Iovine-Young Academy opens for classes

The Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy officially opens this semester, and its newly-built student workspace reflects the Academy’s focus on innovation.

The Recipe · The Academy brings together professors from USC Annenberg, Marshall, Viterbi and Roski in a new, innovative space.  - Min Haeng Cho | Daily Trojan

The Recipe · The Academy brings together professors from USC Annenberg, Marshall, Viterbi and Roski in a new, innovative space. – Min Haeng Cho | Daily Trojan

Inside the Academy on the fourth floor of the Tutor Campus Center, the 31 students of the Academy’s inaugural class have made their mark with their signatures on the central column. These students will begin the program this fall to achieve a degree in Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation or, as the university has referred to it, a “degree in disruption.”

The Academy, created by a $70 million donation from Iovine and Young that was announced in May  2013, was inspired in part by the success the duo had when they fused pop culture with innovation in founding Beats Electronics, maker of the hugely successful audio device Beats by Dr. Dre. The academy’s mission is to encourage 25 to 30 students each year to replicate and even outdo that work.

“Many of the students had seen the space when it was raw, when they came in February for the interview weekend,” Jessica Vernon, senior advisor and recruiter for the Academy said. “For them to come in and see the finished product … The idea that I’ve got from the students is that it is even better than they had imagined,” she said.

The Academy’s entrance is “the Garage,” a spacious open workspace whose name pays homage to the ideas that were cultivated in garages across America by innovators such as Steve Jobs. Inside is the necessary equipment: several 3-D printers sit along a wall, next to display cases ready to showcase the prototypes and concepts that can be printed in plastic from digital or hard designs. Digital workstations complete with large TV screens, laptop plugins and speakers sit around the edges of the room.

Doors from the Garage lead to two classrooms and the Shop, a room full of wood and metal working tools and a sandblaster that Vernon affectionately refers to as “the dirty space.” Down the hall from the dirty space is the Fab Room, which contains a refrigerator-sized 3-D printer and an industrial laser cutter and engraver. In the Shop and the Fab Room, Vernon says, students will do everything from building drones to using the printers to materialize their ideas via rapid prototyping.

The Academy’s facilities will be used in conjunction with an exclusive curriculum developed by professors from the Marshall School of Business, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the Roski School of Art and Design and the Viterbi School of Engineering. Students will pick two of five areas of “emphasis” that include venture management, audio design, communication, visual design and technology.

“I just can’t wait to see what they do,” Vernon said. “I’m excited to see how they really bond together and the type of team projects they work on together.”

One of those students is freshman Luke McGartland, who knew he’d find a home at the Academy from the moment he received his acceptance letter in the form of a personalized YouTube message from Iovine and Young.

“I watched it about 50 times,” McGartland said.

For McGartland, the best thing about the Academy is the sense of finding a group of individuals similar to him.

“We all have the same sort of strain of DNA,” he said. “No else quite got what we were thinking of back in high school. You can have a great idea, but without a great team you aren’t going to be able to do as well as you could.”

Luke, who filled a 240-page notebook in high school with ideas for everything from app designs to inventions, now has that team at the Academy.

Students are challenged to continuously innovate as seen in a picture of Jimmy Iovine that sits on the wall just next to the Academy’s conference room, which is equipped to host digital lectures with high-profile industry leaders.

“Think you’re as innovative as this guy?” the poster asks. “He’s betting on it.”

UPDATE, Aug. 26, 10:35 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect factual changes and minor edits. The Thornton School of Music is no longer affiliated with the Iovine and Young Academy.