“Escape Velocity” Podcast Series Explores Race, Academia and STEM

New USC Viterbi series captures the stories of Black faculty, students and academic leaders.

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s podcast series “Escape Velocity” originally launched in 2016 as an audio drama series capturing the intersection of engineering and everyday life — stories of love in a time of algorithms, unlocking the human body and even an old school radio drama about AI buildings as friends.

Now, it has been reimagined in partnership with Brandi Jones, USC Viterbi vice dean of diversity and strategic initiatives, to capture the intersection of race, academia and STEM.

As Dean Yannis Yortsos noted: “Listening to the poignant stories of some of our Black colleagues and friends, faculty, students and staff at USC Viterbi is an inspiration to our own call to action.”

Listen to their stories below.

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Episode 1: Conversations with Black Faculty

Read the transcript

Featured in this episode:
Timothy Pinkston
George Pfleger Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
USC Viterbi vice dean, faculty affairs 

Stacey Finley
Gordon S. Marshall Early Career Chair and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Biological Sciences
Director, Center for Computational Modeling of Cancer

Editor’s Note: There are eight, full-time, African-American faculty who have primary or secondary appointments in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Of these, four are tenured or tenure track faculty at USC, including Professors Timothy Pinkston and Stacey Finley (featured in Episode 1); Professor John Slaughter, the former director of the National Science Foundation (who will appear in Episode 2); and Professor Wade Zeno, who joined USC Viterbi in the fall of 2020. Professor Slaughter holds a joint appointment in the USC Rossier School of Education and the USC Viterbi School.   

Episode 2: Race and Leadership in Academia



Read the transcript

Featured in this episode:
Wanda Austin
USC Interim President (2018 – 2019) [USC’s first Black and first female president]
Former President and Chief Executive of The Aerospace Corporation
USC Trustee
Member of the National Academy of Engineering

John Brooks Slaughter
President of Occidental College (1988 – 1999) [Occidental’s first Black president]
Chancellor of the University of Maryland, College Park (1982 – 1988) [Maryland’s first Black chancellor]
Director of the National Science Foundation (1980 – 1982) [NSF’s first Black director]
Member of the National Academy of Engineering
Joint appointment at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Rossier School of Education

Episode 3: The Black Engineering Student Experience

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Featured in this episode:
Cheyenne Gaima
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Business Administration
President of the National Society of Black Engineers, USC Chapter

Emmanuel Johnson
Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science
Fulbright Scholar
Advised by Jonathan Gratch at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, Johnson examines how “virtual humans” might aid real humans in the subtle art of negotiation. Read more at: exjohnson.com

Relevant links:
Girls Who Code: https://girlswhocode.com/
National Society of Black Engineers: https://nsbe.org/home.aspx
National Society of Black Engineers, USC Chapter: https://uscnsbe.com/
USC Race and Equity Center: https://race.usc.edu/
USC Viterbi Center of Engineering Diversity: http://viterbiundergrad.usc.edu/diversity/center-for-engineering-diversity-2/
USC Viterbi Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: https://viterbischool.usc.edu/diversity-equity-inclusion/

Credits

Episode 1
Hosts: Brandi Jones and Daniel Druhora
Producers: Greta Harrison and Adam Smith
Sound Editor / Mixer: Eric Han
Opening Music: “Street Fighter Mas” by Kamasi Washington
Art by Xan Black

Episode 2
Hosts: Brandi Jones and Daniel Druhora
Producers: Marc Ballon and Daniel Druhora
Sound Editor / Mixer: Eric Han
Art by Xan Black

Episode 3
Hosts: Brandi Jones and Daniel Druhora
Producers: Avni Shah and Caitlin Dawson
Sound Editor / Mixer: Eric Han
Art by Xan Black