Valedictorian, salutatorians recognized

Photo of the front Bovard Administration building with an American flag pole in the foreground.
Valedictorian Adam Karelin looks to develop sustainable practices to facilitate opportunities for artists as he pursues his master’s degree in arts leadership at USC in Fall 2022. (Amanda Chou | Daily Trojan file photo)

Regardless of the installation of hybrid learning earlier in the year and the University’s gradual return to in-person operation, the Class of 2022 is expected to graduate in person. Following this year’s addresses — to be given by valedictorian Adam Karelin and commencement speaker Allyson Felix — the Class of 2022 will turn its mortarboard tassel from right to left, signifying their transition to USC alumni. 

Karelin, a senior majoring in composition, was selected as the valedictorian for the 2022 graduating class. Karelin, who will pursue his master’s degree in arts leadership at USC next fall, looks to develop sustainable opportunities for artists. His accomplishments include having his music performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, being named a National YoungArts Finalist in Classical Music Composition in 2019 and receiving the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Award. At USC, Karelin played with the USC Thornton Symphony, Wind Ensemble, Brass Ensemble, Trombone Choir, Baroque Sinfonia and Concerto Chamber Orchestra — where he now serves as music director.

“I feel very humbled to be in such company … I’m in a senior class of extraordinarily brilliant, talented, wonderful people,” Karelin said. “I love all my peers so much, and it just easily could have been any of them who were selected with this honor.”

When Karelin started his undergraduate education, he wasn’t “perfect” with time management or taking care of his health. He said he used to overload himself and finish tasks by sacrificing his mental health and sleep while taking 20 units per semester but has since improved his habits throughout his academic career. 

“Toward the end of junior year, I realized the quality of the things I produce when I’m in that delirious, exhausted state is not as high-quality as the stuff I produce when I’m taking care of myself,” Karelin said. “I’m not exactly where I want to be yet, but it’s a continuous evolution.”

During the pandemic lockdown, Karelin said he was tempted to overload himself academically as a distraction from the state of the world. Mental health resources at the University were “tremendously helpful” in reprioritizing his health, he said. 

“That really helped me manage my time during lockdown and not just develop these unhealthy coping mechanisms of ‘I’m just going to do work, work, work and forget about the world,’” Karelin said.

Salutatorian Shreya Daniel, a senior majoring in health and human sciences, said studying topics that “felt true” to her helped her thrive academically, even as a pre-med student. Daniel decided to take classes outside of her major, such as Bollywood dance and theater, and she also picked up an occupational science minor.

“Being able to choose classes that I was interested in and not worry too much about what it would look like later on, turned out to look well later on, and I was rewarded for it,” Daniel said.

Daniel worked with the USC Admission Center for nearly three years as a student ambassador, serves as a member of honor societies Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi, and maintained a 4.0 GPA each semester from Fall 2018 to Spring 2021. After taking a gap year to shadow doctors specializing in developmental-behavioral pediatrics at the University of Chicago, Daniel plans to apply for medical school so she can develop integrated, holistic healthcare for kids.

“Having a goal of what I want to be and envisioning the day I have my own clinic and working … even though [medical school] is a big, intimidating and scary process, knowing that I feel really passionate about doing this and that there’s an end point that’s all worth it is making it a lot more exciting,” Daniel said.

Former Trojan Democrats president, VoteSC director of programming and member of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps Andrew Binder was “shocked” when he heard he was selected as a salutatorian.

“I wasn’t really necessarily focused on this in college,” said Binder, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law. “I was more focused on extracurriculars and community service and things like that. I felt really, really grateful to all of the people who had given me the opportunities that led to this moment.”

Binder said his family and the friends he made throughout his various commitments were key players in his success.

“I feel like I really learned from a lot of my peers because I feel like the culture at USC is a culture of high achievers and a culture of community service,” Binder said. “They were really the ones who made it happen.”