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Stevens Academic Center Spotlight: Kim Santiago

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC athletes are more than just champions on the field, court, diamond, and pool, they're champions in the classroom as well. Each week, we will get to know one of these scholarly Trojans a little better in our student-athlete spotlight.

Santiago.jpg
Name: Kim Santiago
Year: Sophomore
Sport: Women's Golf
Major: Computer Engineering and Computer Science
GPA: 3.71

Sarah Bergstrom (SB): So you are studying computer engineering, right? Why did you pick that major and what do you hope to do with it?

Kim Santiago (KS): Ever since I was young I liked playing with Legos so my parents always told me that I would be a good engineer. I grew up knowing that I was going to go into engineering and then when it came time to choose which field to actually go into I decided to follow in the footsteps of my family. Both my brother and dad are software engineers so that's why I decided to try this out, to see if I like it, because my whole family already does. And I really like it so far.

SB: As a sophomore now do you feel like you have more of a handle on how to balance golf and a rigorous major?

KS: I have a better grasp of things now. Coming into USC being on a sports team and also doing engineering was a lot to take in in my first year. But I've gotten used to it now and it's pretty easy to handle. I've figured out my priorities. I want to do well in my sport and also want to do well in school. My free time is for friends. That's my hierarchy. (laughs) I guess sometimes you have to make sacrifices.

SB: So I read that your dream golf foursome would be the composer Claude Debussy, the Russian theorist Leon Trotsky and Pi Patel from the novel Life of Pi. It's interesting to me because you have a major devoted to math and science and yet you've developed an appreciation for classic literature and classical music. Where did your love for that side of things develop?

KS: Math and music go together very well. When I was five or six I was playing piano and then I learned to play the viola. Music has been a big part of my life all of my life. I really enjoyed ready growing up as well. At parties I would just sit in a corner and read instead of socializing with the other kids (laughs). Life of Pi  was my favorite book in high school and it was taught by one of my favorite teachers. I love that character (Pi). 

SB: Do you still play piano or viola?

KS: I've had to sacrifice on those. But later on I want to continue to play. One day I want a grand piano in my house. If I wasn't doing sports I would probably join the school's orchestra.

SB: What's your favorite piece to play? I'm assuming it's something by Debussy...

KS: Hmm...that's hard. My favorite piece is probably Clair de Lune by Debussy. It's just a classic and I really like it. Whenever I go home I play it.

SB: So you have a lot going for you on the academic side, how did you start playing golf?

KS: Just like how I got into engineering, my whole family is into golf. Both my brother and my dad were really into golf. My dad started playing because of my grandfather who was actually the president of the Philippine Golf Association. I used to always want to do everything that my brother did so I just followed along and I ended up liking it too.

SB: What did you learn in your freshman year being a part of the best golf team in America? 

KS: I think the biggest thing I learned is that working hard all the time, with no complaining, is what pays off in the end. Even if there are hurdles thrown at you, you can overcome them with hard work. I learned a lot from the work ethic of the other girls on the team.

SB: What are areas of your game that you've already seen yourself improve on after your first year?

KS: Putting. Some of my teammates are the best putters in the country so I've seen how they practice and the routines they do. That's helped me figure out how to improve my own game. I see myself improving already. In last weekend's tournament I had a really good round, I shot 71 (1-under) in one of the rounds, and I was pretty excited since that was the first time I've broken par in a tournament. Things are going well, I feel like my game is in a good spot right now and I know what I need to work on moving forward. 

SB: Do you see any comparisons between what you love about golf and what you love in academics?

KS: A big part of golf is that it really is an individual sport. If anything goes wrong it's your fault and if there are any problems you get to think about how to solve them yourself. When you are strategizing on a course it's just like solving a problem, which is the same in engineering and math. I really like that aspect of it. And I like that I get time to myself since I'm an introvert. It's just me and the green. I enjoy being out there.

SB: What's been one of your favorite moments so far in being a part of this team?

KS: I think it would be last year when our team went to New Orleans. It was the end of the third round and we were tied with UCLA so we had to go into a playoff. It was pretty intense but in the end I sunk a putt to save my score and then everyone else on the team was able to pull through and we won. Just the feeling of that, of beating UCLA and seeing everyone contribute to a win, was awesome. Winning in a playoff is a different feeling from just winning outright. 

SB: What's it like to be a student-athlete at USC? What are your goals in your next two years?

KS: I want to be able to continue to take advantage of the Trojan Family and all of the incredible connections that we have. As a golfer, I want to keep doing my best and see where I can go with it. Academically I want to do my best so that I can go where I want to go with it as well. It's been amazing to be here. We are treated so well and it's just such an honor to be part of such a great institution and to be representing USC on the golf course. 

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