EXL LAB: Transformation Series

USC’s Dornsife Office of Experiential & Applied Learning, The EXL LAB,  and USC’s Office of Religious & Spiritual Life present: 

THE EXL LAB Based in the Dornsife Office of Experiential and Applied Learning under Associate Dean Tammara Anderson, the EXL Lab creates experience and maker-based programs and events for students, faculty, and staff in association with USC Departments, Offices and secondary schools associated with the University. Our programs enrich and deepen your academic experience and enhance your résumé and e-portfolio.



                                                                                                                                       Apply Here

“People are willing to take the simulation of Empathy for Empathy itself.” -Sherry Turkle

Film has been called “The Ultimate Empathy Machine.” If you’ve ever seen a movie or read a story, chances are you identified with characters to the point that you physically expressed their emotion; You are feeling what they feel in that fictitious situation. Empathy, our ability to connect emotionally with beings, is one of our most profound capacities. The sensory bridge to shared experience, Empathy is the connecting tissue of human social organization. It is at the foundation of healthy, loving relationships, key to resolving conflicts, and enables us to engage meaningfully with stories and aesthetic experience. It is also a primal force, one we share with other mammals.We all possess this transformational ability and choose to use it daily to experience emotions through media and with individuals for our personal satisfaction. Why then do we choose not to deploy it when it may hold the key to our collective well-being? Empathy is arguably the secret to our survival as a species; its shadow is perhaps the reason we are careening towards self-destruction.

In this EXL Lab experiential program, we will explore both the light and shadow of this transformational quality and how we can engage with its productive and fulfilling aspects to evolve our lives and relationships in the world we inhabit.
We will challenge you to think critically about the nature, history, and purpose of Empathy in its scientific, philosophical, and spiritual expressions. We will interrogate its current and potential value in both personal and societal relationships; discuss the role of Empathy in storytelling and the arts; and examine the degree to which we integrate the narrative practice of Empathy into our lives.

Through immersive experience in a safe space, empathetic listening, discussion, and creative maker projects, we will watch as the world of Empathy comes to life. It is a world beyond the individual, that exists only in community and conversation. Join us this February to experience one another’s world, and discover the transformational power of Empathy within yourself.

Please contact Dr. Shaub for more information.


Kiel Shaub is the Academic Curator (AC) for EXL Lab, a new experience-based program initiative at the USC Dornsife Office of Experiential and Applied Learning under Associate Dean Tammara Anderson. As AC, Kiel develops, designs, and teaches dynamic experiential and maker-focused programs and events with USC faculty and the Lab’s non-academic partners.

This summer, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life invited Kiel to teach the Lab’s new Transformation series. Each course in the series presents a distinctive itinerary of immersive experiences that empower students to explore, activate, and integrate one of seven transformative quality that will profoundly impact their personal, academic, and post-graduate lives: Gratitude, Tolerance, Humility, Empathy, Compassion, Joy, and Love.

For the Fall 2022 Semester, Kiel will offer the first course in the series—Discover Your Gift: The Transformative Power of Gratitude in Action.

Previously, Kiel taught as a lecturer in the English Department at UCLA, where he received his Ph.D. In the English Department, Kiel enjoyed teaching introductory courses on critical thinking, reading, and writing, as well as advanced courses on the literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While at UCLA, Kiel also co-taught “The History of Modern Thought,” part of the College’s innovative Freshman Cluster series.





“Everybody has a gift. Have you discovered yours?”

Gratitude is a powerful, motivating force for personal purpose and lifetime fulfillment. It is by its nature inclusive; Gratitude never divides or separates; it includes, supports, and unites. It is the reason why we seek to be good, why we seek to use our gifts to create a fulfilling life, and why we choose to share those gifts with others so they may do the same.

Join us for an immersive, experiential, five-week journey exploring Gratitude in motion and action. Through select readings, conversations with authors, chefs, and teachers, journaling, and shared experience, we will activate the immense power of Gratitude in your personal and professional life.

Our shared experience culminates in you creating a project that speaks to the power of Gratitude in your life as a force for inspiration, transformation, and community. We invite you to discover this transformative quality with us and share your gift with the world. We know you will be surprised by what you discover on the journey.



A quality or experience that is truly transformative is no mere transactional exchange. It is an activating force that, when fully embodied, enables profound personal and communal growth. Each five-week program in this dynamic EXL Lab series at the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life “Fishbowl” will curate a distinctive itinerary of immersive experiences that empower students to explore, activate, and integrate one of the following transformative qualities:


It is one thing to contemplate the nature of these qualities; it is quite another to experience them as real forces impacting our lives. Together, we will test the transformative potential of these qualities by experiencing them as essential and powerful tools of personal and professional growth.

The experiences we share will range from stories, field trips and in-class activities, to interviews with authors, chefs, and community thought leaders, with making-focused readings, discussions, and assignments that all serve as material and inspiration for a final maker project.

When students can see for themselves how gratitude or compassion in motion and action transforms their lives and the lives of others, they access a deeper level of equilibrium with the quality and can commune with it as if it were a friend, family member, or trusted guide. You will come away from each program with a stronger grasp of who you are and enter the world with a tangible, confident sense of your agency, values, and belonging.