With the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic still relatively unknown, it has become harder and harder to predict what the future will hold. With that in mind, it is equally difficult to plan ahead, whether your plans are for schooling, job prospects, or even something as personal as one’s own health concerns. Especially with the current status quo of American politics, it is very difficult to formulate a game plan to tackle future obstacles. While the future has in the past been a lit street with diverging paths, this same future is now a foggy street with low visibility and there is no one to rely on but yourself and your ingenuity. How can you take advantage of the resources around you to light your path?
Some things that I have found that are of great value during this time did not seem like an option for me during less stressful times. But now that most outside activities are prohibited, the only thing people can do is utilize the online resources we have at our disposal. The first thing that I found very helpful in relighting my future path was Linkedin Learning. Previously known as Lynda, this has been a resource that was available to anyone who seeks it; the only issue was the amount of time we had on our hands. Now things are different, and we do have the time to manually relight the path to our desired future.
Linkedin Learning is available through your USC account and comes with a myriad of courses that ranges from business skills to creative design, and even more technical computer skills. So whether you had your eyes set on one specific goal or you had no tangible goal yet, there are many concepts that can be explored on Linkedin Learning. As a matter of fact, the resources on the platform could very easily help you narrow down your desired path. I, for example, had the opportunity to explore various types of computer programs that I would have not had the opportunity to explore from just my core courses alone. Therefore, not only can you find new resources to explore personal interests, but this tool can also help give you some direction and skills to follow your desired career path.
This article is an interview with Sean Silvia, a USC Dornsife junior double majoring in History and Archaeology as well as minoring in Classics. He serves as the Vice-President of the Philologos Society, a student-run organization founded in July 2019 at USC by its current President, Richard Petrosyan. Richard is also a USC Dornsife junior majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Health Care Studies. In this interview, Richard and Sean’s discussion focuses on Sean’s experience at Philologos. But before delving into the heart of the interview, allow us to offer you some insight into the Society’s background.
Being unable to find a platform at USC promoting the exchange of ideas, debates of an interdisciplinary nature, and unique opportunities for humanitarian initiatives all-in-one, Richard decided to synthesize these ideals to establish the strong pillars for an intellectual society. The Philologos Society exposes its members to a diversity of academic fields and thought, expands their general knowledge, and helps them develop social consciousness through various altruistic endeavors. Without intertwining classroom development with the outside world, one’s collegiate experience cannot be complete.
Since the Society’s inception in July 2019, Richard has been tirelessly working to ensure its growth within the USC community as well as to establish partnerships with non-profit organizations and educational institutions outside of USC that provide all members with a wide range of opportunities. One of the greatest challenges has been to launch the expansion campaign for Philologos’ activities during the pandemic while having to stay remote, which the society has successfully accomplished.
A year and a half after seeing this Society come to life, we present to you a glimpse into the heart of the university’s one and only intellectual society, USC’s one-of-a-kind vibrant community of students eager to succeed in order to thrive in the midst of one of the extraordinary social contexts of our time.
-Richard Petrosyan, Philologos Society President
Interview with Philiogos Vice President
Q:Sean, would you describe the Philologos Society in your own words?
A: The Philologos Society is a combination of multiple things. It’s essentially an all-in-one intellectual society, with both an academic and philanthropic branch. It aims to enrich both the members and surrounding community with the pursuit of knowledge;we feed people both intellectually and literally with our volunteer service.
Q:How has your involvement with the society affected you?
A: The Society made me approach things from a philosophical angle in a way that I hadn’t before. Within archaeology, I’d done a lot of research projects that were very specific – “Let’s talk about this site- what it means, what’s the specific context.” But within Philologos, we’re encouraged to ask these bigger questions. We address debates within the field. I’ve explored the deeper, more philosophical and ethical side of archaeology- along with other topics, like medicine and journalism – in ways I hadn’t considered before.
It’s been very fun, being able to synthesize big debate topics into easily understandable language and talking about things that you don’t really get discuss to in a more detail-oriented class (like how to deal with the ethical implications of digging up corpses).
-Sean Silvia, Philologos Vice President
Q:What are your favorite activities?
A: My top activities are definitely writing articles for our column and volunteering.
I love all the volunteering opportunities – I enjoyed the Meals on Wheels phone reassurance in particular. I also really like the services we provide to high school students. I know as a high schooler, I had really good instructors who set me up well to be where I am today, but not everyone has access to the kinds of resources I did.
Q: Do you have any significant stories to share?
A: There have been some heartwarming moments for sure. During the phone reassurance program, the person I was talking to had said that she’d gotten very little contact because COVID-19 was reducing the number of people she could see, and how nice it was to talk to someone. The question of the week that we were assigned was about music, and she told me about her love of the Backstreet Boys and that she had a cat that would bob along to the rhythm of their songs. I found it heartwarming to be able to bond with this person through our shared love for music.
Q:Do you think the Philologos Society has adapted well to the current situation?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems that we spend most of our time switching between screens while taking classes, socializing, or completing work and internship projects. The digital fatigue we get from constantly looking at screens has eliminated the enjoyment and happiness we are supposed to receive from these activities or events. Because of this, a new question has been raised: How can educators infuse more excitement and motivation into online classes? Currently, I am taking online classes for the second semester in a row at the graduate level. I’m working from China and am also a student-teacher for a class at the USC International Academy. Therefore, I’ve gone through the process of adapting to online learning from both a student’s and a teacher’s perspective, and luckily, I’ve gained some insights and hope to shed some light on this issue for everyone who is also facing this issue.
Perspective as a graduate student
During this past semester (Fall 2020), my online classes seemed to always have group discussions and tasks. Having participated in many Zoom breakout rooms, I became aware of a sense of separation occurring when being grouped with different classmates. One experience I remember in particular is when I was in a breakout room with three classmates I’d never spoken to before. When we first entered the breakout room, no one started the conversation but just stared at their screens. I wondered to myself, ‘What are they doing? Are they checking the rubric or looking for something?’ Eventually, I couldn’t stand the awkward silence so I broke the ice by saying “Hi, guys. Have you found the work document?” which started our conversation. Although we pretty much finished our assigned task, our discussion was superficial and did not really reach my expectations for that class. I was genuinely disappointed and felt upset about what I felt was a loss in value of that class time.
However, there was another time when I was grouped with a classmate who was talkative and willing to share their ideas, and that experience was totally different. From the beginning, our greetings naturally warmed up our discussion, and some common thoughts that we expressed about the class deepened our conversation and elicited more thinking and sharing. This experience showed me that if all of the members of a breakout room are willing participants, the conversation can be great.
Perspective as a teacher
Recently, I was granted the opportunity to observe as a student-teacher in a class. Student-teachers at the graduate level typically learn to teach by observing the host teacher’s practices and teaching micro lessons in real classrooms. This is what I did at the USC International Academy during Spring 2020 and Fall 2020. Due to the sudden shift to online learning, I’ve noticed a drop in student engagement and motivation in the classes I have assisted, especially compared to the behavior of students that I observed in in-person classes during Spring 2020. In particular, I noticed one odd but common phenomenon in breakout rooms: although the teacher had carefully explained the activity the students were about to perform before going into breakout rooms, the students tended to keep silent when they first entered the room and still needed some time to discuss what the task was about. Even though the teacher had asked if the students had any questions before they joined the breakout room, sometimes they even started the breakout room discussion by asking “What are we supposed to do?”. Even though they performed better in group activities after several weeks of class, communication efficiency distinctly decreased compared to in-person classes.