Logo: University of Southern California

ISE Senior Wins OCEC Outstanding Student Award

Trustee scholar "comes close to idealizing what the Epstein faculty wants from undergrads" and the profession needs for the future
Newly Paul
February 19, 2009 —

Kari Hernandez: wants "to serve the community in my own way." photo: Newly Paul
She can maneuver a sand buggy as deftly as she can dance the salsa. Scoring points in a volleyball match comes as easily to her as cracking a math problem. 

And now, 22-year-old Kari Hernandez, senior at the Epstein Industrial Systems and Engineering Department, has won the Outstanding Engineering Student Award, given annually to one or a small number of exceptionally talented students in any field of engineering, by the Orange County Engineering Council (OCEC).

“This is totally unexpected. But I think it’s a great way to connect with other people in my field,” says Hernandez, who was nominated for the award by James Moore, Professor and Chair of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Incidentally, Hernandez first joined USC as a business major at the Marshall School. But she “missed math and science so much” that after two years she switched over to the engineering department.

“I nominated Kari because her progress comes close to idealizing what the Epstein ISE faculty wants from our undergraduate students,” says Moore, adding, “She started out in a program outside the Viterbi School and was not happy. She took the time to inform herself of her options, assessed her strengths and interests, and made a careful decision to transfer into engineering.  That kind of adjustment requires courage, objectivity, and a commitment to success.”

Hernandez epitomizes the "engineering-plus" concept -- the idea that engineering plays an enabling role in all aspects of society and that students must learn to be not just outstanding practitioners but experts in other fields.  Moore says Hernandez has created success throuhg exceptional performance and adaptability.  “Her future prospects are boundless, and we are proud of her,” he adds.

That’s obvious, considering Hernandez’s impressive track record. She joined USC with a Trustee Scholarship, and then followed it up by making it to the Dean’s List.  After completing a year at Viterbi, she took time off to study in Argentina, Peru, Chile and Paris.

Her experiences abroad got her interested in transportation engineering, an area she wants to pursue as a graduate student.

“The subways in Argentina were chaotic and malfunctioned frequently, my friend had her pocket picked on a crowded Paris subway, in Peru the buses were always overcrowded, and then there’s LA, with its dismal public transport system. All this made me want to serve the community in my own way,” she explains.