Senior Spotlight: Racquel Fygenson

“Undergrad is not a ring on your finger nor a ball-and-chain around your ankle; it’s a time to try a lot of different things and fail miserably and remind yourself that you’re still young and forgivable.” Whether creating a genderless magnetic clothing line or developing software to graph romantic relationships, Racquel Fygenson has learned that giving up fear of failure is her key to success... 

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy? What were you looking for in an undergraduate program?
Going into undergrad, I felt lost. I knew that I enjoyed building solutions, especially physical/3D solutions, but I wasn’t convinced that I liked 3D design or mechanical engineering to commit to it for the rest of my life. I felt like I was making a life decision, on par with marriage, and I had only just met my fiancé. For anyone in a similar situation right now, I was wrong. Undergrad is not a ring on your finger nor a ball-and-chain around your ankle; it’s a time to try a lot of different things and fail miserably and remind yourself that you’re still young and forgivable, but I digress. The important part of this story was that, despite being incorrect, I thought I was making an eternal life decision. And thus, I panicked.

The majority of me wanted to find my niche and settle safely into it ASAP so I could be forever prepared for dinner party conversations and awkwardly running into ever-competitive high school classmates at my local grocery store during the holidays. As a second-semester senior (in high school), I complained and moaned my way into convincing everyone but myself that my destiny lay in what I was good at in high school.

My peers followed suit (though one could argue I was just mirroring them), and we all waltzed through the Spring 2015 semester nodding our heads to the same tune — “respect the ratings." Believe me, whoever compiles US News’ college rankings has an extraordinary amount of power.

So, as the deadline to commit to a university edged into view, I felt calm and secure knowing that I had been accepted into a top-5-in-the-nation, blow-the-pants-off-your-date’s-parents ivy-covered institution. All that was left for me to do was visit said educational soulmate and love it with all my heart. Easy.

I did just that and attended Accepted Students’ Day. But the second part of my mission, try as I might, was just not happening. I left the East Coast with a bag full of useless college gear and a sinking feeling in my stomach.

This feeling was assuaged by two really amazing conversations that I had while visiting the USC Iovine and Young Academy, and which then quickly multiplied tenfold when I realized that the Academy was not only unranked, but also less defining than any other undergraduate program.

Amidst waves of internal confusion and the conflicting advice from mentors who didn’t really have any answers, I committed to the Iovine and Young Academy on the last day possible. The only thing compelling me to make this decision was that I knew I liked the people in the program and this weird excitement in my gut telling me I had just wanted life stability in a gamble to find a meaningful career.

Describe a passion project you’re currently working on or interested in?
For my Garage project, I am developing a method for people to graph their dyadic, romantic relationships. I am enjoying the challenge of developing a method of spatial communication for something that is traditionally restricted to a verbal format.

A young woman next to a laptop writes by hand into a notebook

What inspired the project?
I approached this project with the goal to develop a way to visualize something that is hard to quantify. Most topics that are easily quantifiable can be translated into traditional charts (e.g. scatter, bar, pie, etc.). Many topics can still benefit from visualization despite not easily fitting into traditional graphs. I chose relationships because they are applicable to a wide range of people and often difficult to discuss.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you? 
I really admire Sophia Amoruso for the entirety of her professional journey and her commitment to discussing depression, anxiety and money in high-achieving female social circles.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?

What advice would you give to a freshman?
Give second chances, but do not lower your standards. Those who don’t value you aren’t worth your time.

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m the lead designer of a genderless magnetic clothing line. (The line has not yet launched, but when it does I’ll make sure you know about it!)

What is the one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?
Figure out what you like to do, and don’t settle.

A young woman works at a laptop


What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
Tampons. Multi-tool.

Favorite app or website?

Favorite class at USC and why?
BAEP 460 Seminar in Entrepreneurship with Paul Orfalea makes me feel the most powerful.
FBE 206 Personal Finance with Dr. Bemis makes me feel the most secure.

Favorite way to de-stress:

Guilty Pleasure?
Craft chocolate.

Thank you, Racquel!

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