Logo: University of Southern California

Back to School: Viterbi Welcomes New Students and Parents

"It is one of the best benefits of the Viterbi School that you will also be spending your day around smart people."

August 23, 2010 —

It is back to school time at the USC and suddenly the Viterbi School was buzzing with activity.

On "Move-in Day," parents and their offspring struggled from cars to dormitories bearing computers, televisions, stereos, microwave ovens, clothing, household goods and other dormitory necessities. At the same time, older undergraduates and graduate students were moving into apartments.

Dean Yannis Yortsos speaks to parents on Move-in Day

Dean Yannis Yortsos welcomed parents of new Viterbi freshmen on USC's "Move-in Day" saying: "You and I have a common bond. We are both Viterbi parents, and I have a really vested interest to see that the education we offer here is second to none!"

The dean's daughter is a junior majoring in Computer Engineering-Computer Science while his son was one of the incoming Viterbi freshmen.

"You have selected engineering as your major, arguably the most demanding curriculum in college," the dean told the new freshmen at a luau held the next day where they mingled with older undergraduates. "Let me tell you that you could not have made a better choice! With it, you can change the world. Many have said that the 21st century will be the century of the enginer. And I am a firm believer myself."

Yortsos employed half a dozen languages to greet new master’s students who represented 23 countries, ending with a hearty "G'day" for the single Australian student present.

Yortsos said that this year's 400 plus freshmen come from 38 different states and 26 countries. More than one third -- 35 percent -- are female. One third of the entering class were named university scholars and the average SAT score for this year's class will likely top all previous classes by 17 points. One-quarter of all freshmen have perfect SAT Math scores. Yortsos said that since

Andy Lin and Dean Yortsos
2000, the average SAT scores of Viterbi's incoming freshmen has risen by 100 points.

He noted that since 2008, four members of the Viterbi School faculty had been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. while three of the school's junior faculty, all of them women, were selected to be on TR35, an annual listing of 35 outstanding young men and women under the age of 35 who exemplify the spirit of innovation in business and technology.

"I attended a meeting where a famous Nobel laureate was asked to what he attributed his success. He answered: by being around smart people," said Yortsos. "It is one of the best benefits of the Viterbi School that you will also be spending your day around smart people."

Valerie Benzimra whose son Michael is now a junior assured parents of freshmen that she once had many of the same questions about her son that were on their minds:

"Will he be happy, will he continue to thrive in school, will he get along with his roommates and most of all, will he be able to cook and clean

Valerie Benzimra tells parents about her son's progress
for himself?"

But she said her son "has been challenged in ways he never imagined and with the help of the exceptional faculty, administration and staff has honed in on the area of engineering that has fueled his passion...I marvel at the confident and mature young man my son has become."

Saying he had "learned to cook well," she chuckled, "the cleaning part could still use some work."

Louise Yates, associate dean for undergraduate affairs, introduced her staff who will be providing the students "a home away from home" and reassured parents that there was indeed light at the end of the tunnel.

"My oldest daughter graduated four years ago. She does have a job and she is off my payroll," said Yates. "It does happen."

At the parents reception, mothers and fathers of incoming freshmen chatted with the dean, faculty and staff learning more about the Viterbi School and what lies ahead for their young future engineers. But there were some surprises, at least for Randy Brush of Dallas and Herb Vogel from Houston.

"We haven't seen each other for 15 years, since we worked together at Arco in Atlanta," said Brush. Both now have sons -- Nick Brush and Austin Vogel -- who are new Viterbi freshmen.