A Trojan to the third degree

Photo courtesy of Trisha Tucker

Tall and willowy, striking blue eyes, blonde hair cut in a sleek bob: Trisha Tucker looks as if she could be an actress on the silver screen. But instead, she wrote about them  — for a little while, anyway.
“I worked at the Hollywood Reporter, and that was the most fun job I think you can possibly get coming out of undergrad,” Tucker said.

Her stint as a journalist was the only period of her career where Tucker wasn’t involved with USC. Tucker attended USC as both an undergraduate and graduate student, and currently works as an assistant professor of Writing for the Thematic Option program.  

Tucker’s vested interest in the entertainment industry seems to have imparted a cinematic quality to her real life. When Tucker first stepped foot on the USC campus as a fresh-faced undergraduate in 1999, some girls from her floor proposed getting lunch just as her family was leaving, in a moment that seems to have been plucked straight from a Hollywood blockbuster.

“Those particular girls, along with my roommate, ended up being some of my best friends through college,” Tucker said. “It feels like fate that I was feeling really lonely, on the verge of crying, and these girls invited me out and now I’ve been in their weddings and they’ve been in my wedding.”

With its prestigious arts programs and prime location in the middle of southern California, Tucker harbored no doubts about heading to USC for college. She majored in English and double minored in music industry and film, which was no mean feat.

“I knew I wanted to come to Los Angeles, and all the schools I applied to were local here,” Tucker said. “USC to me had the best combination of big-school opportunities and amenities, but also a more intimate feel, more personalized attention from teachers.”

Tucker was a typical honors student: high-achieving, participating in salsa dance, working as a tour guide and helping out in the Thornton School’s opera department. She also worked off-campus at an entertainment law firm, which didn’t leave much time in the day for her to take advantage of all the clubs and organizations on campus as she would have liked.

“The student body is so enthusiastic and they participate in a lot of things,” Tucker said. “So me, looking back and only being able to rattle off a few things I did — even though I loved doing them — it felt like other students were able to be more involved and I think I would’ve really enjoyed that.”

After graduating, Tucker’s job at the Hollywood Reporter granted her access to fancy galas and movie premieres, as well as the opportunity to interview high-profile actors and directors whom she admired. But, as much fun as she was having, she wasn’t satisfied; she wanted to make a difference through more fulfilling work.

“At 50 years old, if I looked at the pieces I’d written, I was worried that I wasn’t going to feel like I had spent my time and my energy in a meaningful way,” Tucker said.  

Eventually, Tucker gravitated back to USC to complete her doctorate in English, specializing in 19th-century British evangelical literature. As a graduate student, she also taught for five years, two of which were through the Thematic Option program, before becoming a full-time staff member as the associate director of the writing program.

Tucker quickly discovered a passion and natural talent for teaching.  

“I had an amazingly well-rounded pedagogical experience, and that helped me to discover how meaningful I find teaching, which is what I get to do now,” Tucker said.

Tucker is currently an assistant professor for the Thematic Option honors program, and also oversees all the writing instruction, mentoring the graduate student instructors and developing curriculum.

“I love my job because it’s part straight-on teaching of undergraduates, and part really mentoring and helping develop other teachers,” Tucker said.

One of Tucker’s students, Ryan McIlvain, has maintained a friendship with her long after he took her pedagogy class. McIlvain, who is now an assistant professor of English at the University of Tampa, was impressed by her natural aptitude for teaching and hoped to live up to her example.

“I was amazed by her work ethic and her talent as a teacher,” McIlvain said. “She is that rare combination of someone who’s very good at teaching, clearly loves it, and is going to work eight days a week to make sure that she does it well and the people she teaches will learn to do it well too.”

Tucker’s colleague, Emily Hodgson Anderson, is also quick to laud Tucker’s conscientiousness and thoughtfulness in her approach to teaching. Anderson, an assistant professor of English, taught a Thematic Option Core course in conjunction with Tucker’s writing course.

“I’ve learned so many good teaching strategies from her, and learned how to be more thoughtful in my own approach,” Anderson said. “I particularly like how she incorporates her own struggles as a student into how she teaches other students, as opposed to pretending that this is always easy for her.”

Tucker has also lent her skills to other leadership roles at USC; this year she will be the President of the Dornsife Faculty Council, and she also served on the USC Faculty Senate. Additionally, as if she wasn’t already entrenched in campus life, Tucker has spent the summer preparing to move into the Village. One of six residential faculty members selected for the position, she will be living in the McCarthy Honors Dorm.

“I’m really excited about all the opportunities to interact with students in a way that’s different than in the classroom,” Tucker said. “As somebody who met some of the best friends of my life living in the honors residence hall, just the idea of living with and getting to interact with honor students in particular was so attractive to me. It made me feel like I’d be coming full circle from my own student experience.”

Having spent so many years living and studying on campus, she was granted the unique opportunity to witness USC’s evolution from a campus slightly insulated from the surrounding neighborhood to a flourishing and active member of the community.

“There was nowhere nearby here to go eat and go hang out. Campus just felt very isolated,” Tucker said. “Now there’s a whole USC town. There’s so much more to do — and eat!”

It’s clear that Tucker’s ties to USC run deep, and she has no intention of cutting them anytime soon.

“I have no plans to leave,” Tucker said. “I never set out to be somebody who would always be at USC; it was not my plan, but there are a lot of wonderful reasons to stay here.”