This is a guest blog entry written by Cameron Cole. If you want to read more stories, visit viterbiadmission.usc.edu/blacklives.
My name is Cameron Cole. I’m a junior at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering studying Computer Science/Business Administration and I’m from Chicago, IL. Here at USC I’ve been involved in our National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter, USC Global Investing Society, and the Formula SAE racecar design team. Outside of school I’ve had internships at both Chevron and Microsoft during the summer.
Coming from the south side of Chicago, engineering wasn’t always something people talked about. Most people thought the “best careers” were in the medical or law professions, so much so that at one point in my childhood I thought I’d be a doctor. Engineering didn’t get the same attraction. Going to a public charter school for middle school and then a magnet school for highschool, I never had those in the classroom opportunities to pursue engineering so I had to spend time outside of school figuring out that I was interested in this as a major in college and eventually a career.
My journey to engineering started early. I always loved legos and taking things apart to the disdain of my parents, but it really was interesting to me. I went to my first “STEM Camp” in 6th grade where we built Lego Robots and made model bottle rockets. I followed this interest into highschool and eventually joined robotics where I gained a knack for building the robot on the weekends and even watched videos about our competitions in my spare time; I was really dedicated. This led me to apply to Viterbi as a mechanical engineering major because I always wanted to work with my hands; it is rather cliche but I truly believed it.
”That willingness of a random stranger, not to mention 3, to help a nervous highschool student was something by which I knew I wanted to be surrounded and thus I came to USC.
Choosing a college started out tricky but became easier as time went on. I knew I wanted to go to SC after I went to the Explore USC event for scholarship interviews. On the day of the interview as I nervously ate breakfast in the Village dining hall in my suit and tie, 3 students approached me. Turns out being nervous in a suit and looking young makes people want to talk to you. The three students were all from Viterbi and asked me if I was there to interview. They sat down with me and started giving me advice and reassuring me that I would do great. That willingness of a random stranger, not to mention 3, to help a nervous highschool student was something by which I knew I wanted to be surrounded and thus I came to USC.
After coming to SC, I found community through NSBE and this in large part helped me make the decision to switch my major. During my time taking a programming class that was required for mechanical engineering majors, I really enjoyed the experience. I talked about this with an upperclassmen who felt the same way but didn’t switch his major. He regretted it and encouraged me to follow my gut. I then switched my major shortly after to my current one, Computer Science/Business Administration for my sophomore year. It was a full 180 turn and although it hasn’t been the smoothest ride learning how to code from nothing, I’ve leaned on my classmates, some of which are in NSBE, to help me get through it.