USC Students Travel to Greece to Develop Real-World Solutions to Refugee Crisis in World Premiere of New Documentary ‘LIVES NOT GRADES’ Presented by KCET

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36 Young Innovators from USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering Learn Lessons Beyond the Classroom Going Up Against “The Greatest Humanitarian Crisis Since World War II"

PBS SoCal and KCET, Southern California’s flagship PBS stations, along with national independent satellite network Link TV, has announced the world premiere of the documentary film LIVES NOT GRADES. The new documentary follows a team of college students at the University of Southern California (USC) as they travel to Greek island of Lesvos as part of a unique course to design and build innovations to improve the lives of refugees. The world premiere of LIVES NOT GRADES debuts in Southern California on Tues., May 4 at 8 p.m. on KCET and encores on Wed., May 5 at 7 p.m. on PBS SoCal and on Wed., May 5 at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV (DirecTV 375 and Dish Network 9410).

LIVES NOT GRADES follows 36 USC students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines as they travel to Europe’s largest refugee camp, Moria Reception and Identification Center on Lesvos island. Over the course of one year, students develop solutions that provide resources and innovations to empower displaced asylum-seekers, like improved sanitation, shelters, education, access to information, mental health and security. The course itself challenges the traditional view of higher learning by requiring students to apply rigor not for grades or traditional assignments, but to create and innovate real-world products and services. Through an intimate lens, the documentary brings to light the process of humanitarian innovation as the students learn valuable lessons that extend beyond the classroom in going up against what has been described as “the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II."

The film’s director, Daniel Druhora, was also an instructor for the course at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering. Featured in the film are Viterbi faculty and course co-founders Dr. Burcin Becerik-Gerber (Dean’s Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Dr. David Gerber (Associate Professor of Practice in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Architecture) and mechanical engineer specializing in product development Brad Cracchiola.

LIVES NOT GRADES facilitates a timely conversation about the role of engineering, technology, education, and young people in addressing global problems. The filmmakers hope to create a synergy between the film and existing campaigns around tech for good, forced migration, social entrepreneurship, youth advocacy and innovation. The film was funded in part by the United Engineering Foundation. Executive Producers are Yannis Yortsos, Sonny Astani and Patrick Natale.

Join the conversation on social media using #LivesNotGrades

PBS SoCal and KCET are both part of the donor-supported community institution, the Public Media Group of Southern California. PBS SoCal is the flagship PBS station for diverse people across California and delivers content and experiences that inspire, inform and educate. PBS SoCal offers the full slate of beloved PBS programs including MASTERPIECE, NOVA, PBS NewsHour, FRONTLINE, and a broad library of documentary films with works from Ken Burns; as well as educational content including PBS KIDS programs like DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD and CURIOUS GEORGE. KCET showcases the best of PBS and is a leading source for arts, culture, and news in Southern California. Through innovative storytelling, KCET explores and expresses our dynamic local communities helping residents understand and connect with the region's diverse communities and ideas. For additional information about both KCET and PBS SoCal productions, web-exclusive content, programming schedules and community events, please visit and KCET Originals and PBS programming are available to stream on the FREE PBS App on iOS and Android devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV, and Chromecast. KCET is also available to watch live on YouTube TV.

Founded in 1999, Link TV is an independent viewer-supported media organization dedicated to providing programs that engage and inform its audiences with unique perspectives, and empower them to become involved in the world. Reaching more than 21 million U.S. satellite households nationally (DIRECTV channel 375 and DISH Network channel 9410), Link TV connects American viewers with people at the heart of breaking events, organizations at the forefront of social change and the vibrant cultures of an increasingly global community. Select programming from Link TV is also available for streaming on Apple TV, YouTube and Roku platforms. For additional information about Link TV productions, web-exclusive content and program schedules, please visit

About USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Founded in 1905, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering was named in 2003 as the Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering, honoring USC alumnus Andrew Viterbi, who developed an algorithm to connect the world. Located in Los Angeles, a global center for arts, technology, business and innovation in the heart of the Pacific Rim, USC Viterbi draws undergraduate and graduate students from all over the world. With more than 9,000 students, 300 faculty across all ranks and appointment levels, and more than 30 in-residence or affiliated members of the National Academies, USC Viterbi is consistently ranked in the nation’s top programs. Under the leadership of Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, the school helps re-imagine the 21st century engineer, by pioneering the Grand Challenge Scholars Program, leading national efforts in enhancing diversity, and changing the conversation about engineering. With its vision of engineering a better world for all humanity USC Viterbi embodies the power of engineering (Engineering+) to advance discovery and solutions across all disciplines, to serve California, the nation and the world.

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Chelsea Grosbeck
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