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Zeeshan Ahmed - Viterbi Valedictorian 2005

Faculty, Staff, Family, friends, and my fellow Viterbi Graduates:
 I am extremely honored today to deliver the valedictory on behalf of such an accomplished engineering class. Every Viterbi graduate here has made it through four years of a top-ten engineering curriculum. They’ve all been through countless sleep-deprived nights debugging code at SAL or working on page after page of impossible homework problems. Some have conducted research at labs, worked on the Aero design, ASME design, Formula SAE teams, bridge-building or autonomous robotics and submarine projects to name a few. Others have been involved outside of academics as athletes, volunteers at Troy Camp and JEP, Resident Advisors, members of the Trojan Marching Band and numerous other student organizations. In spite of this very demanding lifestyle, I would be hard-pressed to find a fellow engineer who hasn’t enjoyed it thoroughly.
 While reminiscing about the last four years, as all graduating seniors with senioritis do - I recalled what led me, at first, to pursue engineering after high school. Unfortunately, it was the superficial idea of being able to make money off my math and science skills. I am happy to report to you, however, that I found better reasons to pursue higher education over the course of the last four years. I realized the true value and importance of the advancement of the sciences and engineering, just from the sheer passion of people around me in USC’s academic setting. I also found myself in the larger, diverse USC student body, where it was an exciting prospect to get involved in student leadership and interact with my peers. My extracurricular activities gave me the opportunity for a different kind of learning outside of engineering.
My most profound educational and life experience actually came from within the Viterbi academic setting, in my engineering writing class. As part of this class, everyone worked in groups on real community service projects. In the spring of 2004, my good friend Morgan Hendry and I took this class and worked on a pilot project in partnership with the African Millennium Foundation. The scope of the problem was to develop a computer lab at an elementary school in the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the course of our initial research, we studied the politics and socio economic conditions, in that region, especially in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide. I think we matured a few years in those couple of weeks. We realized that before we could worry about computer labs, we had to worry about more fundamental problems like providing clean drinking water and power to light homes. Consequently we designed our model to tackle those problems instead.
The experience of working with the African Millennium Foundation brought to light the larger looming problem of a lack of access to education, not only in Africa, but all over the world. We are extremely fortunate to be here today, receiving engineering degrees, but there between three and four billion people who will never have the privilege of an education such as ours. Another couple of billion will not see the impact of our engineering advancements for decades to come.
While we leave as Viterbi graduates, and embark on careers as engineers, doctors, lawyers, and so forth, we need to make a commitment to something I like to call life-long teaching. We are all familiar with the concept of life-long learning as a commitment to continual education. Life-long teaching is something much more powerful. It is a covenant with society to use your education, not only in your professional careers, but in sharing it with people. It could be as
simple as tutoring or mentoring kids in your neighborhood or something more substantial such as volunteering for organizations like the African Millennium Foundation with your engineering skills. Every bit will help the world become more educated.
Now why should Viterbi engineers be involved in life-long teaching? Because, as engineers, we are critical thinkers and have skill sets that are valuable to society not only by virtue of our inventions, but also because of our choices and opinions. We are some of the most educated people in society and we know from history that initiative taken by educated people causes progressive change in the world. Additionally, as Viterbi graduates, we enter society as leaders – informed and active leaders. As students, we’ve already been volunteering and teaching in our community – we just need to continue doing so in our professional lives.
This is also an important time to commit ourselves to the most supreme quality of ethical standards for the rest of our lives. In all our actions and decisions, we must make sure to uphold the safety of people and the quality and good name of our profession. The USC code of Ethics also asks us to respect the rights and dignity of all persons, and to discharge our obligations with honesty and integrity. We must carry these principles with us as we leave USC.
Lastly, I certainly cannot end, without giving thanks on behalf of the engineering class of 2005 to some very important people. These are people who have tried to make these four years a smooth comfortable journey for us, as best as they could. First, to all our professors, who guided us, taught us, and had faith in us. A warm thanks to Associate Dean Louise Yates and the entire Engineering Student Affairs staff, for putting up with us, advising us, telling us what forms to fill out, what classes to take. To Dean Max Nikias, who took office the year we came in as freshmen, led this school on a relentless trajectory of growth, and now leaves us to take on the office of Provost. Certainly, to our role model Dr. Andrew Viterbi, for his tremendous generosity and his name to our school. And finally, and most importantly, to our moms and dads, our families and surrogate families, and our friends. You were always there for us. Your love, encouragement, and support, over the last four years and throughout our lives have brought us to this day. My parents couldn’t attend this ceremony today unfortunately, but Mom and Dad I salute you and thank you.
I conclude by saying: Viterbi Graduates of 2005, carry forward the best of Trojan ideals, serve society with your skills, and spread far the light of knowledge. Don’t fear daunting challenges because you have this wonderful Trojan family to support you. Thank you for a wonderful four years and fight on!
Zeeshan Ahmed
Viterbi Valedictorian
Class of 2005