Every year, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Chapter at USC holds an Evening with Faculty event, where faculty and students come together to connect. There’s also free catered dinner, which is always a plus.
Students have the opportunity to invite their professors to the event and there is always a great turnout. There also ends up being a good mix of disciplines, so all students have the opportunity to speak with people in their field. Even if you don’t sit with a professor in your department, all of the faculty are pretty cool, so it is still an opportunity to learn and connect with people who have a lot of knowledge.
The event starts with an introduction to the USC NSBE chapter, including the class year and major breakdown and some events and initiatives we have had throughout the school year. Last year we had student speakers, and I was one of them. I spoke about how NSBE helped me transition from high school to college and pushed me to get more involved at USC.
After the presentation is over, it’s mingling time! While last year we were put into breakout rooms with people from our department, this year was a lot more free because we got to choose where to sit. I sat at a table with Garret Reisman, a NASA astronaut who has spent 107 days in space! He is in the Astronautical department at Viterbi, but all his degrees are actually in Mechanical Engineering. Before my freshman year, I went to a seminar by Dr. Reisman about his experience in space, but it was such a special opportunity to speak to him in a smaller group. We talked about his PhD research, camping, his experience with SpaceX, living in the International Space Station, and much more. Although I’m not an astronautical engineering major, I am grateful that I was able to interact with Dr. Reisman because he is super funny and cool.
I think one of the most underrated things about Viterbi is the faculty. There are so many interesting research projects and faculty who are doing novel work in their fields and have cool life experience. Evening with Faculty is just a reminder of that. Finally, it is very comforting to know that there are many professors in Viterbi that are interested in supporting their Black students and hearing about their experiences.