They hail from 49 countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Ghana, India and China. Sixty-nine have perfect 4.0 GPAs. Several have served in the armed forces, and 236 have earned degrees via DEN@Viterbi, the engineering school’s nationally top-ranked, distance-education program.
They are graduates of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s master’s class of 2017, the strongest one in USC Viterbi’s history. On Friday, May 12, they gathered with family, friends and mentors to celebrate their graduation from one of the country’s finest engineering schools.
To accommodate the large number of students, USC Viterbi, for the second year in a row, held two commencement master’s ceremonies: one in the afternoon at the Galen Center and another in the early evening at the Shrine Auditorium for computer science and informatics graduates.
At both events, USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos said that the engineering school had prepared them to “create the world that never was.”
In his address, USC Viterbi’s dean also noted that society has entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which, he said, “is the convergence of everything.”
Added Yortsos: “Our vision is very positive: We believe that engineering, science and technology will lead the convergence of disciplines to solve big problems in the world, starting with the most important: sustainability, health and security.
“And in the process, we believe this convergence, what we have long called ‘Engineering+,’ will also allow us to focus our activity towards resolving societal challenges, promoting the joy and the pursuit of happiness in terms of personal and societal growth.”
At the Galen Center ceremony, Megan Smith, the third chief technology officer of the United States, delivered the keynote address. Smith spoke about the “the centuries long connections between the American and the global scientific and technical community.”
Said Smith: “In the beginning of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, President Washington and Thomas Jefferson chose a wonderful expression for our very first penny. The front of the coin read ‘Liberty: The Parent of Science and Industry.’ So we are part of a long continuum of technical people in this country and all around the world who use our skills for liberty, wonder, teamwork, joy and impact.”
Smith observed that she found the same “breathtaking range of topics” at USC Viterbi as she did during her tenure at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
She devoted a portion of her address to speak about what she called “heroic engineering and the intensity, wonder and passion to do this impactful work.”
The former U.S. CTO ended her address by exhorting the newly minted graduates to strive for greatness. “Fight on!” she said. “Be connected. Be passionate. Be technical heroes.”
The Shrine Auditorium commencement featured keynote speaker Vibhu Mittal, Ph.D. CS ’93 and CEO of Edmodo, the world’s largest K – 12 social learning network with over 75 million registered users. A distinguished USC Viterbi alumnus, he
spoke of the power of software to change the world.
“Computers are getting more capable every day. Disguised as phones and game consoles, they are everywhere. However, they are only as good as the software they run,” he said.
“Software now allows you to have an infinite store of knowledge at your finger tips; be instantly connected to anyone half way around the world; translate your sentences in English to Chinese and vice versa; remember all your important events and wish friends a happy birthday.”
“When I graduated 25 years ago, laptops were expensive and rare. And the Apple laptop I bought when I got my first job had 8MB of RAM and a 256MB hard disk. My phone is now 1000 times faster, bigger, smaller.
“Are we done?” Mittal asked. “No. There is a lot still to be done. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what software can do.”
Dean Yortsos ended his addresses by encouraging graduates to aim high and know that they would always have the support of USC Viterbi.
“And so, as you leave today, this is my wish for you: Follow your heart and your intuition and reach for the stars!” he said. “And when you reach there, take a moment to look back. You will see a caring and supporting institution right here that admires you, is proud of you and embraces you for all the wonderful things you are certain to accomplish.”