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This is a guest blog entry written by Taofeeq Rasaki. If you want to read more stories, visit

Hi my name is Taofeeq Rasaki. I’m a Junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering and  minoring in Business Technology Fusion. I’m a Chicago Native and I came to USC with very  little knowledge of any engineering. My high school wasn’t really focused on STEM and I barely  met the Math requirements to be an engineer, so I knew I would struggle. Even with my  expectations in mind, I was still completely blindsided by how tough subjects were right away. 

I remember the first week of school well, because I have never been more confused by so  much, so quickly. I felt like I was already falling behind my peers, who expressed how easy this  was or that it was review of what they learned at their Engineering high schools. I seriously  struggled with my intro to Mechanical Engineering class. The subjects seemed really hefty and  the professor would go through a lot in every lecture, quickly building on each lesson making it  easy to fall behind if you ever left class without understanding. 

At a certain point we were two chapters passed where I understood what was happening. I  felt like I had no one to reach out to, because at this point, I didn’t know any upperclassmen who  had taken this class and everyone in my circle were already too busy with their own freshmen woes. Adding to the problems I faced was that I felt like I represented all black people taking on  engineering. If I failed or was doing poorly it was a statement that black inner-city kids really  aren’t meant to be engineers. We’re all too dumb to learn this stuff because I couldn’t learn this  stuff. 

It all turned around for me when I went to office hours and told the professor the truth. I  explained to him that I had zero background doing any engineering. I was a great student at my  high school, but it was more of humanities then anything technical. At this point of clarity, he  gave me advice that I have used all throughout my time at USC. He said the first step in  understanding something is to know where you started going wrong. He pointed out that  choosing to be an engineer was not where I started being wrong, the point was when I stopped  believing in myself and chose not to reach out. 

That day he sat with me for two plus hours going through everything. From the first day  of class all the way to the current chapter we were on. We did problems together and at every  point he allowed me to ask questions and express my uncertainty with lessons. I finally felt like I  understood the course material. All the massive waves of being afraid that I represented the black  community poorly and that I shouldn’t be an engineer started to feel a whole lot weaker. I could  actually see myself at the same level as my peers. Even though I had little knowledge of  engineering, I could actually do this, and it all started from taking a second to understand that  you can’t stop believing in yourself. No matter how hard classes become, or how lost you feel in  the moment, there should always be that one constant in every equation—that you believe you  can become an engineer.

Timothy Harrington