I felt very strongly about finding somewhere with people I could relate to.
Paul Lepe, CECS, Class of 2022
I remember while going through the college admissions process and trying to figure out where I wanted to go, I felt very strongly about finding somewhere with people I could relate to. As a zeroth generation Mexican immigrant and first-generation college student, I was extremely intimidated by the whole process. I did not see many people that looked like me or shared similar experiences and it was important to me that I found a community that I could see myself being a part of. I often found this harder than it should have been, and that is why I hold this booklet close to my heart.
Some friends and I decided it was important to share our stories as LatinX/Hispanic Engineering Students at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. We reached out to people around Viterbi and asked them to share their stories with you. I know not everyone has the same journey, but I hope that you are able to relate to some of the experiences compiled here and get an honest view of what life is like in USC Viterbi. I have loved working on this project and am extremely excited to be sharing it with you. I hope this can help answer some of your questions about our journeys, the engineering or computer science curriculum, the struggles we have encountered, and the community of support we have found.
USC Viterbi School of Engineering
Computer Engineering & Computer Science, Class of 2022
Industrial & Systems Engineering
I spent my whole life on a farm before coming to USC. I would spend my summers working in extreme heat and my winters working in extreme cold. Back in those days, I could never have pictured myself being where I am now. I left the farm to attend USC for aerospace engineering.
Computer Science (Games), Class of 2023
My name is Ashley Soledad Perez Magaña, I am a junior majoring in Computer Science, Games and minoring in Game Animation. I am from South Gate, California and a child of immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico and El Salvador. I am a first-generation student. From an early age I knew that college was a must. I grew up low-income. I don’t say poor because there was always food on the table, even if it was just beans. My parents did not attend school past elementary.
Valeria Hernandez Echegaray
Industrial & Systems Engineering, Class of 2023
Hello! My name is Valeria Hernandez Echegaray, I am a sophomore studying Industrial and Systems Engineering with a minor in News Media and Society. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where I went to the same school since I was in preschool and had a graduating class of 42 students. I had always been surrounded by LatinX people, Spanish-speakers, and people whose experiences were not too far different from mine.
Hey y’all! My name is Rodolfo (Rudy) Perez and I graduated from USC with a degree in Biomedical Engineering with a Mechanical emphasis. I am a first-gen college student born and raised in Norwalk, CA and a very proud Mexican American. On campus, I was the Executive Vice President of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) USC Chapter, an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Zavaleta Molecular Imaging and Nano Diagnostics Lab, and a work-study Educator at the California Science Center.
Chemical Engineering, Class of 2021
Hi! My name is Miranda Jernberg and I graduated from USC with a degree in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in Sustainable Energy. During my time at USC, I was involved with a variety of different clubs and organizations. I served as Chief Administrative Officer for my sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and one of my favorite involvements was USC’s Latin fusion dance team called Break on 2.
Aerospace Engineering, Class of 2022
After starting my freshman year at USC, I realized I had gotten so used to my own little bubble back home, and I was overwhelmed by how many different people, perspectives, and backgrounds I was encountering. Aside from just the culture shock, a huge case of imposter syndrome was settling in as well. There’s no doubt I had worked tirelessly during high school to get into such a great school like USC, but I would always question if what I did was enough to prepare me for the next 4 years of college.
Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2022
Hello, my name is Karen Gonzalez, I am a senior studying biomedical engineer with a mechanical emphasis. My parents are both immigrants from Mexico who met each other while they were working as seamsters. I was born in LA and grew up in Norwalk, CA. As a first-generation student, the transition from high school to college was difficult, but allowed me to learn about myself and grow as a person.
Industrial & Systems Engineering, Class of 2022
I inadvertently got involved with many programs at USC outside of classes and proved to myself that I have done much more than I give myself credit for. It kept me busy and once I realized everybody at USC is going at their own pace with different experiences, I kicked imposter syndrome to the curb. I also began to realize there were other people, especially women, within my classes going through the same problems and decided to help in any way I could. I began helping fellow struggling students with homework problems and joined more formal volunteer mentoring programs so I could help others .
Computer Engineering & Computer Science, Class of 2021
Hey there! My name is Joses (Joe-ses) Galdamez. I graduated from USC in 2021 with a degree in Computer Engineering and Computer Science at USC. I was a transfer student from College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California and proudly a first-generation college student. I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley along with my younger sister, where both my mom and dad’s families originated from El Salvador.
Computer Science, Class of 2021
I didn’t expect to feel imposter syndrome, but I definitely did. It felt like everyone else had been coding since they were in preschool, and I was struggling to catch up. This exaggeration was far from true, but it took awhile for me to realize. What helped me was knowing that others, who I looked up to and had been very successful, felt the same way I did at one point or another.
Electrical & Computer Engineering, Class of 2023
My name is Emily and I’m a junior majoring in Electrical & Computer Engineering with a minor in Cultural Diplomacy. On-campus, I’m a member of USC Makers, a Viterbi Student Ambassador, a course producer for EE109, and a research assistant at the Interaction Lab.
Electrical Engineering, Class of 2021
Hi! I’m Beatriz Sousa, a 2020 graduate with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil and moved to Redmond, WA when I was a couple months old. I currently work at Keysight Technologies as a Solutions Marketing Engineer and here’s the story about how I got to where I am.
One of the most important things that happened to me while I was at USC happened to me in the week before school started. I went to a symposium for black and brown kids and the speaker there told me that I had 4 years to get this education and to do it amazingly. That doesn’t mean you get A’s – that may not even mean you get B’s. That means you do your best and you get through it and you will find your support system along the way.
Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2019
Hi everybody, my name is Alejandra Fuentes and I am a Manufacturing Engineer at Medtronic. I graduated from USC in 2019 with a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering. I currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Yes, I miss the weather!) where I work manufacturing batteries for all Medtronic medical devices, including pacemakers.
Electrical & Computer Engineering, Class of 2023
For the first time I didn’t see others’ accomplishments as things I didn’t do. I looked at the upperclassmen and alumni from SHPE and felt truly affirmed that if they could do it so could I. Their accomplishments were things that I didn’t do yet. The confidence and self-esteem I’ve rebuilt still has a ways to go, but I feel secure in my growth knowing that there really are people here that know what I’m feeling, and want to help me succeed.