A little over a year ago, I officially submitted my intent to register here at USC, and I still remember the excitement I felt knowing that I would soon be a student at USC. One of the reasons I felt such a strong pull towards this school was that it would allow me to earn a technical degree and simultaneously get exposed to the liberal arts and humanities through the Thematic Option program.

Thematic Option, or TO, is an alternative route to USC’s traditional General Education system freshman can apply to University-Clubtake part in. The curriculum takes thematic angles to discuss large-scale conversations in areas including the sciences, cultures, values, and change. One of the greatest advantages of TO is the attention given to individual students by the faculty – my writing instructors would meet with me one-on-one every other week to go over the paper I was writing at the time, including one I wrote for the annual spring research conference; this year’s topic was “Something Must Be Done.” Students enrolled in CORE 112 (the second writing seminar, WRIT 340’s counterpart) had the opportunity to submit a proposal of a paper that fell inside this umbrella theme, for a chance to be selected to present in the conference.

As a panelist this year, I gained a really unique opportunity to explore a theory that intrigued me through my own literary research. As an engineer, it might seem difficult to find an opportunity to present in a literary research such as this in a conference – I mean, many people wouldn’t expect a paper about the psychological ramifications of the golem effect to be written by an engineering student – but TO gave me the ability to have this unique opportunity. Each time slot in the two-evening conference held at the University Club is split into a number of panels, each of which has a smaller-scale idea broadly capturing the essence of the five papers that are presented in it.Each panel consists of each presenter reading their paper, followed by a Q&A discussion session where the audience, moderator, and panelists can interact with each other and talk more about their papers and challenge ideas presented in the panel. Even if you decide not to apply  to be in TO, you can attend any of the panels and hear people’s reflections on the larger theme through their lenses, and gain a varied group of opinions on the topic. The research conference was definitely one of the highlights of my freshman year!

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