All Viterbi freshmen take ENGR-102: Engineering Freshman Academy, during their first semester at USC. This class meets once a week for two hours to discuss a plethora of broad and specific engineering topics, engage in versatile debates, explore the various Engineering Grand Challenges, and participate in group design activities. Arguably just as important, the class functions to transition freshman into life at USC and Viterbi. Each section is led by a professor and two upperclassmen, dubbed coaches, who are there to offer guidance and support to about 20-30 students. Coaches are allocated a good chunk of each class to share their personal experiences and offer advice on classes, professors, student organizations, greek life, professional networking, research, housing, and any topic related to student life.
Simply put, we serve as their personal trainers throughout their first semester. Last year, we held a resume workshop and a LinkedIn Profile Guide so students could effectively network at their very first career fair at USC. Many were able to secure internships for the summer, while others pursued research on campus. We also presented information about the USC and Viterbi organizations we were involved in and we even held a Build Your Own Halloween Costume Contest!!!
Throughout the semester, coaches conduct a 15-minute two-on-one with each freshman to get to know them on a more personal level and track their journey during their first semester. Students typically ask us about how to best balance academics, sleep, and extracurriculars among other things.
In addition, we are responsible for organizing three out of class activities meant to stimulate friendship and camaraderie among all of the freshmen in the class. During the Fall of 2016, my co-coach and I organized a one-day trip to Venice Beach, Santa Monica Beach, and the Getty Villa. At Santa Monica, our professor, Costas Synolakis, shared his expertise on coastal engineering and students were able to have hands-on experience with equipment that enabled them to track the sea level.
After the engaging coastal engineering exercise, we got on our tour bus and visited the Getty Villa, an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. Our goal was to expose students to a small portion of the cultural depth within southern California.
The best part of being a coach is getting to know the incoming class of freshmen and having the opportunity to guide them to glory. It’s an extremely rewarding feeling knowing that you had a small role to play in some of the many successes of your students, helping shape their college experience for the better and allowing them to find their place on campus in the process. I watched their confidence bolster, their minds flourish, and their hearts grow.
It’s been an incredible privilege to serve as a Freshman Academy Coach for to over 50 engineering freshmen during the past year. I value the experience greatly and its helped me realize my love for mentorship and my passion for helping others acclimate, succeed, and get one step closer to realizing their potential.