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C Pam Zhang and Safiya U. Noble to deliver keynote address at USC Rossier 2024 Commencement ceremonies

USC Rossier doctoral and master’s Commencement ceremonies will take place on May 8 and May 10.

By Ellen Evaristo Published on

Two keynote speakers for the 2024 USC Rossier School of Education Commencement ceremonies exemplify USC Rossier’s mission of valuing and respecting the cultural context of local communities and interrogating the systems of power that shape policies and practices.

C Pam Zhang, award-winning novelist, will deliver remarks at USC Rossier’s doctoral hooding ceremony on Wednesday, May 8. Author of the acclaimed novels How Much of These Hills Is Gold and Land of Milk and Honey, Zhang is a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35 Honoree” and the winner of the Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award, the Asian/Pacific Award for Literature and the California Book Award. Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories, The Cut, The New Yorker and The New York Times. She attended Brown University and studied at Cambridge University and University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Zhang is a Chinese American writer, who immigrated to the U.S. when she was four years old. She wrote her debut novel How Much of These Hills Is Gold in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time in which she “struggled with social isolation, depression and the anxiety of being Chinese American as anti-Asian hate crimes soared.” She found solace in writing during that turbulent period, and she goes on to say in an interview with Vanity Fair that finding meaning in other things like art are what nourishes individuals and helps to provide perspective for other important work. Set during the American gold rush, her first book follows two newly orphaned siblings whose family immigrated from China and explores race and belonging. Zhang’s second book Land of Milk and Honey is a dystopian novel set in a world where food sources are increasingly scarce and follows a young chef who is hired to work at a decadent, trouble-free colony. Described as a love letter to food, the book examines seeking joy in a world that is devastated.

Safiya Umoja Noble, professor of gender studies, African American studies and information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), will speak at the master’s ceremony on May 10. Professor Noble is the David O. Sears Presidential Endowed Chair of Social Sciences, director of the Center on Race & Digital Justice and co-director of the Minderoo Initiative on Tech & Power at the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry. She currently serves as interim director of the UCLA DataX Initiative, leading work in critical data studies for the campus. In 2021, she was recognized as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for her ground-breaking work on algorithmic discrimination. Her research focuses on the internet and its impact on society.

Noble’s academic research focuses on the internet and its impact on society. She is author of the best selling book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, a breakout book that challenged the neutrality of technology by examining the ways in which search engines misrepresent people who are marginalized, spread propaganda and post threats to democracy. When researching her book she did collective keyword searches on different community identities, which generated negative images of women of color. In a recent interview for Vogue, she said, “People who have very little to lose and everything to gain in terms of profits are the people who are so cavalier with the rest of our lives.” Noble is widely-recognized as one of the early voices to warn about the threats of artificial intelligence and algorithmically-driven tech systems.

“Pam and Safiya’s work explores critical issues today,” said USC Rossier Dean Pedro A. Noguera. “Their work reflects on the challenges of finding one’s identity and offers important commentary on justice and the pursuit of equity throughout our society. We look forward to hearing what they will share with our 2024 graduating class of higher education leaders.”

Both commencement events will be livestreamed on the USC Rossier YouTube Channel.

  • Wednesday, May 8: Doctoral Hooding Ceremony
  • Friday, May 10: Master's Ceremony

Information on the 2024 USC Rossier Commencement Ceremonies.

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