VIDEO: USC Professors Give Sage Advice to the Class of 2014

May 12, 2014

Meet some of the outstanding students – including a fifth-generation Trojan – among the 15,754 receiving diplomas Friday, May 16

Contact: Merrill Balassone at (213) 740-6156 or or Robert Perkins at (213) 740-9226 or;

May 12, 2014 — There’s no lack of advice handed out during Commencement season. As an antidote, we’ve compiled a CliffsNotes version.

In this three-minute video, we gave a few of USC’s most interesting professors a stack of cue cards to write out their best life advice to the class of 2014. It features:

  • Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of the All Souls Trilogy and historian with the USC Dornsife College: “Never stop being a student.”
  • Barnet Kellman, an Emmy award-winning director with the USC School of Cinematic Arts: “Keep it simple.”
  • Clifford Johnson, theoretical physicist with the USC Dornsife College, who is currently drawing a graphic novel about physics: “Hard work trumps ‘natural talent.'”
  • Robert Hernandez, digital journalism professor with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and creator of the first Google Glass class: “Explore. Create. Do with purpose.'”
  • Cynthia Cooper, head coach of USC women’s basketball and Olympic gold medalist: “Be a person of action.”

Watch the video at:

 photo YouTubescreenshot2_zpse4732c81.png**Follow #uscgrad for live tweeting of the Commencment ceremony on Friday, May 16. The ceremony will be streamed live at**


This year’s valedictorian and salutatorians have one big thing in common: all three want to be doctors. Medicine is a long, difficult path — but optimism and a passion for bettering the world drive these inspiring Trojans.


Jana Shapiro, from Northbrook, Illinois, grew up with a great example to lead her forward — two parents who are physicians who love their jobs. But the field of medicine is changing — offering Shapiro new challenges and opportunities that her parents didn’t face.

“For the first time—because we have the Internet and platforms for people to speak their minds—we’re seeing patients fighting back, talking about what frustrates them, what they don’t like about the health care system, what irks them about their doctor. For a physician who is tired and stressed and overworked, that can be really hard to hear and disheartening. But for the next generation of physicians, it’s an invitation to respond. It’s an invitation to make those changes. I think our generation has this really cool opportunity,” Shapiro says.

Shapiro has earned a degree in psychology with minors in applied theatre arts and natural science. This summer she’ll volunteer at Troy Camp for one final time before hunting for an apartment in Chicago, where she’ll be a med student at Northwestern University next year.


Jared Sokol, a biological sciences major from Englewood, Colorado, also sees the paradigm shifting in the medical world.

“Even though changes are coming, having a positive mindset and still trying to provide the best care possible is the overarching goal at the core of medicine. It’s important for doctors not to forget that. It’s something I want to achieve: to be able to create a very high standard of care and to love what I’m doing, to help people realize their own potential and to have them accomplish their goals,” Sokol says.

This summer, the skiier/snowboarder/musician/artist will hike through Nepal to the Everest Base Camp, and will then continue a research project on prostate cancer epidemiology under Dr. Sue Ingles at USC Norris Cancer Center. Like Shapiro, he is headed to Chicago to continue his education — he’ll be a med student at the University of Chicago next year.


Brian Lentz, from Iowa City, Iowa, has earned a biology undergraduate degree while simultaneously earning his M.S. in marine and environmental biology.

A triathelete, surfer, wilderness guide, and all-around outdoorsy person, Lentz is taking a year off before medical school to take a 40-day mountaineering course in the Indian Himalayas, followed by working and volunteering in Costa Rica to perfect his Spanish “so I can treat Spanish speaking patients as a physician.”

Lentz hopes to become a passionate physician who impacts his patients’ lives for the better.

“We can bring a higher level of ethics to medicine. We can bring a higher level of respect to the patient. Even from a business side, hopefully we can make it more efficient. We can be part of that change, we can change it for the better,” he says.

A Fifth Generation Trojan

Dean Croshere would call himself a Fifth Generation Trojan, except that his great-great grandfather attended USC in 1898 when students were known as the “Fighting Methodists.” This week, Croshere will become the eighth USC graduate in his family by earning his MBA from the Marshall School of Business.

According to family lore, Croshere attended his first football game at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum before he was born. Saturdays were spent watching Trojan football from his Sebastopol, Califonria home.

“Every time ‘SC scored and Traveler shot out of the tunnel, mom would put her hand on the phone, because she knew grandpa would call,” Croshere said. “‘Fight on,’ the call would end, until the next touchdown.”

On applying for his MBA at USC: “I did apply to other schools, although there are a couple obvious rivals that were right off the table. I certainly had fun with the marketing materials Notre Dame sent me. Once I got my acceptance from USC, it was pretty clear this was my choice. There is something be said for tradition, and in my family, that saying is ‘Fight On!'”

A Farewell, and a First Meeting

About 700 online graduate students are expected to attend Commencement, and many will be seeing campus — and meeting each other face to face — for the first time.

Receptions for the students, including the online master’s degree in social work and the online master of arts in teaching, master of arts in teaching-TESOL and master of education in teacher leadership, will take place Thursday evening. For information, contact Shirley Chow at