic problems as a means to develop them as knowledgeable critical thinkers, communicators, collaborators, creators, and contributors," as Tom and Emily so eloquently outlined. We are well aware that the Difference Makers of tomorrow are getting their inspiration from our programs today. To that end, let's continue to ExL.


Interview by Gabriella Marquez, ExL Communications Intern

The journey to becoming a difference maker at some point began with a spark. That person, instance or circumstance that led to an investment to investigate further.  Our students are facing the incredible challenge of balancing self discovery while navigating a world filled with absolutes; if you don't do this, you'll never be able to achieve that or you only have a small window before the opportunity is missed. Oftentimes, a successful path is one that mirrors the experiences of others.
Our Spark to Flame series is intended to illustrate that some of our most lauded faculty did not take a linear path to achieve the accomplishments seen today.
Our first conversation is with Dean Emily Anderson.  Dean Anderson has been part of the Trojan family since 2004.  Before being appointed as the Dornsife Dean of Undergraduate Education, she taught 18th Century British literature and culture in the English Department and was a professor in the Thematic Options Honors Writing Program.  Find out what was the spark that led to her impressive career in her interview with former student and ExL Communication Intern,  Gabriella Marquez.


Agents of Change Program Director Olu K. Orange and Program Manager Kath Rogers recently published "Agents of Change"– Lessons Learned from the Nation’s First Undergraduate Civil Rights Advocacy Clinic in the latest issue in the Experiential Learning & Teaching in Higher Education journal where they detail the importance of undergraduate civil rights activism clinical models at the university level. 
Click here to read the full article.

Way to ExL Olu and Kath! 

Interview by Ana Sofia Garay, FIP Coordinator

The Financial Inclusion Program (FIP), a collaborative project between USC Dornsife Office of Experiential and Applied Learning, Union Bank and New Economics for Women, is geared to assist micro-entrepreneurs around the greater Los Angeles area.
The eight-week virtual workshops offer free courses to women who want to start or build a business and learn concepts that range from creating a business plan to digital marketing strategies. Workshops are offered in both English and Spanish and participants receive mentorship from both NEW team leaders and Dornsife Economics students. 

Check out what recent alumnae Patricia Moore and Alejandra Conde had to say about their experience in the program.
[FIP] is an awesome spend of time. ~Patricia Moore
The truth is that it is a great opportunity because knowledge never hurts. ~Alejandra Conde


ExL kicked off the semester with the First Annual ExL Experience Fair. Geared to introduce ExL programs to Dornsife students in an immersive way, the day was filled with food trucks, giveaways, prizes, and DJ Hed from 92.3 on the ones and twos.

Our program directors showcased the work they do by facilitating interactive games and activities such as Civil Rights Jeopardy, JEP Yoginis Yoga, and CALIS Trivia.

Take a look at a snapshot from the day.


Joint Educational Project

As the Joint Educational Project is wrapping up the fall 2021 semester and preparing for its 50th anniversary year, we look back to a semester of resilience, change, and community. 

With the prospect of being able to offer at least some in-person components, many of our programs were able to hire a great deal of new full-time and student staff to accommodate for this change. One new full-time staff member, two new graduate students for our service-learning programs, seven new teaching assistants for our STEM Education Programs, one new ReadersPlus Literacy Director, and five new service-learning Program Assistants joined our JEP Family. Not shockingly, yet positively surprisingly, they were met with an even greater number of resilient volunteers ready to serve and reconnect this fall. 

Over 750 USC students signed up this semester to participate in one of the many service-learning opportunities working with our nearby schools, community-based organizations, health-care facilities and legal clinics. They tutored children in various subjects, helped translate immigration documents, mentored high school students to get accepted to their dream college, or volunteered in another meaningful context that was relevant to their academic and personal growth. They also reflected on the purpose and goals of critical service-learning and the relationship we foster with our community surrounding USC. Considering that many students had not stepped foot on campus for over 1.5 years, or – as a matter of fact – at all, it was really important to reconnect and remember our intentions for working with each other while also considering the bigger picture of systemic change.

Change was also apparent in the ReadersPLUS, Little Yoginis, Peace Project and STEM Education Programs. ReadersPLUS and Wonderkids continued their successful virtual programming, once again increasing access to these great opportunities by even more children. In the case of Wonderkids, the online modality allowed for another great semester packed with world-class professional speakers who were able to provide a first-hand look into their day-to-day as a scientist. The hybrid modalities of some of our programs like Little Yoginis, Peace Project, and the Young Scientists Program, which zoomed into in-person LAUSD classrooms, on the other hand, enabled a partial sense of normalcy, even if this required flexibility and creativity from JEP staff. Jessica Stellmann, our interim JEP STEM Education Programs Director, for example, assembled and distributed STEM kits to ensure that every child had their own materials and could safely participate in all classroom activities. Being able to use the Yoga mats that were so graciously donated by our colleagues from the Physical Education department was also a key factor in the success of this hybrid model – further proof that anything can be done with the support of our community.

Community and connection were not only built virtually, however. Our beloved JEP house was finally filled with (masked and socially distanced) laughter and collaboration between our full-time and student staff, who – in limited capacities – were able to meet each other in person again. Our Trojan Health Volunteers were even able to host an outdoor, socially distanced get together for all of their volunteers. Looking ahead to our 50th anniversary in 2022, starting on January 14th (“JEP Day” as declared by LA Mayor Tom Bradley in 1980), we are hopeful to host many more in-person events to continue to connect with past, present, and potential future contributors to JEP’s success in practicing resilience, embracing change, and fostering community.

Overseas Studies

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose big challenges to international travel and study, there are 20 students studying abroad in 7 countries this semester. In the spring, we expect to have 115 students abroad in 10 countries, far short of the usual 340 students in 26 countries, but we are hopeful we will return to those numbers soon. In summer 2022, in addition to sending 12 outstanding students to the Pembroke Cambridge Summer Program and one student to the University of Sussex as an International Junior Research Associate, we will again offer remote international internships — a good opportunity for students with family or work obligations and Dreamers who cannot travel abroad.

This fall, two students on the USC Paris program are engaged in local internships where they are honing their French language skills. One is interning for Bénénova, an NGO which coordinates volunteer opportunities under the slogan “volunteering made easy”; there he organizes volunteer missions, works on the website, and translates documents and advertisements. The other student is interning at MAG Jeunes LGBT, a national association by and for LGBTI+ young people aged 15-30, where he helps organize events such as Gay Pride, among other tasks.

Cinema and Media Studies majors from the School of Cinematic Arts frequently participate in our semester abroad programs to gain new perspectives on narrative and to see how the creative industries work in different countries. Jesús Núñez, a first-generation student from El Paso, is in Milan taking  Gender in Italian Cinema and The Golden Age of Italian Cinema. He revels in exploring the city with walks past the stunning marble-façade Duomo, savoring sunsets over the picturesque cityscape while practicing his Italian. Carolyn Knapp, studying in Athens, has been interning with the film production company Anemon Productions and has been busy in pre production, assisting the director of an upcoming music and arts documentary feature.

We are happy to announce three new semester programs in Latin America. Students interested in biodiversity and environmental sustainability can spend a semester in the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador. During the semester, they will also visit a field station deep in the Amazon and spend time in Quito. Our second new program is a semester in Quito, where students can take courses in their majors and minors as well as learn Quechua and volunteer in local communities. Our third program is at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, where students will study alongside local students and engage in service learning.  
Carolyn Knapp speaking about youth’s role in film and music culture at a panel in Athens hosted by the Plissken Festival and the British Council.
Photo of a sunset in Milan, taken by Jesús Núñez.
Jesús Núñez taking a selfie in front of the Duomo in Milan.

Physical Education & Mind Body Health

Wow!  It’s been a wild ride in the land of PE the past year and a half.  Taking an activity-based, experiential learning program and moving it completely online presented some unique challenges as we became primarily a mind body fitness program and were forced to cancel many of our sports and activities classes.  Both students and teachers alike were amazing in their response to this new way of teaching and learning.  Feedback was positive, with students truly appreciating the physical, mental and social outlet in their otherwise sedentary daily routine.

Like all of our other ExL programs, it appears that we have weathered the storm and have made a complete recovery.  Our exciting return to in-person teaching resulted in most of our fall classes reaching maximum enrollment, and spring semester classes are almost all at full capacity just a few weeks into registration.  New course offerings for the fall included Acro Yoga, Self Defense and Safety, and Sleep for Peak Performance.  All went well and plans for adding more sections are underway.

Other first-time course offerings for the upcoming spring semester will include Badminton and Principles of Yoga through Community Outreach, which is in partnership with our friends in JEP.  We are especially excited about this course, which provides students the opportunity to learn yoga and then give back to the community by sharing what they learn in area grade schools.  Another promising spring partnership is with Keck Medicine involving a research study that will track health outcomes for students enrolled in our mind body courses.

We have also been busy plotting our strategy for continued growth by proposing two more new courses. Distance Running along with Sustainability and Self Care are on tap for fall 2022, pending curriculum committee approval.  In addition, we will be offering a Mind Body Studies Minor beginning fall 2022 (pending committee approval).  This will be an interdisciplinary study allowing students to examine mental and physical health for a multi-dimensional view of mind-body awareness. An additional project that has been in the works for some time now, involves a name change that better represents our expanding program.  This coming spring, Physical Education officially becomes  Physical Education & Mind Body Health (PEMBH).

Lastly, we are all very proud of two of our PEMBH faculty and their recently published books.  Congratulations to Linda Yaron Weston for publishing Mindfulness for Young Adults: Tools to Thrive in School and Life, and Amanda Gilbert for publishing Kindness Now.

Stay healthy everyone.  Go PEMBH.  Go ExL.

Agents of Change

Responding to the urgency of our time, USC's ExL department launched "Agents of Change: Civil Rights Advocacy Initiative” in January 2021 to support USC student activism in the Los Angeles community. AOC fills a vital need for students who are eager to take action on justice issues by providing stipends to support this important work. 

Agents of Change has established relationships with nearly 40 community partners ranging from grassroots activist groups such as Black Lives Matter, legal services groups like the Legal Aid Foundation, and government entities like the California Governor’s Office. Students participate in three internships over the course of two years that focuses on community activism, government policy, and legal advocacy. AOC students also benefit from custom-tailored curricula that connects their field work to classroom learning.

Over the past year, AOC students have interned with more than a dozen partner organizations and three have been quoted in major news outlets about their work. The program serves a crucial role in bridging the gap between the community and the classroom, creating relationships of trust between the university and local partners. 


Acclimating back into campus life hasn't been an easy transition for our Trojan family. As we culminate this busy semester and gear up for the holidays, Physical Education lecturer JoAnna Hardy has shared a quick five-minute meditation to help us re-center during this holiday season.

JoAnna is co-founder of the Meditation Coalition and an insight meditation practitioner. She co-authored Teaching Mindfulness to Empower Adolescents and has a background in leading silent meditation retreats as well as social justice based meditation classes and workshops. She joined the Physical Education program last semester and recently became a meditation expert, teacher and content developer for Apple, Inc. You can find more of her meditations on the Apple Fitness Plus app.

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


Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
3601 Watt Way, GFS 315 | Los Angeles, CA 90089 US
This email was sent to . To ensure that you continue receiving our emails,
please add us to your address book or safe list.

manage your preferences
opt out if you no longer want to receive USC Dornsife E-Communications
Got this as a forward? Sign up to receive our future emails.

Subscribe to our email list.