In Their Own Words
This year’s valedictorian and salutatorian both have majors in USC Dornsife: Alexander Yuen of biological sciences and Carrie Ruth Moore of creative writing. Hailing from Sacramento, California, and Atlanta, Georgia, respectively, these inspiring graduates recently spoke about their best memory at USC, their advice for freshmen and where they see themselves in 20 years.
VALEDICTORIAN ALEXANDER YUEN
What’s your best memory at USC?
It was the summer between freshman and sophomore years, and I was a residential adviser in the Future Physicans program. I had started volunteering in Dr. Caron’s lab: He was willing to have me there to see if I would be a good fit. One day they updated the rosters for the labs and I saw that my name was on the list. I got way too enthusiastic! I was taking pictures of it with my iPhone. I did a little dance right in front of the security camera.
What are your favorite places on campus?
When I was a freshman, I would always head over to the Chapel of Silence. Now when I take a walk around campus, I usually go over to the bench by George Tirebiter. It’s probably my favorite location on campus.
What is your biggest regret?
Not getting involved in the many sports and outdoor activities at USC. I’m not the most athletic person, but I wish I’d done more of that.
Are you sad to be finishing?
It’s a bittersweet moment because I know friends and classmates will be dispersing. But staying in L.A. means I can be connected. I’m definitely going to attend [lab-mate and doctoral student Jayme Smith’s] dissertation defense. She taught me all the lab techniques I have.
What advice do you have for freshmen?
Stay humble. Coming to USC exposes you to many different opportunities. If you were to approach these opportunities from the mind-set of someone who had made it, come to USC as a hotshot, then you wouldn’t be able to learn as much.
SALUTATORIAN CARRIE RUTH MOORE
What advice do you have for freshmen?
Study what you want. I got a lot of flack for being a creative writing major. It’s not practical. But the reality is, you’re at a top-tier institution and everything is going to be OK. If you study what you want, you’ll find a way to make it work.
What is your fondest memory of these last four years?
Definitely the alternative winter break trip I took to Thailand. There was this moment when we had this cultural exchange. The Thai students, they were 9 or 10, had these elaborate cultural dances. They were so beautiful. And then we showed them the Cha Cha Slide because we didn’t have an equivalent. They were not impressed.
Is there anything you regret?
I wish I had learned a foreign language in a strong way. I had Advanced Placement German in high school, and I took a little Italian and a little Spanish in college. But if I could go back, I would do a Spanish minor starting the first semester.
Do you have a novel in you?
I do. I have several novels, but I haven’t written them yet. Mostly I’ve been focusing on short stories. It’s what they teach us here: to start small. I do have my first publication coming out this month, a short story titled “Vipers.” It’s coming out in The Normal School literary magazine in the Spring 2015 issue.
What is it about?
It’s a story about a mother and her 12-year-old daughter who are pregnant at the same time. It’s about this moment when you’re an adolescent and your parent gives you questionable advice. Suddenly you see they’re not absolutely right all the time — that they’re human and flawed.
Are you sad to be leaving USC?
Yes and no. I will miss all my professors and friends here, but I want to be exposed to other institutions and have more experiences. So I’m ready to go.
I really miss the South. I miss having weather, rain. I miss fireplaces and boots and sweaters.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I see myself still teaching literature. I want to go back and get an advanced degree in writing — either an MFA in creative writing or maybe a joint Ph.D./MFA. After that, I’d either go back to teaching high school or at the college level.