Culture target of new group

Debut: New organization begins with slide show about classic art

Contributing Writer
Michael Jackson, USC's Vice President of Student Affairs, and Mark Kann, a political science professor, came together last fall to establish the ambitious Academic Culture Initiative, a program designed to enhance the academic life of students and faculty by encouraging intellectual interaction outside of the classroom.
     "Learning takes place in the classroom, on the campus and in the community," USC Provost Lloyd Armstrong Jr. said at that time. "The goal of the Academic Culture Initiative is to enhance and expand that learning, increasing the number of academic experiences that can take place outside the classroom. Those engaged in the life of the mind are being asked to take it to a higher level."
     On Wednesday, those ideas bore fruit. The "Great Culture Series" lectures was held at Leavey Library Auditorium.
     Ruth Weisberg, the Dean of the School of Fine Arts, served as the chief speaker, sharing her life-long passions for the world of art.
     This lecture series will be held monthly and will help students learn more about diversity in art, music and literature.
     "It is a great opportunity for students to get a sense of the importance of art, music and literature towards making their lives beautiful," Kann said.
     Wednesday's event was the first of many planned during several brainstorming sessions held with faculty and student leaders since last fall.
     "This exciting program will positively affect the lives of students and faculty for years to come," Jackson told the USC Chronicle. "USC is maturing into an institution that is becoming as well-known for the vibrancy of its academic culture as it is for its sports program and social activities.
     "In addition, the Academic Culture Initiative will help the university continue to attract the very best students and faculty from around the world."
     Louise Yates, an assistant dean of engineering who has served on the ACI's planning committees, agreed.
     "It is a very exciting and far-reaching initiative," Yates said. "As we look at ways to go beyond the classroom, I think it's important to develop in our students an intellectual curiosity about the community and world in which they live. It requires involvement from everyone faculty, students and staff."
     There are also plans for a series of dinners at various dining facilities for students to discuss issues of common interests
     "Maybe the faculty can even invite students to their home for dinner," Kann said. "Even simple things like fashioning benches on campus face to face, to form inviting places to sit, can go a long way in increasing faculty-student interaction.
     "We are planning to form sets of tables and chairs near Kaprielian Hall, which virtually lacks casual sitting and interaction place."
     For next spring, organizers are planning a fair where undergraduate and graduate students from various fields such as engineering and fine arts can display their work in graphics and multimedia.
     The Student Advisory Board, a student-run branch of the ACI also has been formed.
     "While faculty was more interested in faculty-student intellectual interactions, students were more interested in ways to improve their job prospects," Kann said. "So we came up with this idea of forming a student organization which would represent the views and opinions of students."
     Dara Purvis, a junior majoring in political science who is also Daily Trojan columnist, volunteered to form the board.
     "The Student Advisory Board will set up a sounding board to serve as a forum to discuss the proposals and ideas of the Academic Culture Initiative, a way to get quick student feedback on different ideas," Purvis said. "It will also act as the first level of a filter for proposals to use funding of the Academic Culture Initiative."

Copyright 2001 by the Daily Trojan. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Vol. 144, No. 22 (Thursday, September 27, 2001), beginning on page 1 and ending on page 10.