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Growing up, I frequently visited Thomas the Tyrannosaurus rex at the Natural History Museum in downtown LA, just 25 minutes from my home in the San Fernando Valley. Little did I know that every time my family and I made that journey down the 101 Highway and onto Exposition Boulevard, I was driving past the university I’d eventually call home. It was not until I attended an Explore USC admitted students event that I realized the Natural History Museum was right across the street from the university. I was overcome with nostalgia and a wave of familiarity and comfort, knowing I was so close to a place that brought joy to and fulfilled my childhood. However, the comfort elicited by attending a college so close to home was trumped by several other facets of USC that keep reminding me, “Yeah, USC is the right place.”

The People

From the second I set foot on campus for my Explore USC event, I was greeted by students carrying genial smiles and upbeat attitudes, ready to point me in the right direction or answer any questions of mine. When I made it to the Epstein Family Plaza at the heart of the Viterbi School of Engineering, I remember meeting who I thought were the most open and charismatic individuals, eager to get to know me and guide me through the ins and outs of Viterbi. I can’t deny that these students resolved my uncertainty in choosing a college, but the people I’ve met and befriended since my first day at USC have become even greater highlights.

The people at USC, and especially in Viterbi, are uplifting and want to see their peers succeed. If I need help with anything from a CE225: Mechanics of Deformable Bodies problem set to locating where to find a practice room for my MPKS150A: Introduction to Piano course, someone is always there to lend a helping hand. As I mentioned before, within Viterbi, the student body is tight-knit. I know students from across all engineering disciplines, and I certainly know a majority of my major-specific peers quite well. Something we all share in common is the fervor to succeed – not necessarily in a competitive way, but in a communal way. Being surrounded by like-minded overachievers motivates me to do my best, and I know the people around me also want me to and vice versa. The social and professional camaraderie shared among Viterbi students is what drives the nurturing and collaborative nature of the school of engineering. 

The Community

Stemming from the welcoming and outgoing students at Viterbi, flowers the elevating community. At USC, and even more so in Viterbi, any student can find their community. As a whole, Viterbi is home to some of the brightest individuals I know, and when these students come together, they have proven that they can assemble teams capable of achieving whatever lies on the outskirts of their minds. Student organizations serve as collaborative hubs for students to explore their passions and interests regardless of their major, meaning that the computer scientist could work on a solar-powered vehicle, and the environmental engineer could explore the applications of Artificial Intelligence. Design teams are abundant within Viterbi, and each one effortlessly fosters a collaborative environment where students bounce ideas off each other and use each other as stepping stones toward reaching a common goal, whether it be breaking the Kármán line (the internationally-recognized space boundary) with an entirely student-made rocket, developing innovative healthcare technologies, or building steel bridges and concrete canoes. The collaboration shared between all engineering students is undoubtedly Viterbi’s most illustrious and crowning quality. 

However, beyond these design teams exist student organizations aiming to provide communities for students of different backgrounds, like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), or the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Organizations like these focus on bringing together students from similar backgrounds to find each other and develop meaningful micro-communities within Viterbi’s already-embracing larger community. These organizations provide students with social and professional growth by hosting fun social events, professional skill-building workshops, company visits, and sponsoring students to attend national conferences where they may network with industry professionals and students from across the nation. Joint barbecues between organizations and other schools, trivia nights, peer mentorship programs, de-stressing events, and social and community impact events are just a few of the ways that these student organizations bring together like students and serve their local communities. Organizations like these bring students to a home away from home, offering familiarity and growth bundled into one place.

The Opportunity

Elaborating from above, the opportunities are boundless at USC. The overarching system connecting current Trojans to graduated Trojans across the world is the Trojan Family. It may be hard to believe, but Trojans are everywhere – companies, airports, gas stations, supermarkets – and they’re always open to extending opportunities to fellow Trojans, whether it be an invite to a football game tailgate on McCarthy Quad or a tour of or interview at their current place of employment. Tied to the Trojan Family, the same Viterbi student organizations I mentioned above can connect students with companies and employers from all engineering fields because Viterbi engineers sparse out after graduating, adding radials to the spider web that is the professional network developed by generations of Viterbi engineers. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, NASA, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, Boeing, Turner Construction, and countless others are just a few of the companies that frequent Viterbi student organization meetings for information sessions.

On top of this, to prepare students for the hiring process, several Viterbi-specific offices and associations, as well as several of the Viterbi student organizations, organize mock interview sessions with employers, resume reviews, interview preparation, and extend several other resources to students. The highlight of Viterbi’s resources for student professional preparedness is, hands down, the semesterly Viterbi-exclusive Career Fair. Each semester, Viterbi invites hundreds of companies to USC’s campus with the sole purpose of recruiting USC students for summer internships and full-time positions. Oftentimes, the employees representing these companies are USC alumni, eager to get to know current students and get their feet in the door. The Viterbi Fall Career Fair is precisely how I landed my summer internship with the Gilbane Building Company for the upcoming summer as a Construction Intern, and I am beyond excited and grateful for that opportunity. The number of resources Viterbi makes available to students is, honestly, too many to keep track of, and it is likely impossible to take advantage of all of them. However, the abundance of these resources speaks to the boundless potential and endless opportunities that Viterbi creates for their students.

USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering continues to reassure me that I made the right choice by choosing to stay in sunny southern California. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had are some of the most memorable, and I know that I’m bound to continue expanding my group of incredible friends and creating unforgettable memories. I haven’t doubted my decision to attend USC once, and I don’t see that box being ticked ever. And the best part, Thomas the Tyrannosaurs rex is just a block away.

Kevin Kumar

MAJOR: Civil Engineering YEAR: Class of 2026 HOMETOWN: Van Nuys, California PRONOUNS: he/him/his INSTA: @kevinkumar003 I am currently involved in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as a builder and designer for Concrete Canoe, Steel Bridge, and Timber Strong, all of which are design teams where I collaborate with my peers to construct projects. Additionally, I am part of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI-SEAOSC), another design team where we construct a building out of balsa wood. Another involvement of mine is the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) where I connect with Hispanic engineers through social events and learn about professionalism in the engineering industry. Finally, I have participated in research through the Center for Undergraduate Research in Viterbi Engineering (CURVE) studying wastewater treatment and am currently conducting research in the Petersen Lab focused on computer-modeling clay and geomaterial aggregation at macroscopic levels.