The program’s curricular focus is on three areas
The Academy aims to instill in its students an entirely new way of thinking. To accomplish this, the program offers a highly select group of students an integrated, four-year course of study that provides in-depth learning in three essential areas: engineering and computer science; design; and business and venture management. Team-taught interdisciplinary courses have been developed and adapted specifically for the program, offering an unprecedented undergraduate education that empowers the imagination and hastens creative solutions.
Through the Academy’s core students learn to think seamlessly across multiple disciplines, and envision possibilities from every perspective. A series of interdependent courses helps students to gain understanding of the theories, concepts, vocabulary and ‘language’ common to each area, and to garner skills in their relevant applied technologies and techniques.
The Academy’s strong focus on the arts and arts-based practices is present at every level of the core. Aesthetics, critical discernment, and an understanding of global culture are considered core competencies for every Academy graduate, as is the ability to analyze and critique existing systems, services, or products. Courses on innovation look at the social and cultural changes that stem from disruption, and survey the growing roster of ideas that have forever altered business, industry, the arts, and the way we live. A broad look into the very nature of creativity and ideation also looks at audio/visual perception, and design as a universal language with unique, problem-solving capabilities.
Additionally, skills-based courses offer instruction in leading creative, analytical, and presentation software; techniques for rapid visualization and rendering; coding and programming; electronic prototyping; feasibility; marketplace assessment; making and manufacturing; financing; and more.
From the very first week, students are challenged to integrate all they are learning into creative practice, particularly through an interactive workshop series known as “The Innovator’s Forum.” In this setting, students meet, hear, and work with innovators from the arts, industry, business, and the public sphere in guided exercises geared toward building a variety of essential skills including: leadership; written, oral, and visual communication; critical thinking; problem solving; adaptability and agility; and building and working effectively in teams.
In addition to the core, in years two and three students choose from a variety of curricular emphases that serve to tailor each student’s experience to his or her individual strengths or desired path. Current emphases include curated experiences in Visual Design, Audio Design, Venture Management, Technology, and Communication, but it is expected that this list will grow quickly to encompass a number of additional areas at USC.
Emphases may be used to enhance or strengthen existing skills with advanced knowledge or applications, or to add a new area of focus. Through academic guidance and advisement, students may also create unique emphases by selecting a course of study from across all of the Academy’s offerings, or from offerings in other schools or academic units at USC.
Advanced skills taught through the Academy’s emphases include: color theory and visual perception; 2-D graphic design, including typography, and motion graphics; 3-D design in both actual and virtual spaces; materials and media in design; rapid-prototyping; web and interactive design; computer graphics and animation; advanced coding; cloud architecture and applications; mobile applications; audio capture and manipulation; live sound design; digital audio theory; acoustics and audio perception; consumer behavior, marketing and branding; project and operations management; financing the startup; business strategies; and more.
The Garage Experience
In year four, the student experience focuses on the Garage, the Academy’s collaborative creative space. In a unique environment that enhances creation with advanced design and prototyping technologies, students work in teams to realize their vision for the future. Throughout the year, students work in close collaboration with top faculty at USC and industry mentors selected from among the leaders in each relevant field or area. Aided by this expertise, students realize their ideas for new products, ventures, art forms, technologies, or services.