Wide Awake and Dreaming: USC Viterbi’s 2023 Master’s Commencement Ceremonies

| May 13, 2023

The class of 2023 is “the best educated, the most representative in our history.”

2023 USC Viterbi master's students with their diplomas

2023 USC Viterbi master’s students with their diplomas

Master’s students at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, many of whom have devoted numerous late nights to completing assignments to graduate, can likely relate to the words of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Kalam, an Indian aerospace scientist and former president of the country, once stated that a dream is not just a product of sleeping, but rather it’s something that keeps you awake.

Akshita Swaminathan was indeed fully awake at the 2023 USC Viterbi master’s degree commencement ceremony, realizing her dream of a M.S. degree in astronautical engineering. Swaminathan, the student commencement speaker, quoted Kalam as part of the afternoon master’s ceremony at the USC Galen Center.

“As I look out at all of you today, I see the beautiful climax of a movie that took years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice,” said Swaminathan. “The late nights, early mornings attending lectures, stress of exams and assignments, skipping some meals of the day – they were all worth it to come to this point.”

Akshita Swaminathan and Dean Yannis Yortsos

Akshita Swaminathan and Dean Yannis Yortsos

In a sea of cardinal and gold, thousands of family members, friends, and graduates descended upon USC’s main campus on Friday, May 12, 2023, to mark the achievement of the USC Viterbi master’s students.

This year, a total of 2,419 students successfully graduated with a master’s degree from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The class of 2023 came from 87 countries around the globe and represents the changing face of engineering, with 32% of USC Viterbi master’s graduates identifying as women.

The USC Band at the 2023 Viterbi master's ceremony

The USC Band at the 2023 Viterbi master’s ceremony

“This graduating class is the best so far — the best educated, the most representative in our history,” said Dean Yannis Yortsos. “As graduates, you join a pantheon of USC Viterbi alumni that are the envy of any university.”

To facilitate the significant turnout of graduates and their relatives, the USC Viterbi graduate degree commencements were divided into two separate ceremonies. The initial ceremony for master’s degrees was conducted in the afternoon at the Galen Center, while the subsequent ceremony for computer science and informatics graduates took place later in the evening at the Shrine Auditorium.

“It will be you who will address the Grand Challenges of our time,” Dean Yortsos explained to the graduates. “Whether making solar energy competitive, securing cyberspace, engineering better medicines, providing access to clean water, addressing vexing climate change issues or feeding the hungry.”

Melissa Orme, a distinguished USC alumna, graced the Galen Center ceremony as its keynote speaker. Orme is a triple Trojan, obtaining her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in aerospace engineering from USC Viterbi. Presently, she holds the esteemed position of vice president of additive manufacturing at The Boeing Company.

Melissa Orme delivers the commencement speech

Melissa Orme delivers the keynote commencement speech at The Galen Center

“You have the power to impact the human condition,” Orme told graduates. You can do anything, and whether you realize it or not, you are the stewards of the planet. We, the older generation, ask you to safeguard it, to repair the neglect of previous generations.”

Orme also shared with attendees that her Trojan roots run deep. Her husband is a professor at USC Viterbi, and her twin sons are graduate students — one at USC Viterbi and one at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

The Shrine Auditorium commencement featured keynote speaker Nariman Yousefi, executive vice president of Marvell’s Automotive, Coherent DSP and Switch Group.

During his address to the graduating class, Yousefi, an alumnus of USC Viterbi who earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1991, shared how his early days as a chip designer made him realize the significant impact of his time at USC in developing his ability to learn and keep the right attitude while doing it.

“We know you received a great education at USC Viterbi. But what differentiates success is a no-excuse attitude,” Yousefi said. “When you look back in life, what matters is how you used your potential and the impact you had on your industry, people, family and friends.”

Rafael Vicente Sanchez Romero delivers the student keynote speech at The Shrine Auditorium

Rafael Vicente Sanchez Romero delivers the student keynote speech at The Shrine Auditorium

Nariman Yousefi delivers the keynote speech at The Shrine Auditorium

Nariman Yousefi delivers the keynote speech at The Shrine Auditorium







Rafael Vicente Sanchez Romero is a U.S. Department of State Fulbright scholar who graduated with his M.S. in computer science. Romero served as the student commencement speaker at the Shrine Auditorium ceremony, where he explained to attendees that upon graduating, he hopes to mix AI and medicine to make a difference in the world.

“Class of 2023, I know that the path to graduation hasn’t been easy,” Romero said. “But now is the time to reap the fruits of your courage and prepare for a glorious future.”

Published on May 13th, 2023

Last updated on May 15th, 2023

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