Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Los Angeles Experiment

We have returned from our whirlwind tour of Los Angeles. We spent less than 30 hours there, which some people claim is not nearly enough time to get a good perspective of the city, but we were limited by Eric's vacation time. It's tricky to visit three schools in one week.

You can see pictures of the USC philosophy building here. The building was modeled after several Tuscan monasteries and is beautiful; in fact, there's a bell tower that used to house a professor's office, and in the courtyard there is a fountain. It was even nice to experience the balmy weather when in Minnesota we're having temperatures in the 30's and 40's.

Traffic wasn't bad for us, as we arrived in LA after midnight and then left again later in the evening, so we were able to avoid slow travel. We sat in on an undergrad class and then had lunch with a couple of the professors. They had arranged for us to have coffee with a graduate student in the department; she called herself the "big guns" and said Eric is "some kind of a superstar." They rarely bother this student with meeting with prospectives, so she knew they wanted Eric to come. In fact, she clarified for us, without prompting, details about the provost scholarship Eric was offered. She said the department has never nominated a prospective student for this scholarship and that it was telling that they did so for Eric. In her words, he was recognized not as a potential student, but as someone who doesn't have to prove himself. He is being seen as someone who can contribute to the actual discipline. Quite high praise for Eric, who has trouble accepting compliments. When a department nominates someone, it goes before the provost. I don't know how many students are awarded the scholarship, but nominated students from all departments are vying for the award.

We followed up coffee with dinner with five current grad students in the department. It's amusing to see people view menus when they know they aren't picking up the tab. Eric told me that at Notre Dame last week, he avoided the steak dinner since he has an unlimited supply of meat from his parents and felt guilty ordering it, but several of the grad students specifically chose it since the department was paying.

When being driven to dinner, we were able to see the city. It's astonishing to see Porsche and Audi dealerships and sleek buildings within a block or two of Skid Row. The city certainly has a harsh contrast between the have's and the have-not's.

We arrived home without incident, but we were exhausted, as our flight left LA about 1 am. It's hard to sleep on a plane! Tomorrow we're leaving early for Indiana University, but it seems as if the final decision will be between University of Southern California and Notre Dame. Within the week we should know where we will be moving late this summer.

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