WSP University of Southern California Cohort Spotlight: Brandon Gamez

Brandon Gamez, U.S. Navy veteran

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student before WSP?

Before WSP I had done one year of Community College after high school. I didn’t have the right mindset; I hardly showed up to class and essentially partied that year away. After separating from the Navy, I started back up this past Spring. Unsure of what to expect, I was slightly anxious but completely determined to succeed. During the initial week back, I had the realization that the military transformed my mindset, priming my brain to be in a constant state of learning. You’re always learning, formally and informally, from day 1 in boot camp to separation day.


Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how did your WSP experience compare to that?

My Spring semester in college prior to WSP was all virtual, and it was fine. The Professors, by that point, had acclimated, and the instruction was fairly smooth. The biggest difference with WSP was the student participation. Everyone had their cameras on and actively engaged in group discussions. It was refreshing, as student engagement in my virtual college courses was pretty low.


From the WSP Personnel to USC faculty to my fellow participants, everyone bought in, making for a great academic environment. It seemed as though WSP had been doing virtual courses for years as the entire process was a well-oiled machine in my eyes.


Were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

Extremely excited! I’d learned of WSP through an online forum for veterans. Those that had gone through the program were swearing by the experience and how much they benefitted from attending. Many had similar educational backgrounds as me, and I knew it was something worth looking into. When I learned about the partnering universities and read the detailed alumni profiles, it was clear that this was a top-tier organization. I cleared my summer schedule to attend USC’s humanities/business-entrepreneurship boot camp.


What have you learned from attending that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

A few things come to mind: the Analytical Reading sessions led by WSP Fellows, writing Workshops with the USC English professors, and the LinkedIn profile workshop with USC’s Shahla Fatemi.


All given courses were interesting, and I took something from each, but these stood out to me in that they equipped me with practical skills and knowledge that I can put to immediate use and apply to every learning venture.


On Analytical Reading - Reading and interpreting dense and scholarly works can be a daunting task, so learning techniques to help me break down the academic text was huge with my assigned humanities readings. Not just completing the assignments but really digesting the important messages the authors felt compelled to write about was personally beneficial.


On the Writing Workshops - I enjoy the creative expression that writing assignments can provide, but also respect that there it can be a detailed process with collegiate rules to take into account. To have the incredible resource of top English professors reviewing my work and providing thorough feedback was huge for me. I poured myself into the writing assignment and was glad to see it critiqued with encouragement, but also necessary criticisms that will only benefit me in the future.


On the LinkedIn Workshop - In this day and age, a first impression is often made online, and professionally it’s commonly via LinkedIn. To get a run-through filled with valuable tips has already paid dividends for me and my networking.


What was your favorite session, and why?

Humanities week, “American Democracy in Crisis,” with USC’s Aubrey Hicks. She played more of a moderator role, and most everyone chimed in with their views and opinions on strong topics. It was my favorite because many of us had opposing stances on a variety of issues, but everyone kept it respectful, and no one held back. It was the kind of fierce discussion and debate that could only be stoked with mature temperaments and keen listening by all involved. Hats off to Ms. Hicks as she maneuvered the discussion well, and to my fellow participants. They were all really impressive individuals.


Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP? WSP Fellow, Jesse Nuese Yaker. Everyone involved was pure class, but I specifically mention Jesse because he was encouraging but didn’t hold your hand. He’s been in our shoes. He was also once a freshly separated vet that attended a WSP boot camp. He went on to graduate from an elite institution. He knows what it takes to do so and held us to that standard because he saw the potential was there. From Day 1, it was respect and a big brother vibe that I’ll remember him for.


Did WSP have any effect on how confident you feel now as a student?

Going into WSP I felt confident I would be successful as a college student at a good University. Having completed WSP, I have the confidence that I will be successful as a college student at an elite university.

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