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Surrounded by Smart People

Dean Yortsos Addresses Incoming Freshmen Engineering Students

August 27, 2007 —

Surrounded by Smart People

Good morning and welcome to the Viterbi School of Engineering - the wonderful place where we hope you will spend the next four years of your life!
It’s another great day in Los Angeles – especially for the more than 70% of you who are from out-of-state – and, now that you are all here, an even better day at the Viterbi School.
Today is a day of anticipation, aspirations and great dreams for you… but, as a new beginning, it’s an important one for us too. It’s particularly special for me personally – the advice I give this year is literally fatherly.
We are excited to be meeting you for the first time, and proud that students like you, with such high aspirations and the talent to accomplish them, chose the Viterbi School as the place of their destiny.
This freshman class is at the top- you have matched our expectations in academic quality and commitment. Your class continues an ascending trend that leads the university overall. Be proud of it! Since 2000, the average SAT scores (Math and Critical Reading/Verbal) at the Viterbi School have risen by 76 points. In the process, the Viterbi School’s students have helped USC attain the elite reputation it has reached in recent years. We cannot be more proud.

James Watson, the discoverer of DNA, was asked in a meeting I attended last year (OK, so I’m doing a little name dropping here), to what he attributed his success. He answered: By being around smart people.

It is one of the best benefits of the Viterbi School that you will also be spending your day around smart people. You have selected engineering as your major. Arguably, it’s the most demanding curriculum in college! Let me tell you that you could not have made a better choice!

With it, you can change the world.

Engineers helped turn the 20th century into the American century by designing and building everything from cars to computer chips to artificial limbs better than anyone else in the world…

Many have said that the 21st century will be the century of the engineer. I am one of the firm believers.

But this will be a different brand of engineer.  It will be:

  • One who combines analytical and mathematical skills with creativity and synthesis: a balanced blend of left- and right-brain skills;
  • One who can solve pressing complex problems in energy, the environment, health, infrastructure, information processing and communication, homeland security and a host of others;
  • One who understands how to transfer technology and science to the marketplace to start new business and new enterprises;
  • One who leads, across the disciplines and across the globe, and understands the human element, human history and human culture;
  • One who develops new innovation, which is the fuel that has grown our economy since its inception.    

This new engineer will be the academic descendant of Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, James Watson, Si Ramo, Andy Viterbi and Bill Gates.

Engineering has become the discipline that can unlock the mysteries of other sciences – including social sciences and the arts. And I can't think of a better background for graduate school, whether in science and engineering, medical school, law or business administration than a modern engineering background.

So you chose the right major.

You also picked the right place!

The Viterbi School is ready to provide you with this solid background – and to build engineers with the skills, the character and the leadership to function in our new global and interdisciplinary world.

We have introduced and continue to do so many innovations in engineering education:
Our freshman academies, which all of you will take, are becoming a model for others to emulate.
We are embarking in a curriculum reform that has biology as one of the engineering pillars.
Last year, we introduced a number of new degree programs: a dual degree in Computer Science and Business, a degree in Computer Science with emphasis in games and a new degree in Chemical Engineering with emphasis in nanotechnology...
Service learning is flourishing in our Engineering Writing Program, domestically, but also internationally, through the organization Engineers Without Borders...
In collaboration with the USC College, we have come up with new ways to teach Math to engineering students,... and we are integrating the senior capstone design project with students from business and from communications, thus creating novel models of interdisciplinarity.
We have embarked in student-exchange programs with many top universities worldwide, in Europe and Asia – take advantage of it!
Our program is challenging… engineering at a top school ought to be challenging. But you possess exceptional abilities, and the Viterbi School has a strong support system to help you.

KIUEL – our unique Klein Institute for Undergraduate Engineering Life – provides out-of-the-classroom opportunities for leadership, community service and community involvement. Be involved!
Your opportunities are endless…
Getting off to a great start is the best way to seize them.
We have great resources available for you, but they are only as good as you use them.
A good way to start is by beginning to build your sense of community today!
Get to know your faculty and academic advisors… Dean Yates’ student affairs staff members are here to help you and to provide you a home-away-from-home.
Introduce yourself to the representatives of our dozens of student organizations who made time to come here today…
Make yourself an important part of the Viterbi School’s future…
It’s rich with promise.
When I became the dean of the school, I encapsulated our vision in four sentences:
  • First at USC
  • A leader in the nation
  • With constantly rising quality
  • And excellence in all our endeavors
I am proud to say that today you are the embodiment of this vision – and the vision is being realized.
Thank you for joining Viterbi and making it your home for the next four years.