The USC Dornsife Office of Experiential and Applied Learning, EXL LAB, creates experience and maker-based programs and events for students, faculty, and staff in association with campus departments and offices, and secondary schools associated with the university. 

Last summer, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life invited Kiel Shaub, Academic Curator for EXL Lab, 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 qualities that will profoundly impact their personal, academic, and post-graduate lives: Gratitude, Empathy, Humility, Acceptance, Compassion, Joy, and Love.


Accepting Applications for Spring 2024!


Discover Freedom: An Experiential Journey of Acceptance in Action

Classes will be held at the University Religious Center Fishbowl (835 W. 34th St) on Tuesdays from 5 to 7 pm, beginning February 13 and ending April 2.

Apply Here

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” – Carl Jung 

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Acceptance Flyer - 1

Recall a time when you felt truly accepted. It’s that powerful combination of contentment, joy, and calm that floods in when we are welcomed into a new community, or told by someone we care about that we are enough, just the way we are.

Perhaps even more vividly do we recall the opposite of acceptance, those times when we felt ostracized or excluded from a person or community we wanted to be a part of. What does that exclusion do to someone? What does it do to you?

Now what happens when we turn this feeling around? What happens when we turn acceptance into an action? When acceptance becomes something we do, how does that action have the potential to transform our lives? to free us from the burdens we were laboring under?

In this five-week program, we’ll experience, explore, and share the power of radical acceptance from these different angles. We’ll learn to accept ourselves, so that we can accept others. We’ll reflect on those aspects of existence we struggle to accept, to discover the light dawning just beyond.

Only when we radically accept can we truly be free. Join us, and discover the transformative power of acceptance for yourself.

Program Duration: 6 Weeks (Feb 13 – Apr 2)
Date & Time: Tuesdays, 5-7 pm
Place: URC Fishbowl
Program Lead: Kiel Shaub, Ph.D. (kshaub@usc.edu)

Apply Here

For more information: Kiel Shaub

Kiel Shaub

Kiel Shaub, PhD, is the Academic Curator (AC) for EXL Lab, an 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.

Previously, Kiel taught as a lecturer in the English Department at UCLA, where he earned his PhD. 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.

Dr. Shaub would love to hear from you!


Flyer for Transformation Series Humility class



Cultures and spiritual traditions across the globe prize humility as one of the highest human virtues. But do we really understand its power, what it means to live and act humbly?

Too often humility is understood as a limiting virtue, one of self-denial and obedience. But what if humility was in fact a powerful source of awe and wonder, a prompt to exploration, and a pathway to truth, understanding, connection, and self-discovery?

But how to discover humility? That is our quest. The history of this more expansive view of humility can be hard to find because truly humble people tend to be motivated by something beyond self-promotion. That means that to really discover the power of humility, we need to seek it out, practice it ourselves, and reflect on the result.

Join us as we embark on a 6-week experiential journey through humility in its myriad forms. Humbling ourselves, we will have the opportunity to experience the delightful surprise and power of humility as its creations unfold before our eyes.

From activities and practices of humility that spark curiosity, care, and camaraderie, to speakers whose power derives from life lived humbly, we will touch humility with our own hands, and feel its power working within us.



“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 to experience one another’s world, and discover the transformational power of Empathy within yourself.



“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.