First Academy students enter second semester

In December, USC’s newest school, the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy wrapped its first semester with its first class of 31 students. The Academy’s curriculum was developed by its director, Dean of the Roski School of Fine Arts Erica Muhl, focuses on three areas of study: art and design, engineering, business and venture management. The programming also emphasizes collaboration and innovation.

“Our goal is to ensure that the Academy is the most collaborative educational program in the world,” President C. L. Max Nikias said in a statement.

The Academy, which was founded by music producer Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young, known by his stage name, Dr. Dre, is made up of 31 students, each selected for the program for “proven ability in original thought,” according to the school’s website. The curriculum includes independent applied techniques and technology classes, courses on innovation and cultural change, and skills-based courses.

“The thing that I had hoped most for the students in the Iovine and Young Academy is that they would find a couple things when they came to USC,” Muhl said. “First, the Trojan family, but also an environment that encourages who they are as individuals as well as highlighting the strengths in teamwork.”

According to Muhl, the garage, located on the fourth floor of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, provides the ideal environment for fostering the kind of learning the Academy strives to maintain.

“The garage as a facility has proven to be everything that we had hoped,” Muhl said. “The facility, not only as an instruction but also as an ideation space, allows students both inside and outside class to be constantly envisioning.”

The environment that has been created in the Academy’s first semester extends beyond the physical.

“As we can see so far, one of the most successful aspects of the Iovine and Young Academy as a whole has been the strength of the cohort we have built,” Muhl said. “Each time I walk into the garage and see groups of Academy students working on projects that are not necessarily assigned with such enthusiasm really reinforces what I had hoped to do with this program.”

The Academy has already made headway toward completing its first-year goal of introducing students to cross-disciplinary study. Students have learned about the history of disruptive innovation, and courses have both integrated the core disciplines of computer science, business and venture management and taught their skills individually.

“I believe that the precise experience that the Academy offers was very welcome to a certain type of student and it is exciting to have been able to build that,” Muhl said. “The students are learning from us but we are absolutely learning from them.”

In this way, the innovative and collaborative aspects of the Academy’s curriculum carry over into the development of the program. A successful first semester might be somewhat attributed to the adaptive nature of the program and its students.

Amri Rigby, a freshman majoring in arts, technology and the business of innovation explained that the application process for the Academy includes a proposal video and interviews in addition to the Common Application.

“My experience has been amazing. I am surrounded by a lot of talented people with a diverse set of skills,” said Rigby. “I am thankful for the opportunity. I’ve grown so much after only one semester.”

Muhl attributes the program’s success to its ability to adjust to change.

“The Iovine and Young Academy is a brand new program, so we knew there were going to be surprises,” Muhl said. “We have learned a great deal already, both in terms of how to perfect what might not be one hundred percent and to expand upon the many good ideas that are already in place. The program was built in such a way to be able to respond with great agility.”

Muhl, as well as the faculty and the rest of the administration of the Academy look to the future as applications for the next school year are submitted this month.

“Our applications for the 2015-2016 academic year look spectacular,” Muhl said. “We are up in application numbers and the pool, once again, looks very talented and really well prepared for this type of an experience.”

The future for the Academy, according to both its students and its faculty, looks bright as the program and curriculum continue to grow and develop.

“I am just hoping that each year we can learn more than we did the year before,” Muhl said. “I believe we can build upon not only the strength of our exceptional faculty but upon what students are able to bring to the program.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Academy founders Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young contributed to the development of the program’s curriculum. The founders were not involved in curriculum development. The previous version also stated that the class was made up of 25 students. There are 31 students in the program. The Daily Trojan regrets the errors.