ISE Alum Wins Fulbright to Pursue Entrepreneurship Studies

| April 4, 2024

Patricia Garcia, a 2022 USC graduate with a degree in MS in Product Development Engineering recently won a Fulbright to University College London for her postgraduate studies. 

Patricia Garcia presenting at the London Venture Capital Network Female Founders Pitch Competition.

Patricia Garcia presenting at the London Venture Capital Network Female Founders Pitch Competition.

USC Viterbi graduate Patricia Garcia has recently won a Fulbright Award to University College London for her postgraduate studies. Garcia is a 2022 graduate of the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, with an MS in Product Development Engineering. Garcia started an Instagram page called College Thrifts in 2017 to sell her unwanted collegiate merchandise. The page gained popularity, and other students started asking Garcia to sell their unwanted collegiate items through her platform. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Garcia had more time and decided to turn her College Thrifts Instagram page into a full-fledged e-commerce startup called Unithrifts. This app allows students to buy and sell collegiate gear. 

At University College London, Garcia will be pursuing an MSc in Entrepreneurship at the institution’s School of Management. This program is designed for students who intend to start and run high-impact, innovative businesses. 

USC Viterbi News spoke to Garcia about her Fulbright Award.

Could you tell me more about the specific postgraduate studies you’ll be pursuing at University College London and what inspired you to choose this field of study? 

I am pursuing an MSc in Entrepreneurship at the University College London. I specifically chose this Fulbright program because it would allow me to gain formal entrepreneurial training to complement my engineering background and the work I’d been doing with my startup Unithrifts.

Can you share your initial reaction when you found out you were awarded this prestigious opportunity? 

I cried tears of joy. The Fall semester before graduating from USC, I had gone through the process of applying for Fulbright but didn’t think I’d receive the award, as only one person a year gets this honor. A few months had passed, and I had started to look for alternate opportunities to put my USC degree to good use. I remember exactly where I was when I received the news. I was attending the eMerge Americas conference which is a global tech event held annually in Miami shaping the future of innovation and had stopped at the Capital One cafe in Miami Beach after a long day of “conferencing”. I couldn’t believe at first that that email was addressed to me. I had to read the email a few times to fully let it sink in. The first person I called was mom and she was so happy for me.

What do you hope to achieve during your time at University College London as a Fulbright scholar? 

As my time at UCL comes to an end at the end of March and I enter my dissertation writing period, I can confidently say I have made the most of this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. From being invited to the UK House of Lords for a chat about the future of entrepreneurship in the UK to participating in over 10 pitch competitions, I have been able to fully immerse myself in the entrepreneurial culture here in the UK. As I reflect on all the things I’d hope to achieve during my time as a Fulbrighter in London, it gives me goosebumps to look back at the last few months and see all that has been accomplished! 

How did your experiences and education at USC Viterbi prepare you for this opportunity? 

My education at Viterbi allowed me to build a strong technical foundation which I would then be able to complement through the entrepreneurship/business education that I am receiving through this Fulbright at UCL. With this Fulbright opportunity, I am a more well-rounded engineer and will return to the US as a more global citizen with an innovation mindset at the forefront.

Were there any professors, mentors, or specific courses at USC Viterbi that had a significant impact on your academic and personal growth? 

Well, the opportunity to attend USC would not have been possible without the GEM fellowship which supports underrepresented students pursuing advanced degrees in STEM. Kevin Henry, who oversees the GEM program, played an integral role during my time at USC by guiding me to the right resources as I navigated a cross-country move and the entire graduate school process.

Professor Trina Gregory also played a vital role during my time at USC by allowing me the opportunity to get involved with entrepreneurial education. Under her supervision, I worked with the Viterbi Student Entrepreneurship Education (VSEE) program for the Office of Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I was focused on developing and implementing programs designed to support and encourage innovation within freshman engineering classes. As a matter of fact, a core reason for embarking on this Fulbright opportunity was so that I could also have the credentials to teach entrepreneurship at my local community college to teach the next generation of entrepreneurs- especially those from underserved backgrounds.

Lastly, I would not be on this Fulbright if it were not for the support of Katie Capra and the team at the Academic Honors and Fellowships office who so graciously guided me through the Fulbright application process.

What do you consider the most significant accomplishment or project from your time at USC Viterbi, and what did you learn from it? 

One of the biggest accomplishments from my time at Viterbi leveraging my in-classroom learnings to win a national competition. I won the national Oracle Cloud Challenge which was focused on leveraging the cloud to improve student life on campuses around the US. I was able to leverage my learnings from the ISE 545 Technology Development and Implementation taught by Professor Lu. Because of this win, I had the opportunity to meet with Oracle Cloud executives at the Oracle Suite over a Golden State Warriors game.

Can you offer any advice or tips for current Viterbi students who aspire to follow a similar path in pursuing postgraduate entrepreneurship studies or prestigious scholarships like the Fulbright? 

Trust that everything happens for a reason. I am a true believer in the notion that rejection leads to redirection. I came to find out about the Fulbright Entrepreneurship Award after receiving a rejection from a dream innovation role at Disney. I thought the Fulbright Program was for individuals pursuing a degree in political science or international relations. Little did I know that opportunities in my area of interest were available. Do your research, get your name out there, and take advantage of all the opportunities USC has to offer.

Published on April 4th, 2024

Last updated on April 4th, 2024

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