From Dreams to Degrees: USC Viterbi Class of 2024 Graduates Shape Tomorrow, Today

| May 11, 2024

At the forefront of engineering and technology, graduates like Christian Bryan redefine potential with degrees in cutting-edge fields and a commitment to lifelong exploration.

A group of 2024 USC Viterbi graduates at the commencement ceremony held at the Galen Center

A group of USC Viterbi graduates at the 2024 commencement ceremony held at the Galen Center

Bathed in the vibrant lights of the Galen Center on May 10th, Christian Bryan stood before her peers at the 2024 USC Viterbi commencement ceremony. With a reflective smile, she recounted a question posed to her in childhood, one that resonates with us all: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

Initially aspiring to be an actress, chef and entrepreneur, Bryan recalled how conventional wisdom from adults left her disheartened that she would need to choose one path and could not pursue all of her dreams. However, her journey through USC Viterbi taught her otherwise, that no dream was too big to chase.

Christian Dior Bryan giving her commencement address at the Galen Center ceremony

USC Viterbi graduate Christian Dior Bryan giving her commencement address at the 2024 Galen Center ceremony

This year’s ceremony was not merely a formal recognition of academic accomplishments but a vibrant declaration of the boundless opportunities awaiting each graduate. Bryan, who earned a B.S. in computer science and business administration, shared a powerful revelation from her time at USC. 

“In these past four years, Viterbi has shifted my perspective on the question ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’ as it has taught me that there is no single-worded answer or endpoint to what we will learn, what we will build, and who we will become,” Bryan said on the Galen Center stage.

The USC Viterbi undergraduate class of 2024 boasts 758 graduates. Among them, 38.8% were women and 61.2% were men, showcasing a gender diversity that mirrors the school’s commitment to increasing female representation in engineering. The diversity extended beyond gender, with the graduates representing a rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds—35.6% Asian, 4.0% Black, 14.1% Hispanic, and 16.2% international students from various corners of the globe including China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Mexico.

“Yours is the class most impacted by COVID,” said USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos during his commencement address. “And during the extraordinary experiment the world undertook in the pandemic, you demonstrated tenacity, resilience, and ingenuity. We are proud of how you rose to the unique challenges.”

“We are proud of how you rose to the unique challenges. Whether in class, in the research lab, or the maker space, in the outreach to the community, on how you handled the transition to distance learning. And when the proverbial wave function collapsed, yet again, back to more normal conditions, you emerged stronger than ever.”

For Bryan, USC Viterbi was more than an educational institute; it was a launchpad. Her involvement with the National Society of Black Engineers and the Lava Lab innovation hub opened doors to prestigious internships, like one at Salesforce, and even took her to Madrid to study machine learning. Her significant contributions to Alzheimer’s research through a project at the USC Center for Knowledge-Powered Interdisciplinary Data Science (CKIDS) underscored her academic and professional evolution.

A USC Viterbi graduate blows a kiss to her family in the audience of the Galen Center commencement ceremony

A USC Viterbi graduate blows a kiss to her family in the audience at the Galen Center’s 2024 commencement ceremony

This year’s USC valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, and one of the university’s salutatorians, James McColl III, are both from USC Viterbi – epitomizing the high caliber of engineering graduates. Tabassum co-founded a student group that distributed supplies from USC’s medical school to areas of need around the world, including war ravaged Ukraine and Turkey and Syria after the 2023 earthquake. She was also the director of projects for Los Angeles Community Impact (LACI), aiding children’s hospitals, immigrants in Los Angeles, and a writing program for indigenous and African-American teen girls. Likewise, McColl has founded two nonprofit organizations: the USC Theater Showcase Group, which raises money for local arts programs, and USC PROS, which helps formerly incarcerated people find jobs.

As the ceremony drew to a close, the atmosphere was charged with a palpable sense of hope and anticipation. For Bryan and her classmates, the question of what they wanted to be when they grew up transformed from a daunting inquiry into an exciting challenge. It was no longer about reaching a final destination but about embarking on a continuous journey of discovery and innovation.

A USC Viterbi graduate makes a heart symbol with his hands to family in the crowd at the 2024 commencement ceremony

A USC Viterbi graduate makes a heart symbol with his hands to family in the crowd at the 2024 commencement ceremony

“As graduates of the 2024 Viterbi Class, you will work along this double helix of technology and humanity, with a human-centric purpose,” said Dean Yortsos. “And you will help create a “World that Never Was”, by advancing human-centric ethics and values by focusing on purposes that are useful for the common good and addressing the complexity of technology and its unintended consequences, to keep engineering a better world for all humanity.”

Christian Bryan concluded her commencement speech with the Latin phrase, “per ardua ad astra” — through adversity to the stars — perfectly encapsulating her and her peers’ resilience and aspirations. As the graduates stepped out into the world, it was clear that for them, the sky was not a limit but a starting point.

Published on May 11th, 2024

Last updated on May 16th, 2024

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