The Learning Experience

Challenge-Based Learning (CBL)

Challenge-Based Learning (CBL) is the foundational framework for the Academy learning experience. Using industry-facing initiatives and challenge prompts, Academy students develop projects in response to complex problems facing individuals, communities, organizations, and society at large. Within the CBL framework, students develop skills and knowledge in design, business, communication, and technology to bring an idea to life and build tangible prototypes. Through experimentation, iteration, collaboration, and reflection, students develop a powerful mental framework to analyze challenges and synthesize information to advance human-centric solutions towards a sustainable and equitable future.

Cohort Model

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Two female students smiling while looking at their laptops

The Academy’s cohort model has been carefully designed to incorporate the greatest possible diversity of culture, background, experience, thought and purpose. In selecting students for each cohort, Academy faculty and administration seek a deliberate range of disciplinary strengths as well as perspectives, viewpoints, and life goals.  The Academy believes firmly in inclusion as it applies to every aspect of a human being, and as defined broadly, and we have found that both the synergies and the initial tensions that this creates make for an incredibly vibrant, and challenging collaborative creative environment. 

An ideal cohort provides a unique learning environment through which students gain immediate access to a range of different ways of being and thinking, as well as disciplinary expertise, knowledge, and skills. Typically, a cohort will exhibit equal strength across STEM, culture, the arts, design, and storytelling, as well as leadership and entrepreneurship, but equally important is a collaborative mindset, and the ability to serve well on a team with many diverse viewpoints.  

For our alumni, the cohort also constitutes a lifelong network and resource for learning, connections, ideas, talent, and support. The Academy is a community like no other, and our graduates frequently refer to the IYA cohort experience as one of the most profound and impactful elements of their USC education. 

Integrative Learning Toward Individual Pathways

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Academy students learn to work effectively in multidisciplinary project teams, a mode of working that is now the norm in the world’s most forward-thinking organizations. An Academy degree also works to develop the unique potential of every student by providing the unprecedented ability to tailor each degree path to specific career needs and outcomes. As a result, graduates are multi-faceted, adaptable, and agile thinkers who are capable of critically assessing risk and opportunity in a rapidly changing world. 

Faculty and Industry Experts

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A group of faculty members mid discussion

The Academy’s distinguished faculty is comprised of accomplished professionals and experienced educators who bring deep knowledge and expertise in teaching, research and industry practices to provide students with a first-class multidisciplinary education. Faculty members hail from a wide range of fields including the arts, design, interactive media, communications, information technology, engineering, medicine, strategic consulting, finance and entrepreneurship. Collectively, their professional accomplishments are only matched by their dedication to teaching and mentoring the next generation of leading arts, design, and technology entrepreneurs. 

In addition to USC’s distinguished faculty, Academy students also have a direct access for learning, mentoring and feedback from leaders in industry and professional practice. Throughout their academic career, students are provided with invaluable opportunities to hear from and work with new and legendary makers, creators and doers. Past speakers include Ben Horowitz (Co-Founder, Andreessen Horowitz), Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, Evan Spiegel (Co-Founder and CEO, Snap, Inc.), Scott Dadich (former Editor in Chief, WIRED), Larry Jackson (Head of Global Content, Apple Music), Bridget Karlin (Global CTO, IBM), basketball great and philanthropist Steph Curry, and music artist and entrepreneur 

Experiential and Service-Based Learning 

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Male students standing around workshop table making shoe prototypes

A hallmark of the Academy’s mission is the mandate to provide learning across multiple platforms that include rigorous instruction, research, and experimentation, but also deep dives into real-world problem solving with existing companies and institutions. The list of industry and research collaborations to date includes those with adidas, Samsung, Volkswagen/Audi, Cigna, Adobe, TOMS Shoes, The Grammy Foundation, Fender Guitars, Los Angeles World Airports (LAX), Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Heal the Bay, Phase One Cancer Foundation, the Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine at USC, Harvard Business Publishing, and the American Heart Association. Project prompts have included the future of mobility; feasibility and viability of globalwifi; new models and incentives for social entrepreneurship; application of creative technologies in K-12 classrooms; ‘smart’ health environments; and advancing data collection and visualization in patient- and physician-facing technologies, including through machine and deep learning.

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Career and Professional Opportunities

As innovators who are well prepared for an ever-changing global landscape, Academy students are already capturing highly competitive internships, fellowships and full-time positions at a roster of companies that includes Google, Apple, Intel, adidas, Adobe, Facebook, Oculus, Spotify, IDEO, Dreamworks, Sony, Imagine Entertainment, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Ernst and Young, Hulu, NVIDIA, DEKA Research Labs, and Verizon. An ongoing collaboration with USC researchers in advancing cancer patient care was highlighted as the only official representative of then Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative at the 2016 White House Innovation Fair, South by South Lawn (SXSL). This project led to the launch of a new undergraduate minor in Health Innovation, a joint offering of the Iovine and Young Academy and the Keck School of Medicine at USC. 

To date, Academy startups have garnered more than $120 million in development funding and acquisition payouts, and a product designed and developed exclusively by Academy students, the Mira “Prism” Augmented Reality Headset, received the prestigious 2018 Red Dot Product Design Award. Three Academy startups so far have been selected to take part in Y Combinator, named by Forbes as the leading accelerator in the world. One, Project Wren, was recently featured in TechCrunch, Fast Company and Forbes for its unique mission to offset individual carbon footprints, and has already received significant early-stage funding. Another, Demeanor, Co. was acquired in 2019 by the digital experience platform NTWRK.   

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