I am writing today as we celebrate Veterans Day 2019 to honor the heroes among us.
There are roughly 100 current USC Viterbi students who are veterans, on active duty, in the reserves, or are spouses or children of veterans. Not to mention the countless alumni, parents, faculty and staff who are both Trojan engineers and members of the armed services.
I want to take a moment to thank them for their selfless service. They and their loved ones' commitment to protecting our country makes it possible for institutions such as the University of Southern California to flourish. On this day, they deserve our gratitude and recognition.
One of those heroic engineers is Kevin Moran, a USC Viterbi sophomore studying astronautical engineering and a U.S. Navy Petty Officer, 2nd Class. A transfer student from Rio Hondo College in Whittier, Kevin is helping the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory to become "mission ready" to break another record when the team launches its next student-built rocket into the atmosphere.
Kevin's long-term goal: make a meaningful contribution. "Whether it is designing the next generation of communication satellites to support troops overseas, or introducing the next generation of children to engineering, I want to leave the world a better place than I found it."
Another unsung hero is Ashok Deb, a U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and third-year USC Viterbi Ph.D. For the past 18 years, Ashok has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe and Central America, optimizing computers and communications devices to help soldiers communicate better in the field.
But for the last three years, he has called USC Viterbi home. Ashok is currently part of the Information Sciences Institute's Machine Intelligence and Data Science (MINDS) group as a doctoral student, working under the guidance of Professor Emilio Ferrara. His current projects explore the intersection of computer science and social science, such as the spread of fake news and misinformation on social media during election cycles.
At USC Viterbi, Ashok has spoken to K-12 students about cybersecurity risks and taught them about fake news and internet bots, a particularly gratifying experience. More than that, he noted that "USC Viterbi and USC are the most military friendly organizations I know," and that "USC Viterbi is my family."
We at the USC Viterbi School have dedicated ourselves to ensuring that our veterans and active-duty personnel, whether in a classroom in downtown Los Angeles or thousands of miles away over a computer in Iraq or Afghanistan, receive the best and most supportive engineering education found anywhere. We take this directive quite seriously. Others have noticed our commitment.
In 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked USC #5 in the category of "Best Colleges for Veterans." That same year, the Military Times selected us #9 for "Vets Cybersecurity Programs." Additionally, U.S. News has chosen USC Viterbi #2 for "Online Graduate Engineering Programs."
I am proud of that recognition. However, I feel far more honored when men and women like Ashok Deb tell us what USC Viterbi has meant to them. That's when I know we're doing our job.
I want to leave you with a thought from President Ronald Reagan, who, I think, so beautifully captured the meaning and spirit of this important day.
"We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause."
Yannis C. Yortsos
Dean, USC Viterbi School of Engineering