Hadiya Culbreath

Hadiya Culbreath – Houston, Texas


“My biggest fear was losing my academic focus — not in the way of failing classes, but losing my plan,” says Hadiya Culbreath, who is currently pursuing a major in health and human sciences at the University of Southern California. “Since [starting college], I have done exactly that — but I’m not scared.”

Early on, Culbreath had planned to be pre-med. She was interested in biomedical engineering and neuroscience. STEM was her passion. In fact, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, and her mother got an infection from the mold that developed in their home as they waited weeks for an inspection, Culbreath spent the next semester of school developing an affordable mold detector.

Coming to the Bovard Scholars program opened her eyes to a slightly different future, however. At lunch, she met USC students from various colleges — including one who turned her on to the health and human sciences major, which brings medicine together with the humanities. Her resident advisor recited poetry he had written that brought tears to her eyes. And the summer program gave Culbreath a picture, too, of what diversity could look like at the university level.  “The most shocking thing, getting here, was seeing how many people of color I was surrounded by,” she says. It’s something she strives to find now, as a freshman on campus.

Culbreath thought that she’d go to Emory, in Atlanta, or the University of Texas, Austin, places where she had family. Then, the Bovard Scholars program opened her eyes to schools she hadn’t even considered — including USC.

“What I wanted was the integrated approach to learning and the campus environment. Not only am I learning here, I’m living here,” she says. “I wanted to be surrounded by different people who have a large variety of interests. The cinema school is big but there’s also the medical school. STEM is really important, but here it’s really creative, too.”

When classes finally started in August, Culbreath took full advantage of that breadth. In addition to her core classes, she’s taking voice, as well as an American Studies course that has made a surprisingly deep impression. “I didn’t know what I was getting into when I chose it, and it’s actually amazing,” she says. “I love all my professors, but this professor, she’s extremely opinionated, she speaks freely. It’s the class that I didn’t expect to take so soon.”

The only drawback? Culbreath is more homesick than she imagined. “I felt like I wanted to embrace the sense of independence,” she says, of choosing USC — the school furthest away from her family. “Careful what you wish for,” she laughs.

To future Scholars:

“Don’t be afraid of change, because I certainly was.”