Air Force vet takes his math talents to USC Viterbi

Photo of Matt Mena
Matt Mena joined the U.S Air Force after high school and served as an aviation specialist, troubleshooting and repaired electronics systems for planes. (Photo/Courtesy of Matt Mena)

After spending four years keeping some of the world’s biggest planes in the air, first-generation transfer student Matt Mena is climbing toward a computer science degree.

Anybody who’s seen a C-130 in the air can feel its massive power far below. One of the biggest and most venerable military planes in the world, its ability to handle unprepared runways often makes it the first fixed-winged aircraft to land at the site of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

To keep the complex behemoth flying takes a squad of experts like Matt Mena, an integrated aviation specialist who joined about 1,500 other incoming transfer students this fall at USC. Like Mena, half are from California community colleges.

Pursuing a computer science degree at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Mena took some time to choose his new home after considering UCLA, New York University, Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley.

“I’m a computer science major, and some of those schools can have 1,200 students in some of those classes early on,” Mena said. “I didn’t want to deal with that. USC was a better fit in that regard, and the alumni network is strong.”

Read more about Matt’s story