Kim Waddell is a senior program officer for the National Academies of Science in Washington DC. His job is to put together teams of science experts to address scientific policy issues (in marine biology and science) as requested by the federal government or the US Congress.
Kim graduated from USC in 1996 with a Ph.D. in biological sciences. When we asked him to tell us about his Carolina experience we found it to be both instructive and telling. In his own words:
“I imagine my experience is fairly unique in a number of ways. First, I am an African American male from California and had never spent any time in South Carolina before coming to USC for my Ph.D. Second, I was also an “older student” - arriving at USC with both a wife and five year old daughter - and I was actually older than my Ph.D. advisor, Professor Tim Mousseau.
“Upon arrival at the university I experienced significant culture shock and grappled
with considerable misgivings and stereotypes about people and life in “the South”
in the early 1990s—especially as a black man.
"I learned a great deal beyond my own graduate research area and feel that the breadth of talent and perspectives that were shared prepared me well for the jobs I’ve had since I left USC."
“But Dr. Mousseau was new to the university as well – I was his first PH.D. student - and we both grew in our respective roles as well as (ultimately) becoming life-long friends. I also soon found the vast majority of students, faculty, and citizens of Columbia to be incredibly friendly and welcoming, and in a fairly short amount of time, I was comfortable and productive as a student and member of the community.
“Academically, the faculty and graduate students that were engaged in evolution and ecology (within the biological and marine sciences) were a diverse and remarkably talented group. I learned a great deal beyond my own graduate research area and feel that the breadth of talent and perspectives that were shared prepared me well for the jobs I’ve had since I left USC. Most of my work at the National Academies is interdisciplinary in nature and scope, so being familiar with a broad range of topics and issues serves me well and helps me effectively communicate with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.”
Since leaving campus, Kim continues to encounter USC graduates all over the country. And the one thing he is uniformly impressed with is their professional success and the collective positive memories they have of their time at USC.