Using Research To Make A Difference

When people daydream about Los Angeles, they think of beaches and Hollywood glamour.  Though Los Angeles is a city filled with wonder and awe, it is not free from flaws. There are over 58,000 homeless people who call Los Angeles “home,” a community that far outnumbers the rich and famous. Although homelessness is not a new societal issue, it is a rising one. Efforts like the Hunger and Homeless Awareness week, recognized in the second week of November, try to bring attention to the problems of hunger and homelessness within the country.   This summer, the Graduate School’s DIA JumpStart program gave a student the opportunity to research ways to improve and assist the homeless community in Los Angeles.

Shayna La Scala

Shayna La Scala is a senior at California State University Fullerton and a Ronald E. McNair Scholar.  She majoring in human services with an emphasis on mental health, as well as minoring in sociology and health sciences. Through JumpStart, she had the opportunity to research water, sanitation and hygiene accessibility for the homeless community in Los Angeles.

“I applied to eight programs and DIA JumpStart was one of the programs,” La Scala said.  “I was looking at everything in California all the way to Boston.”

The DIA JumpStart program is a summer research experience open to students from local undergraduate serving institutions who are completing their sophomore and junior year. As part of USC’s Graduate Initiative for Diversity, Inclusion and Access (DIA), the DIA JumpStart program provides academic, financial and professional support and opportunities for students who want to pursue a doctorate degree after their undergraduate studies.  Partnering with other USC schools and programs, DIA JumpStart provides summer research opportunities that range from lab-based research to mentored participation in faculty projects. After the 10-week experience, students have the opportunity to present their research.

Dr. Robert Vos is one of the many faculty members who work with the DIA JumpStart program.  He is the Director of Graduate Studies with the USC Spatial Sciences Institute directing the Population, Health and Place doctoral program. Dr. Vos believes that it is vital to give undergraduate students an opportunity to participate in a summer research practicum and connect with current PhD students.

“DIA JumpStart is a wonderful thing that USC does. It is an unusual thing [for] schools to have the resources to have their own program,” said Dr.Vos. “It is an impressive evidence of the Provost’s commitment to diversity.”

During the DIA JumpStart program, La Scala was hosted by Dr. Vos as she conducted research in the Spatial Sciences Institute’s Population, Health and Place graduate program. During the research seminar, La Scala sat through project presentations from second and third year PhD candidates and got to select the project she wanted to work on.

Skid Row, Downtown Los Angeles

“The [project] that I ended up choosing investigated water and restroom accessibility for homeless people in downtown LA,” La Scala said. “The passion of the PhD candidate that presented to us, Johanna, was shining through.  I was drawn to her passion.”

La Scala’s research team highlighted the marginalized position that homeless people experience in their everyday life; including the lack of access to safe and clean sanitation services. Their study specifically examined the scarcity and accessibility of those resources within Los Angeles.  During the program, La Scala participated in literature reviews and a research seminar. She then had the opportunity to “ground truth” her data by interviewing over 100 people living on Skid Row and employees at local business to gauge the response to homelessness in Los Angeles.

“After doing the reading, I went into it opened minded not knowing what to expect,” La Scala said. “I visited Skid Row previously on other volunteer projects to help feed the homeless or provide blankets, but it had been years ago. When I got [ to Skid Row] I felt surprised because nothing had changed.”

As she completed her field work, La Scala had discovered new harsh realities about homelessness.  Water is a basic human right, and yet many people do not have access to it. Some businesses allow homeless people to use their facilities, but many do not.  This forces homeless people to use public fountains and park restrooms, which is also a safety and public health concern especially after dark.

La Scala and team conducting interviews on Skid Row.

“Many counties in Southern California have public health initiatives that are pushing people to count for 60 seconds while washing your hands, but what about the large population of people who don’t have any access to water?” La Scala said.

Though La Scala’s research was heartbreaking at times, she loved the exposure and experiences that the DIA JumpStart program provided. Having the opportunity to work with USC faculty, network with PhD students and access to research labs will provide an advance experience for students who want to pursue graduate school.

“DIA JumStart helped broaden my ideas in my humanitarian efforts. There is so much more to the story than what I am studying,” La Scala said. “And Dr. Vos made me feel like I was a part of the team.”

 

 

**Applications for research positions through DIA JumpStart are now available. Please click here.

Rock the Vote: Meet USC Graduate Students Studying Voting

As you vote in the midterm elections, you may not realize just how many students at USC are researching voting and politics. Ph.D. candidates across multiple schools at USC spend countless hours studying voting, what drives people to the polls and how we express our political opinions.

Sara Sadhwani, Ph.D. candidate at USC

Sara Sadhwani is receiving national attention for her research on voting. Sadhwani is a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science and International Relations program at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Her work focuses on estimating vote choice using surname matched vote returns for Asian American and Latino voters.

 

Sadhwani wrote an article for The Washington Post in May, just ahead of the primary elections. She looked at the potential influence of Asian American voters in Orange County. She found that Asian American voters in Southern California tend to lean Republican. This finding is the opposite of the national trend. However, she also found that Asian Americans in many Southern California districts supported Hillary Clinton over President Trump in the 2016 election. Sadhwani notes in her article that Asian Americans are the fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S. The research she details in The Washington Post article was also highlighted in two pieces in the New York Times and on KCRW radio station.

Jarred Cuellar, Ph.D. candidate at USC

Another Ph.D. candidate, Jarred Cuellar, is researching Latino voting behavior. His research focuses on what mobilization efforts drive Latinos to the polls. He’s looking at the impact of a variety of mobilization techniques including “Get Out the Vote” campaigns, mailers and canvassing. Cueller is currently a second year Ph.D. candidate in political science.

 

 

 

Jeeyun (Sophia) Baik, Ph.D. candidate at USC

At the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, part of Ph.D. candidate Jeeyun (Sophia) Baik’s research focuses on how people express, or hide, their opinions about politics in conversations and on social media. Baik says, “I am researching (re)configurations of public spheres facilitated by communication media and their impacts on people’s engagement in social and political issues.” Baik says she plans to further investigate people’s privacy concerns when they express opinions on digital platforms.

Whitney Hua, Ph.D. candidate at USC

Whitney Hua, a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science and International Relations program, is also studying the impact of social media in political communication. Her work focuses on how elected officials communicate with the public via social media, and how the public receives and processes those messages. “We hear a lot about politicians from both the right and the left nowadays thinking that the opposing side is simply wrong about various political issues,” says Hua. “I think understanding how our elected officials view ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and concurrently, how they use language to support these conceptions in their public messages, is an important area of study given that this may be a huge contributing factor in the political polarization we’re seeing today.”

Horrors Beyond Halloween

Halloween has changed and evolved throughout the centuries. However, the spookiness and horror of the annual holiday remains the same. Millions of people spend time and money to experience fear in haunted houses and movie theatres during the Halloween season. After a moment of horror, people have the luxury of returning safely to their homes knowing that whatever they just witnessed was pure fiction. Unfortunately, there was a group of people who lived a Halloween horror story every day for many years experiencing fear, trauma and pain that go beyond a brief fright in a haunted house. A PhD student at USC dedicates her time and research to understand the fear and traumas World War I soldiers overseas.

Jenna Ross

Jenna Ross is a fifth year PhD student in the history department of USC Dornsife. Her research is centered on the experiences of fear in the trenches of WWI amongst soldiers. Prior to studying at USC, Ross lived in Italy for three years. During that time, she traveled throughout Europe visiting small towns and villages. Her curiosity about WWI was sparked when she noticed the frequency of WWI memorials in every town she visited.

 

“It was something uncanny about the first World War and I wanted to explore it,” Ross said.

During the beginning stages of her research, Ross came across a 1917 article by a psychiatrist who wrote about the fear of soldiers. Contrary to popular publications during the 1910’s, the psychiatrist explained how fear was normal, necessary and beneficial. This article was the catalyst to Ross’ intellectual pursuit.

Ross’ research is transnational. She travels to England, France and Germany to visit

The Imperial War Museum, London.

various archives such as The Imperial War Museum in London. To prevent misinformation, Ross solely reviews diaries, letters and court martial records from 1914 to 1918.

“Second hand information takes away the initial feelings and information,” Ross said. “I [want] to get as close to the actual source as I can.”

Many soldiers wrote every day during the entire war, revealing the dark things that haunted them on a daily basis.

“I’ve spent thousands and thousands of pages with these men,” explained Ross. “I feel like I know them just like I know my own friends.”

The majority of the battles during WWI were fought in complete darkness, either at dusk or dawn. The only source of light were large fireworks called star-shells that gave temporary brightness on the battlefield. These men heavily relied on their five senses, training and fellow soldiers for survival.

A will for a soldier written in his Soldier’s Small Book.

During her research, Ross encountered a major who vividly reflected on a battle in a letter. This major and his men heard a sudden crash, which followed with rapid fire of machine guns. He instructed a line of his men to look over the top of the hill while the rest of them prepared and positioned themselves for battle. Soon after, screaming was heard from the hill. In the bursts of light from the star-shells, the major saw that his line of men running back towards them. What they saw caused such a fright the major had no choice but to retreat to a safer place in the darkness. The source of fear was never identified.

“You get [stories] like that a lot where they’re eerie and haunting,” Ross said.

This Halloween night, there will be tons of objects and people portrayed in costume. Many people choose the patriotic route and dress as the soldiers who protect and serve our country. However, where do you draw the line between honor and mockery? The average citizen who has never stepped foot on a battlefield cannot fathom the fear and trauma. Ross has learned through her research that many men who have served in wars did not have safe spaces to discuss the things that they experienced in fear of

A muddy French court martial for desertion in the presence of the enemy.

being seen as unpatriotic. People dressed as soldiers for Halloween are not aware of the severity of battlefield traumas and this lack of knowledge creates a level of insensitivity.

“I don’t think dressing as a soldier is a complement especially since it’s often sexualized,” Ross said. “The [mindset] is like ‘Oh, women like soldiers. I’m going to dress as a soldier!’ Well do you want to have all the mental trauma that’s associated with it?”

Meet the Professor Inspiring Students to See Horror Films

Do you need a push to see a horror movie this October? Dr. William Whittington, a professor in the USC School of Cinematic Arts, might inspire you to embrace the spirit of the season and take a trip to the movies.

Dr. Whittington recently taught a seminar called “Horror and the Disruption of Modern Media and Society” to a group of Ph.D. students as part of the Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Micro Seminar Series. Dr. Whittington outlined the history of the horror genre, explaining how it emerged and developed over time. He focused part of his lecture on explaining why horror movies are relevant today.

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Dr. Whittington leads a seminar during the Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Micro Seminar Series. Photo by Steve Cohn.

Just as we apply other film genres to our lives, we can do the same with horror films. “Horror films are particularly attuned to the moment… they represent the anxieties of the moment,” said Dr. Whittington. We can look to many current horror films and TV series to see some of the issues our society is grappling with. For example, we can watch the television series “Westworld” and see the representation of one of our current fears—the fear of technology taking over. Similarly, “Get Out” draws attention to current racial tension and the anxiety over our social climate. Dr. Whittington explained that the horror genre allows us to contain certain issues, think about them, and then apply our analysis to the real world.

“Go to see horror because, weirdly, there is hope. Despite the mayhem, there might be a final survivor or a final solution,” says Dr. Whittington.

Dr. Whittington is currently working on his second book about sound design in horror cinema. It follows his first book, “Sound Design and Science Fiction,” which focuses on science fiction cinema. Dr. Whittington says he used to love horror movies as a teen, but has grown less found of them. Right now, he is particularly interested in the artistry of horror films and their relationship to artistic traditions like surrealism and expressionism.

Dr. Whittington’s lecture was part of the USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Program’s ninth annual Micro Seminar Series. The micro seminars are designed to bring together USC Annenberg Graduate Fellows from three different schools; the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the School of Cinematic Arts, and the Viterbi School of Engineering. Faculty can propose topics for the micro seminar that are relevant to students in all three schools. The event typically draws more than 100 Annenberg Fellows who have an opportunity to interact with students and faculty from outside of their programs and get to know each other.

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Students listen to a lecture during the Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Micro Seminar Series. Photo by Steve Cohn.

Dr. Whittington has participated in almost all of the micro seminars since the series began in 2009. He says the seminars allow people with different perspectives and research focuses to come together, discuss topics and develop new insights.

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Students and faculty gather at a reception during the Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Micro Seminar Series. Photo by Steve Cohn.

Now back to Halloween. You can learn something from horror movies, so why not dive right in? Dr. Whittington has some recommendations. If you want intellectually stimulating and scary movies, try watching international horror films. Dr. Whittington’s top three choices in the category are “Pontypool” (from Canada), “The Orphanage” (from Spain), and “Ju-on: The Grudge” (from Japan). If you’re looking for horror films with some comic relief, he recommends “The Final Girls,” “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” and “Dead Snow.”

Atlas of an Unbroken World: Invisibly Disabled in Japan (Part I of a Study Across Countries)

By: Laura Cechanowicz

lookingupcherryblossom

Looking up into cherry blossom trees.

Spring in Japan is marked by the arrival of the cherry blossoms, an event that begins at a slightly different time from year to year depending on the weather. The cherry blossoms themselves are then remarkably fragile. While it is said they peak for one to two weeks, the truest critic I know claims they only last two to three days. The argument is that once the petals begin to fall and the green leaves peak out, their ephemeral beauty is diminished, quickly but a memory. In many ways, the cherry blossoms are an example of my dissertation research in Japan.

For my dissertation in iMAP in the School of Cinematic Arts Department of Media Arts + Practice, I am researching the experience of disability in several countries, and this year of travel is funded by the USC Research Enhancement Fellowship, and later this summer also the USC ACE-Nikaido Fellowship. I am working with locals with invisible disabilities to understand the challenges they face daily, and we are working together through worldbuilding, a practice I learned and developed in the USC World Building Media Lab with Alex McDowell, to imagine solutions to a few of their greatest difficulties. Our work includes documenting our lives now, and sharing those stories via various media outlets, as well as presenting and fabricating fictional stories to elaborate solutions to our problems and to tell our stories in a unique form. The work is also an investigation into how worldbuilding can be used in identity formation, while depicting the neuroscience of the embodied mind.

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Photo of six members of non-profit Passione during Rare Disease Day in Kyoto, explaining the Japanese “helpmark” symbol for passers by in an underground shopping center. “Helpmark” is a visual symbol developed in Japan and distributed by the government to communicate that someone has an invisible disability.

As I am also a person with an invisible disability, in each country, I am working to understand my experience of disability in different spaces and cultures. I seek to, in an embodied manner, and by capturing and creating media in each place, capture a fraction of how my experience in that space and with different people is unique. Working with locals, I am also identifying and narrowing in on iconic objects from each culture, reimagining them in a future world that deals with invisible disabilities head on.

helpmarktag

Photo of Laura Cechanowicz at a Sanjūsangen-dō Temple wearing the Japanese “helpmark” tag (photo taken by Yuske Fukada).

As a concrete example of my approach, the cherry blossoms are an archetypical Japanese symbol, repurposed for my work here in a future fiction context. Below is an excerpt from a world where everyone develops an invisible disability at some point in their lives. Society, culture, infrastructure, architecture, and more, are rethought and redesigned so that all citizens have as full of a life as possible.

“I still have dreams about running. It may be my greatest wish to run again.

I wonder, is it cruel to teach a child to run if you know someday soon they will never run again?

We call our philosophy of activity now ‘Sakura,’ but our use of the word is an extension of the traditional idea of cherry blossoms as helping people come to terms with life and death. We think of our varied abilities as having life and death cycles, drawing attention to our fleeting ableness. So we cherish our activity. But we don’t consider only that ability abandons, rather, that as one ability disappears, a new one often evolves. The man who becomes blind develops a strong ear.”

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Image Description: Photo of a hundred people under cherry blossom, sakura, trees, in Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan.

 

blurrcherryblossom

Photo of blurred cherry blossom tree in the distance, with a cherry blossom tree whose petals have all fallen in the foreground, brilliantly green.

 

5 Ways for Grad Students to Practice Self-Care

accomplishment-ceremony-college-267885

The school year is coming to a close and academic life has never seemed so hectic! Final exams surely bring a torrent of stressful situations. Not to mention, being a graduate student can be difficult in general. We must balance research and classes with jobs, family responsibilities, and even financial insecurity from time to time (or always. Is it just me?) .

But never fear! These 5 self-care tips, inspired by recommendations from the American Psychological Association, will have you prepared to tackle almost any challenge.

1. Exercise Your Body.

Heart-pumping exercise is a proven stress-buster. But one thing is for sure: running to class because you are five minutes late is not enough. Sustained activity for at least thirty minutes a day is recommended. If you aren’t the athletic type, try something fun like going for a hike or joining a zumba class.

Yoga_Class_at_a_Gym4 2Photo credit: LocalFitness

2. Be mindful.

While getting your body moving is a good thing, sometimes your mind just needs to be still. Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, improve attention, and promote a general sense of well-being.

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3. Find mentors.

Find that person who completed her Ph.D. in three years while working full-time with two kids. Get all of the tips you can get and never let go! Even if you don’t have a superhero faculty member or colleague, there are likely individuals in your department who have been on a journey similar to yours. Seek them out for advice. They will probably be very flattered that you even asked.

 

4. Rely on your friends.

If you are a graduate student, it is likely that a good chunk of your friends are also graduate students. Talk out your struggles together. It doesn’t matter how you do it: during a study session, over coffee, or in a What’sApp message. Make sure to keep in touch and check-in over the course of the semester.

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5. Seek help if you need it.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help. Student Counseling Services are available at the USC Engemenn Student Health Center. They offer a stress relief clinic as well as individual therapy, crisis support, and psychiatric therapy. If you are in need of immediate emotional support, call (213)740-7711 to speak with a crisis therapist.

6 Things I Learned about Transgender Studies

I recently sat down for a conversation with Emmett Harsin Drager, a PhD candidate in American Studies and Ethnicity at USC Dornsife. Emmett’s research focuses on the period of time in the United States during the 1960’s and 1970’s when research universities began performing gender reassignment surgeries. Thousands of people wrote to universities requesting sex change operations. Some were accepted while others were denied. How did doctors decide who qualified for surgery and who didn’t? The answer is, in part, the subject of Emmett’s dissertation. Specifically, they focus on the history of gender identity disorder and the development of official diagnosis and treatment protocols for transsexual patients.

  IMG_9536Emmett Harsin Drager, PhD candidate in American Studies and Ethnicity

Here are the top 6 things I learned about Emmett’s research and the developing field of transgender studies from our conversation.

1. Transgender and transsexuality are not the same.

The term transgender is used to characterize gender identity or gender expression that
doesn’t conform to social expectations based on assigned sex at birth. Transsexuality
refers to the desire or practice of making physical changes to the body, often through
gender reassignment surgery or hormone therapy. Those who identify as transgender
may not identify as transsexual.

2. Christine Jorgensen may be the biggest celebrity you’ve never heard of.

Christine was one of the first well-documented persons in the United States to undergo a sex change operation. In the early 1950’s, Christine travelled to Europe for the new procedure and returned to an abundance of American media attention. Even though this was during the Korean and Cold War, sensationalized news coverage about Christine dominated the news. Emmett explained that Christine’s story, along with many other sensationalized tabloid stories about transexuals, exposed the possibility of gender reassignment and unleashed a new demand for the procedure in the United States.

Christine_Jorgensen_1954Christine Jorgensen, 1954

3. Doctors used to be the gatekeepers of sex change operations. Today, insurance
companies play a similar role.

Emmett uses archived correspondences from individuals who were denied gender
reassignment surgeries to determine the criteria that doctors used to make their
decisions. Today, doctors generally no longer make that distinction. Rather, insurance
companies require someone who requests a sex change operation to have an official
diagnosis from a psychologist.

4. Assumptions about trans individuals were rooted in perceptions about race.
Emmet explained that the original diagnosis of transsexuality was believed to be the
result of an unhealthy relationship with a parent. At the same time, racial attitudes about
the black family also led to pervasive pathologization. Emmett used the example of Mrs. G, described as a very masculine black woman. Doctors pinpointed Mrs. G’s close
relationship with her single mom as the reason behind her transsexuality, echoing the
conclusions of the infamous Moynihan report that blamed black mothers for social and
economic stagnation.

USC Professor C. Riley Snorton, one of Emmett’s mentors and an expert in trans
studies, recently published a book that puts racial formation at the forefront of
transgender studies titled Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans.

black on both sides

University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

5. A lot has changed in the medical community surrounding the diagnosis of transsexuality. But a lot hasn’t.
Transsexuality was originally termed Gender Identity Disorder by the medical
community and classified as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Although today the term has been changed from
gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria, which serves to destigmatize transsexuality, gender dysphoria is still included in the DSM.

6. There’s more to come at USC!
In the fall of 2018, Emmett will host a plenary on gender and sexuality as part of USC
Annenberg’s Critical Mediations Conference. The conference is scheduled for October
4-5, so be sure to mark your calendars!

Poetics, Proximity, and Trauma on World Poetry Day

“Tender and cruel, the pathos in here animates me and the writing hunts me. And so I gratefully surrender.”  — Lily Hoang

Biopic5

The words above inform the writing of Diana Arterian, a doctoral candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at USC Dornsife and author of the poetry collection Playing Monster :: Seiche. Arterian’s dissertation analyzes the ways in which four contemporary poets grapple with “relayed trauma,” a term that she explains here: Watch Diana explain by downloading the clip.

In recognition of World Poetry Day (March 21), we delve deeper into Arterian’s work.

What is relayed trauma? For Arterian, it is the phenomenon in which somebody receives traumatic information from a secondary source. The recipients of relayed trauma are disturbed, yet at a distance. They experience its effects through an intermediary with whom they are deeply connected (for example, through romantic entanglement, heritage, family, or otherwise). Trauma may be relayed through direct communication, the discovery of documents, or ghosts.

Ghosts, you say?

Actually, yes. One of the works Arterian studies in her dissertation is Zong!, a book of poetry by M. NourbeSe Philip—co-written with a ghost (Setaey Adamu Boateng). According to Arterian, Philip draws upon a particular court document to give readers access to a remarkable and disturbing event. In 1781, the captain of a ship named Zong decided to throw 143 enslaved Atlantic Africans overboard so that the ship’s owners could claim insurance for the loss of ‘goods.’ Drawing on court records of the incident, Philip creates a “collage-like poetic text composed from bits of the original document and the words of ghosts, be it slaver or enslaved.”

“If a member of the Black diaspora learns of this event, what recourse does she have to exorcize her horror?” is just one of the questions Diana poses. Because all of the parties involved are dead, because all of the enslaved people on the Zong never had any record of their experiences written down in the archive, Philip engages with the ghosts in order to interrogate the event itself and understand what took place. Arterian argues that understanding the effect of relayed trauma can close the distance between personal and political trauma.

5 Ways for Grad Students to Practice Self-Care

The school year has begun and academic life seem pretty calm – for now! But midterms and finals will surely bring a torrent of stressful situations. Not to mention, being a graduate student can be difficult in between exams as well. We must balance research and classes with jobs, family responsibilities, and even financial insecurity from time to time (or always. Is it just me?) .

But never fear! These 5 self-care tips, inspired by recommendations from the American Psychological Association, will have you prepared to tackle almost any challenge this academic year.

1. Exercise Your Body. 

Heart-pumping exercise is a proven stress-buster. But one thing is for sure: running to class because you are five minutes late is not enough. Sustained activity for at least thirty minutes a day is recommended. If you aren’t the athletic type, try something fun like going for a hike or joining a zumba class.

2. Be mindful.

While getting your body moving is a good thing, sometimes your mind just needs to be still. Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, improve attention, and promote a general sense of well-being. Interested in learning more? Check out an on-campus mindfulness event like the ones featured below.

Mindful_SupportF

3. Find mentors.

Find that person who completed her Ph.D. in three years while working full-time with two kids. Get all of the tips you can get and never let go! Even if you don’t have a superhero faculty member or colleague, there are likely individuals in your department who have been on a journey similar to yours. Seek them out for advice. They will probably be very flattered that you even asked.

4. Rely on your friends.

If you are a graduate student, it is likely that a good chunk of your friends are also graduate students. Talk out your struggles together. It doesn’t matter how you do it: during a study session, over coffee, or in a What’sApp message. Make sure to keep in touch and check-in over the course of the semester.

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5. Seek help if you need it.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help. Student Counseling Services are available at the USC Engemenn Student Health Center. They offer a stress relief clinic as well as individual therapy, crisis support, and psychiatric therapy. If you are in need of immediate emotional support, call (213)740-7711 to speak with a crisis therapist.  

 

Regional Universities Collaborate to Increase Diversity, Inclusion and Access in Doctoral Programs

On April 18th, representatives from the University of Southern California, Loyola Marymount University, California State Polytechnic University, and California State University, Los Angeles met to discuss successes and next steps for the year-old Diversity, Inclusion and Access (DIA) Initiative to create pathways for underrepresented students to enter Ph.D. programs at higher rates.


The staff in attendance were asked, “Why is the DIA Initiative important?”

Left to right, Thomas Zachariah, LMU; Sally Pratt, Vice Provost, USC; Ricardo Machón, LMU.

Left to right, Thomas Zachariah, LMU; Sally Pratt, Vice Provost, USC; Ricardo Machón, LMU.

As the Director of the McNair program at LMU, it is important for me that our school have like-minded partners to benefit our first generation, low income students.

– Thomas Zachariah, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the McNair Scholars Program, Department of Mathematics, Loyola Marymount University

Students from low-income backgrounds often cannot pursue higher education because of other obligations, ‘If only I had help with health insurance. If only I had help with childcare. If only I didn’t have to work so much to pay the bills.’ The DIA Initiative provides access for students from Cal State LA, Cal Poly Pomona and LMU to doctoral programs at USC with tuition assistance, health benefits and stipends. This program is working to alleviate the ‘onlys’ that prevents students from continuing their studies.

– Sally Pratt, Ph.D., Vice Provost, USC Graduate Programs, The Graduate School, University of Southern California

We have so many inspiring students that I think will be great assets to USC’s doctoral programs. The DIA initiative helps to set up a direct pipeline between talented students and prestigious programs.”

– Ricardo Machón, Ph.D., Special Assistant to the Provost for Undergraduate Education, Professor of Psychology, Loyola Marymount University.

Robert Weide, California State University, Los Angeles

Robert Weide, Cal State LA

It has been important to me to help build a partnership with USC for students from Cal State LA. Our school is the largest working class university in Los Angeles with 90% of the school population being people of color and first generation. You should hear some of the stories of what my students go through to be in school. They are caring for families, dealing with the criminal justice system, working two or three jobs, but at the end of the day, they want the best education possible.

– Robert Weide, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Natural and Social Sciences, California State University, Los Angeles

Left to right, Linda Hoos, Cal Poly Pomona; Cheryl Koos, Cal State LA

Left to right, Linda Hoos, Cal Poly Pomona; Cheryl Koos, Cal State LA

Cal Poly has a robust STEM program. This is a great opportunity for our STEM students in underrepresented populations to progress in their degrees. It is also becoming an important recruitment tool for us to get more students into our programs, particularly STEM, knowing that we can connect them to higher education when they have finished at Cal Poly.

– Linda Hoos, J.D., Assistant Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Office of Equity, Inclusion and Compliance, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

The DIA Initiative demystifies the process of applying to doctoral programs. We’re here to benefit students.

– Cheryl Koos, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of History, College of Natural & Social Sciences, California State University, Los Angeles

Ashley Brooks, USC

Ashley Brooks, USC

At the helm of the DIA Initiative for USC is newly hired, Ashley Brooks.

Ashley Brooks joins USC after serving many years as the Engagement and Inclusion Consultant for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Los Angeles, as a hub of diverse cultures, backgrounds, races and ethnicities, was an enticing prospect for Brooks as she considered moving across the country. “As a first generation student and minority, I can relate to some of the challenges that traditionally underrepresented students face on college campuses,” Ashley explained about her decision to work for the DIA Initiative. “I’m excited for what lies ahead for me at USC.”