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Have Diploma, Will Innovate

Graduation Day 2013: On a day of 12,000 USC graduates, Trojan engineers are tasked to "create the world that never was."
By: Katie McKissick
May 16, 2013 —

“Thanks to engineering and technology, the world is being re-created and re-imagined like never before — with an astonishing speed, at an exponential pace, in front of our very eyes," said Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, standing before 570 graduating students with bachelor’s degrees from the Viterbi School. "And it is engineers and visionaries like you that will drive this re-imagination."

USC Viterbi Commencement: May 17, 2013 - Carol Bartz, former Yahoo! CEO, delivers the undergraduate address.

Invoking the words of legendary aerospace engineer and mathematician Theodore von Kármán, Yortsos said: “Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was.”

Yortsos urged today's graduating engineers to use the broad canvas of physical, chemical, biological and social phenomena to "create the world that never was."

This year’s Viterbi School graduates have worked hard during their four years, like 2013 undergraduate valedictorian, Jeffrey Sakamoto, a trustee scholar from Honolulu, Hawaii. He conducted research in the Tissue Engineering Lab at the Keck School of Medicine of USC with Dr. Han on stem cells. Each of Sakamoto’s summers were spent doing research at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

The speaker for the undergraduate ceremony was Carol Bartz, lead director on the board of Cisco Systems. The former Yahoo! and Autodesk CEO has been cited on the Forbes “List of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”

This year’s graduating class is the most representative in the Viterbi School’s history, as 27 percent are women. “They represent the changing face of engineering,” said Yortsos, “and we cannot be more proud!”

One of these women, Theresa Kurth, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and will soon begin her new job at SpaceX. And she’s not yet done with her education. She has enrolled in the Progressive Degree Program through DEN@Viterbi, USC Viterbi’s Distance Education Network, to earn her master’s in aerospace engineering by 2015 while simultaneously working in the industry.

Theresa Kurth

Kurth took full advantage of the undergraduate experience at USC and embraced every quality of a Trojan: faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous and ambitious. In addition to her challenging classes, she was on the USC cross country team freshman year through the first half of her junior year. As a senior, she was president of the Sigma Gamma Tau Aerospace Engineering Honor Society. For the past two years, Kurth was the vice president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and just last month she acted as the co-chair of the planning committee as USC hosted the American Society of Civil Engineers Pacific Southwest Conference.

She believes that USC Viterbi has given her the skills to rise to any challenge she will face in her future.

“One of the main messages that professors in Viterbi try to get across to you is that an engineering education isn’t so much about remembering everything you learned from the textbooks,” she said, “but learning how to learn — how to pick up new concepts and apply them as quickly as you can.”

At the afternoon commencement ceremony for graduate students, N.R. Narayana Murthy spoke to the 1,704-student graduating class. Murthy is the founder and chairman emeritus of Infosys Limited, a global software consulting company headquartered in Bangalore, India.

N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder and chairman emeritus of Infosys Limited, delivers the graduate address

USC Viterbi 2013 Graduate Ceremony Keynote from USC Viterbi on Vimeo.

During the ceremony, Dean Yortsos honored the newest members of the USC Order of Arete, the highest honor accorded to USC graduating engineering students:

• Jose Arche III, Industrial and Systems Engineering

• Rohan Handa, Industrial Engineering (Engineering Management)

• Jennifer Schlesinger, Civil Engineering (Construction Engineering)

• Winnie Siauw, Environmental Engineering

• Catherina Ticsay, Mechanical Engineering

• Pianpian Wu, Environmental Engineering

Yortsos also commended other students’ outstanding achievements as USC Viterbi graduate students, noting that over 50 countries were represented here today. Among them was Niral Patel, an international student from India, who graduated with a master’s in green technology.

Nirat Patel
Nirat Patel

Patel wanted to find ways to help save the planet from an exploding global population and its pollution, and he made the most of his two years at USC. He was the president of the USC Energy Club and served as the lead organizing member of Western Region Flow, the national clean energy business competition. This work brought him to the White House where he met Steven Chu, the United States secretary of energy. And believe it or not, that wasn’t his first visit to the White House as a USC graduate student: he also found himself there as a participant in President Obama’s Better Buildings Challenge, where his team won the most innovative solution award.

Patel is now an Energy Analyst for PsomasFMG, a solar energy company, and is thankful for his time at USC, which he says helped him define his career aspirations. “Most of the classes I took had guest speakers brought in, part of the very pragmatic perspective about things out in industry.”

Also a part of the 2013 graduating class is Warner Williams, vice president of Chevron North America Exploration and Production Company’s Gulf of Mexico Business Unit, responsible for the company’s offshore shelf and deep-water production operations and shelf exploration activities. Williams is also involved with CiSoft, the joint USC-Chevron Center of Excellence for Research and Academic Training on Interactive Smart Oilfield Technologies. He earned his master’s of science in petroleum engineering through DEN—the USC Viterbi Distance Education Network.

At the Thursday hooding ceremony, 164 newly minted Ph.Ds. received their doctorates.

“And so as you leave today with our blessing, that of your parents and friends, and with the official Viterbi School seal of approval, this is my wish for you: Do what you love and you will reach for the stars! And when you reach there, take a moment to look back and you will see a caring and supporting institution that admires you, is proud of you and embraces you for all the wonders you are certain to accomplish!” said Yortsos. “And fight on!”

2013 Undergraduate Ceremony Slideshow
2013 Graduate Ceremony Slideshow