When Tamar Partamian, a junior majoring in architecture, gave a friend a tour of USC’s campus, the friend turned to her and asked, “Is this a seminary?”Community · (From left) Timothy Conley, the club’s adviser, and Laleh Mehria, Kasra Behizad and Ailene Huang, of the Baha’i Student Association, discuss the club’s plans. – Olivia Garcia | Daily TrojanIt’s hard to overlook the presence of religion on campus. Walking down University Avenue, students pass the USC Hillel building and the new $35 million USC Caruso Catholic Center, currently under construction. Crossing onto Trousdale Parkway, students pass the United University Church and a quick turn onto 34th Street brings students by the University Religious Center.What’s easy to miss, though, is just how much is going on inside these buildings. With more than 90 student religious groups, USC has the widest array of religious organizations of any American university, according to Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni.That diversity, in part, springs from the growing number of international students attending USC; with cultural diversity comes religious diversity. But the Rev. Jim Burklo, associate dean for religious life, says the growth in religious groups on campus also represents a cultural change.“Particularly at universities, people became more comfortable being public in their personal identities — in every way,” Burklo said. “People started being more willing to be public about it and there was more of an acceptance of differences and cultural differences.”At the weekly meetings of the Interfaith Council, accepting cultural differences is the goal, the theme and the norm. The council, a group of about 25 to 30 students that spans religious traditions including Sikhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Atheism and the newly coined “transpiritualism,” is focused on bringing people of different faiths together to discuss their beliefs and to learn from each other.About one-third of the members of the Interfaith Council identifies itself as spiritual but not religious, a trend that has become more common with this generation of college students. The Office of Religious Life has tried to orient itself around this tendency toward spirituality.“Our office is not really oriented around God, we’re oriented around meaning,” Soni said.That means a focus on community service, rather than dogma and doctrine, and an emphasis on interfaith dialogue.“9/11 showed us that interfaith is not a luxury but a necessity,” Soni said.USC launched an interfaith service initiative Sunday, in conjunction with the anniversary of 9/11.“You’re the first generation that actually will strengthen their own faith or their own beliefs by being exposed to the faith or beliefs of others,” Soni said. “It’s not threatening, it’s actually enriching and edifying.”Jem Jebbia, a senior majoring in Japanese, business administration and religion and the president of the Interfaith Council, believes religion can be a tool for good if people of different religions understand each other. The key, she said, is for students to be willing to listen and to share.“The biggest source of discomfort is the idea of someone trying to push their beliefs on you,” she said. “But we’re not trying to change your ideas.”Instead, the council emphasizes discourse. Each week, it tackles a different question respectfully, talking in turn, nodding in agreement and encouraging others to share.At last Tuesday’s Interfaith Council meeting, the question was simple: What is it like to practice your religion or spirituality as a student?Students addressed the convenience of having friends of the same religion nearby and the availability of discussion groups like the Interfaith Council. They also mentioned the challenges of finding time to pray daily, or learning to coexist with people of very different religions — challenges that confront students of all faiths.Layne Kaplan, a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism and the president of USC Hillel, said one of the biggest challenges for her group is keeping students engaged with their Jewish background. Right now, she says, Hillel only reaches about 30 percent of the Jewish students on campus.“I think finding balance is the biggest problem,” Kaplan said. “For example, I’m in this theater class that meets every Friday for a show but every Friday is Shabbat dinner, so it’s making those sacrifices. If I miss a Shabbat dinner does that mean I don’t care about my faith? No.”Kaplan, like other students, said a sense of community has helped her maintain her connection to her faith. For her, Hillel provides that community. For Partamian, it’s the Baha’i Student Association, even though she herself is Christian. And for Ifrah Sheikh, a sophomore majoring in fine arts, it’s the Interfaith Council.“These people are my family,” Sheikh said.
A very unusual marathon will be organized on January 20th in BiH’s capital Sarajevo. Following the extreme ultra marathons, extreme triathlon and other challenges that move its own borders, the first “Unusual 42.195 m Sarajevo” marathon will take place on cold Sunday.The organizer, Athletic Club Novi Grad Sarajevo “Athlete”, stated that participants will run through the streets of the city, through the five Sarajevo municipalities, from Dariva to Vrelo Bosne, over Miljacka and Zeljeznica Rivers, ending in Safet Zajko Center.“Our marathon is unusual in every sense of the word, the traffic will not be stopped, there will be no fixed judges along the route or chips. We want to believe that the runners are good and honest people, and hence we will value the information on a cell phone, clock or pedometer, and by the account on the STRAVA application. The result will be evaluated if participants show the running activity within 6 hours of the 42.195 meters distance route, “the organizers say.If someone believes that 42.2 km is extreme, he or she can take two more runners and apply in that way.In the starter pack, participants will get a drifit t-shirt and an Unusual Finish Medal, and the organizer will ensure route patrol mobile revving stations with refreshments for runners.
Apple CEO Tim Cook had a message for graduating seniors at George Washington University on Sunday: Change the world.“You have to find your North Star, and that means choices,” he said. “Some are easy, some are hard, and some will make you question everything.”Cook, leader of the most valuable U.S. company, made for a celebrity commencement address speaker for George Washington University’s Class of 2015. He used the pulpit to implore the student to stick to their values and make a difference. The theme was a familiar one as far as graduation speeches go. But Cook gave it a personal touch by invoking his mentor, Steve Jobs, the Apple founder who he replaced just before his death four years ago, and the company’s can-do ethos.It was one part motivational speech and another part Apple marketing pitch.As Cook told it, Apple is a place where it’s possible to be an idealist and successful in business. He told of how Jobs convinced him to join the company in 1998, despite its struggles at the time, by inspiring him with the possibility of making a huge impact through technology.“At Apple, we believe the work should be more than just improving your own self,” Cook said. “It is about improving the lives of others as well.“I took the job and changed my life,” he continued. “It has been 17 years and I have never once looked back.”Cook didn’t mention Apple’s financial success or any of its stumbles other than its well-documented brush with collapse. Rather, he stuck to how its products are a lifeline for some users, never mind that iPhones, iPads and Macs are used far more commonly for more mundane things like playing video games and sharing cat videos.“Apple’s products empower people all over the world: People who are blind and can have things read to them,” Cook said. People who are isolated by distance or disability. People who witness injustice and want to expose it — and now they can because they have a camera in their pocket all the time.”Cook spoke of his own values developed while growing up in Alabama only a few years after the civil rights battles in the South. He said his first trip to Washington D.C., home of George Washington University, came at age 16, after having won an essay contest. Before leaving, Cook said he and fellow winners had met Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, the one-time segregationist. The meeting with Wallace, he said, was no honor and that he considered Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy his heroes.“Shaking his hand was like a betrayal to my beliefs,” Cook said.During the speech, Cook hammered home the point of injustices like segregation and equality for all. But he made no specific mention of equality for gays and lesbians, issues that he and Apple has pushed for in the past. Last year, Cook acknowledged that he is gay.In opening his speech Sunday, Cook put a new twist on the usual request for audience members to silence their phones. Clearly, it wasn’t a day to own an Android or Microsoft phone.“So those of you with an iPhone, just place it in silent mode,” he said. “If you don’t have an iPhone, just pass it to the center aisle. Apple has a world-class recycling program. May 18, 2015 This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global 3 min read Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. Register Now »
Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. Last year, 2016, will undoubtedly go down as one of the most pivotal years in the history of virtual reality (VR). Major VR platforms, from the likes of Google, Facebook and Sony, were either promised or actually released, giving this new technology added credibility from these corporate heavyweights.Related: What Pokémon Go Can Teach You About Creating BuzzWhat’s more, devices that utilize virtual reality — and its cousin, augmented reality — have evolved from the dreams of tech enthusiasts to something your uncle can purchase from his local brick-and-mortar retailer.Consumer demand, high-quality devices and market conditions have all aligned to make VR and AR the next major advancements in the tech world.Investors, meanwhile, have also offered enthusiastic support for these technologies, pouring in $1.7 billion over the past 12 months. Look no further than the runaway success of Pokémon GO as an indication of how eager consumers are to embrace AR.Ecommerce companies should be taking feverish notes: A recent demonstration of AR technology by Florida-based startup Magic Leap showed one way retailers might integrate AR technology into an e-commerce environment: The demonstration showed how a user could superimpose virtual models of lamps and other room décor atop a real-world dresser, with the digital objects shown to scale, to help the user determine how those items might look within the space.So, the message here is that, far from just being a feature for games, AR may well up-end and upgrade the shopping experience as we know it. The cost of entry is still relatively low, and the potential benefits are outrageously high.Meet them where they are.About two decades ago, Walmart failed to recognize the potential of the internet. As a result, Amazon was able to claim a significant portion of the big box chain’s retail audience. The VR and AR boom might not be quite as transformational as the dawn of ecommerce, but retailers still can’t afford to ignore this potential shift in technology and consumer demand.The biggest hurdle customers so often face is determining whether a certain product is right for them. AR offers shoppers the confidence that may motivate purchasing decisions. Retailers, then, should be looking for ways to integrate AR into their stores. That will allow customers to view the in-depth information available online — including reviews, related products and price — while simultaneously looking at the actual physical product via a smartphone.Related: 6 Technology Trends That Will Impact Fashion IndustryMore importantly, AR in particular can provide users with an in-store shopping experience, regardless of their location. Devices can superimpose 3D objects in various spaces, giving customers a chance to interact with digital renderings from the comfort of their own homes. IKEA and Converse, respectively, already allow users to envision pieces of furniture in their homes or shoes on their feet in real time using smartphone apps.As more consumers opt for an authentic and enhanced digital shopping experience, retailers of all stripes will have to alter where and how they sell products.Turn the “augmented” into reality.It’s not enough to simply use AR in a trivial manner. Retailers must make it a significant component of marketing, sales and IT efforts to ensure it resonates with shoppers.To do this, retailers have to do more than blindly throw darts at the AR wall; they need to consider the needs of customers and the goals of their companies. Here are some of those considerations:Offer a useful experience. It’s easy to treat AR technology as a novelty or toy, but the platform allows you to deliver incredible value to undecided shoppers. While some organizations feel pressured to create their own unique take on AR, they might find it makes sense to invest in smaller companies to do the work for them.For example, a Sephora app employs ModiFace technology to allow users to take a “selfie” and then apply a variety of cosmetic products to their faces. Instead of spending hours debating the merits of eyeliner options in-store, Sephora customers can narrow their choices from home and streamline the shopping process.Add novelty to retail. Between physical and online marketplaces, intense competition is being waged within most verticals. Incorporating AR is an immediate way for retailers to stand out from the pack.Eyewear retailer Warby Parker, for instance, differentiated itself from competitors by allowing shoppers to try items on before a purchase. Virtual shopping offers the same novelty, without any of the costs associated with shipping products to clients. The technology hasn’t been perfected, but the possibility of creating an avatar and having it try on digital clothing via something such as Wolfprint 3D is not far off. In fact, a 2015 study by Walker Sands showed that 35 percent of consumers surveyed said they would shop more online if they could interact with products virtually. Allow users to customize. Retailers such as Nordstrom have distinguished themselves from competitors by offering a fully personalized shopping experience, guided by a knowledgeable curator who knows an individual shopper’s style, sizes and preferences. As a result, Nordstrom became famous for its customer service.AR has the potential to deliver these personalized services to the masses. Users are hungry for this sort of digital customization, whether it be an app that allows them to test out different color combinations or a friendly AI offering clothing suggestions based on purchase history.Related: Virtual Reality: Changing Shopping ExperiencesThose retailers that reap the biggest benefits of AR and VR will be the ones willing to invest resources early, and fully commit to the technology. Shoppers are anxious for the breakthrough that will finally remove uncertainty from the buying process. And AR has the potential to do just that, but only if retailers work to bring the technology into the real world. Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. January 16, 2017 6 min read Register Now »