Logo: University of Southern California

A Trojan of All Trades

Brenton Caldwell, a former Mr. USC and soon-to-be graduate with a masters in engineering management has spent five years at USC embodying Trojan ideals.
By: Regina Wu
May 11, 2015 —
Brenton Caldwell, a biomedical engineering cum laude undergraduate, 2014's Mr. USC and former executive vice president of the Interfraternity Council, looks to graduate with a master's in engineering management at USC Viterbi's 2015 commencement. Photo illustration by: Michelle Park/Michelle Henry

As a biomedical engineering cum laude graduate, former executive vice president of the Interfraternity Council and a five-year USC Viterbi admission intern and manager, it’s no surprise that Brenton Caldwell was named Mr. USC in 2014. Chosen from the select 12 students represented in Order of the Torch, Mr. or Ms. USC is one of the highest honors a USC student can receive. Caldwell demonstrated USC’s Trojan ideals throughout each round of the process.

While extremely accomplished, it is more than Caldwell’s impressive resume that highlighted his fit into the Trojan ideals. Caldwell embodied the five Trojan traits throughout his journey before and during his undergraduate career and into his graduate one, both at USC.

While the typical imagery of the rushing on The Row conjures pictures of Red Solo Cups and carrying around paddles, Caldwell’s experience in Greek life was far more than parties and pledging. As former vice president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, and executive vice president of admission affairs for the Interfraternity Council, Caldwell acted as a liaison between USC’s Greek community and external groups including USC Student Affairs, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Department of Public Safety with the goal of improving the safety and protocol on the Row. In addition, he, along with his executive board and the presidents of each fraternity, were responsible for planning long term goals and creating a sustainable vision for the USC Greek community. Greek life all over the nation has had no shortage of criticism in recent years, but contributions like Caldwell’s show unwavering support and a devoted commitment to his fraternity and improvement of the overall community.

Caldwell came to USC with the priority of learning as much as possible, especially within the biomedical engineering field, and succeeded as a 2014 winner of The Order of the Laurel and the Palm, an award given to less than 1 percent of the undergraduate graduating class. In addition, with the Order of Omega, a Greek honor society, Caldwell served as president and vice president of finance. While he spent much of his time succeeding in his own academic career at USC, Caldwell also helped spread his skills in academia as a Viterbi Admission intern throughout all four years as an undergraduate, later working as a graduate assistant for Viterbi Admission during his fifth and final year. Caldwell served as a Viterbi Freshman Academy coach, sharing advice with freshman engineering majors about the engineering industry as a whole and also acted as a mentor to new students adjusting to their first year of college. In the spirit of USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos' idea of Engineering+, Caldwell championed engineering as the enabling discipline of our time, sharing this point of view with new and prospective students.

Though college is huge transition period, Caldwell has been financially independent since his freshman year at USC. The second he clicked the submit button to commit to USC, Caldwell knew he would have to take on the financial burden of college himself. With a twin brother and a sister just a year older both attending college, Caldwell has always been mindful and proactive about his family’s financial restrictions. Plane tickets going back and forth from Boston to Los Angeles wouldn’t come cheap, but Caldwell took the challenge as a growing opportunity. With $3,000 in his bank account and a small collection of clothes, he flew to L.A. knowing he’d be responsible for paying for his books, groceries and phone bills. He has taken financial pressures off his family by applying for every scholarship and job available to him and approached the start of a new, albeit expensive chapter, as a chance to reestablish himself as the hardworking individual he is, at a school he knew would have limitless opportunities for growth.

Originally from a small town near Boston, Caldwell found himself in Los Angeles for the first time for move-in and orientation at USC. He applied to schools on both coasts and found himself with a fat, cardinal envelope filled with reasons to leave the east coast, but unfortunately did not have the means to fly out before committing to the university. After taking the initiative to find out more about USC and USC Viterbi by emailing engineering professors, reading materials on the website and talking to student ambassadors, Caldwell decided to start embodying his new life motto “be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” packed his bags for L.A. and hasn’t looked back since.

According to Caldwell, gone are the days of relying on technical skills alone in a cubicle. Throughout his various internships and jobs, including consulting at PwC, Caldwell has discovered the balance of communication and engineering skills. While he was more than busy during his undergraduate career as a biomedical engineering major, Caldwell knew it was important to expand his skills and taught himself how to program in various technologies and languages and how to harness the power of efficiency by building macros and working with products such as SalesForce.com.

Caldwell’s combination of ambition and desires to help and contribute to the healthcare system has led him to his expedited pursuit of obtaining his Masters of Science in Engineering Management in just one year. His USC career might be coming to an end, but Caldwell is bringing Trojan ideals with him. His unique combination of communication, management and medical knowledge has given him ambitions to make healthcare a more personalized and personable industry. He believes that the future is in understanding the individual needs of each patient, which will allow for physicians to create more targeted and effective treatment plans. With graduation less than a week away, Caldwell looks forward to starting a full-time job at PwC to begin his journey in the health care and tech industries.