Logo: University of Southern California

Meet Mr. and Ms. USC

This year, for the first time, USC's coveted Order of the Torch has chosen two students from the Viterbi School to represent graduating seniors.

December 06, 2007 — USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering will leave its mark on campus history in a new way this year.  For the first time ever, two accomplished engineering seniors have won the title of “Mr. and Ms. USC” from the USC undergraduate student body’s exclusive Order of the Torch.

The students — Reed Doucette, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, and Althea Lyman, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering — were selected from 12 members of the Order at the campus’s lively CONQUEST pep rally, held Nov. 29, two days before USC’s football victory over cross-town rival UCLA.  
Reed Doucette, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, is Mr. USC.

“I was really excited to be selected,” said Doucette, who was also recently named a 2008 Rhodes scholar.  “I think it will be a lot of fun to work with other students around campus and to participate in some activities that I probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to participate in otherwise.”

“I think it’s great,” added Lyman, who is a supplemental student instructor for general chemistry and a very energetic Viterbi student ambassador.  

Lyman, who wants to practice medicine someday, is active in a number of other campus activities, such as Discover USC, Explore USC and the Merit Research Program.

As Mr. and Ms. USC, Doucette and Lyman will serve as ambassadors for the USC undergraduate student body at academic and athletic events throughout the year. 

Membership in the Order of the Torch is one of the highest accolades a USC student can receive and is awarded to students “who exemplify all of the unique attributes of USC – academics, athletics, Trojan spirit, leadership and those who will represent all of our amazing students,” said  Heather Larabee, director of USC Campus Activities.
Althea Lyman, a senior studying biomedical engineering with an emphasis on chemical engineering, is Ms. USC.

The Order of the Torch selection process varies each year, but this year students were chosen based on their scores on an application; an interview with the selection committee, which is comprised of faculty, alumni and students; a two-minute speech competition; and the votes of the 12 Order of the Torch members.  The Order chooses 12 seniors each year to become members, after which they become alumni of the Order. 

Mr. and Ms. USC candidates were asked to deliver a talk about what they had learned in four years of undergraduate life at USC, “...kind of like a letter to our freshman selves about the USC experience,” Doucette explained, and then to offer tips to entering freshmen on things to do and stay away from to improve the campus experience.

Doucette said he talked about “doing a good job in school” and taking studies seriously right from the start, “because if you don’t, you’ll fall behind.” He also talked of meeting new people, exploring new activities and “never being afraid to try something new.” 

Doucette, who has a 3.97 grade point average, will spend the next two years studying for a master’s degree in engineering science at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. The 6' 5" athlete also played small forward on the Trojans men’s basketball team until the end of his junior year. 

Lyman, a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and the senior honor society, Mortar Board, said her advice to incoming freshmen was “take some risks....and go in with an attitude that you can master it all, because that’s what really pushed me to succeed."

Lyman has accepted a two-year position with Teach for America, a federal program that places college graduates in teacher training jobs in low income school districts throughout the country, so that they can gain valuable experience and earn a teaching credential.  After graduating in May 2008, Lyman hopes to teach high school chemistry in New York City.       

Order of the Torch members are typically quite active in activities likes these on campus and in the community, Lababee said.  Doucette, for example, has been involved in Los Angeles Community Impact, an organization he co-founded with fellow business students, which provides consulting services to more than 30 nonprofits and small for-profit companies in the community. 

Besides serving as ambassadors, Mr. and Ms. USC will be participating in a variety of activities throughout the year, including a community service project, serving as counselors or facilitators at a newly created Emerging Leader Program and coordinating a senior class project.

The Order of the Torch was launched in 1987, after students in Trojan Pride, one of the campus’s student organizations, lobbied to establish a Homecoming Court to honor graduating seniors at various public functions, including Homecoming.  Scholarship and leadership qualities became the foundation for membership.  The Order named its first Mr. and Ms. USC in 1995; the last engineering student to hold the torch title was civil engineer Steven Milam in 2000.