Senior Spotlight: Sydney Loew

A young woman grins at a delicate cut-paper craft she holds

“Everyone should be their own role model. You should always strive to do things – big or small – that make you proud of yourself.” Whether it's taking class in comedy or becoming creative director of a student magazine, senior Sydney Loew has learned to be the 'captain of her own ship' and confidently sail against the wind. "My Academy classmates are the best crew I could ever ask for, so even when the waters get choppy, I know they'll be by my side."

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy?

My mom watched the docu-series on Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, “The Defiant Ones,” and she hinted at the program during my junior year of high school. Then almost as if it were planned, after a USC tour, my family attended an impromptu 1:1 admissions meeting with the Roski School of Art and Design. Upon showing the representative my portfolio – full of entrepreneurship, design and technology projects – she recommended I apply to the Academy. The rest is history!

What piece of advice have you implemented in your day to day life?

“Be the captain of your own ship.” This is especially helpful in the Academy where the “Degree is in Disruption” and every course encourages you to think differently. As a “captain,” I always try to do what I think is right, even if it goes against the grain. If a project, goal or opportunity steers me off course, I keep an open mind and prepare to set sail in a different direction. Making tough decisions like these takes confidence, fearlessness and the ability to quickly assess outcomes. Luckily, my Academy classmates are the best crew I could ever ask for, so even when the waters get choppy, I know they’ll be by my side.

Selfie of a crowd of four young people.
A cohort of five students and the Academy's Dean Muhl pose together for pictures

Do you have a role model? Why do you look up to them?

This is going to sound incredibly pretentious, but hear me out: I think everyone should be their own role model. You should always strive to do things – big or small – that make you proud of yourself, whether that’s taking out the trash on time or securing your dream internship. Take time out of your day once in a while to have what I call a “reflection moment” – look around you and think about all the hard work you did to get to where you are. Plagued by imposter syndrome, insecurity and constant comparisons, people don’t celebrate their successes and each other’s successes enough. Role models don’t have to be celebrities or extremely successful people. We live among role models. It’s important to value yourself and what you can offer, while taking the time to value the person behind you in line for Cava at USC Village as well as the professor at the front of the room. If you look in unexpected places, including yourself, you’ll grow in surprising ways and continually strive for bigger and better things.

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?

I exclusively listen to hard rock and heavy metal music. After Zoom calls or long days on campus, I’ll crank the volume to eleven, grab my air guitar and belt out every word to Guns N’ Roses, Scorpions, Metallica, Dokken and Pantera songs. After talking to me and hearing my bubbly, happy voice, you would honestly never guess.

What’s one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?

My parents and I are crazy close, and I call them every single day without fail. They are my besties, and with that, they’ve taught me what true friendship feels like. It means unconditional support, collaborative resilience, and unstoppable teamwork. I can go to them for anything and everything. They are the reason I’m where I am today. 

What is the biggest risk you have taken, and was the result what you wished for?

I signed up for Intro to Stand Up Comedy last year, and it changed my life. The class helped me let go of my ego and find what makes me powerful. Standing up in front of a room full of strangers and talking for three minutes straight about a very personal story – which just so happened to be the “final exam” – puts you in an incredibly vulnerable position, prime for either judgment and failure or euphoria and laughter. The difficulty of comedy is that you never know which one you’re going to get. You have to be light on your feet, roll with the punches, and stay true to your voice. All of these lessons apply to entrepreneurship, design consulting, and everyday life itself. I’ve learned a multitude of lessons since declaring a comedy minor, and it’s all because of that fateful day on stage when I risked my reputation for a couple laughs.

What would you say is your defining achievement thus far?

I don’t think I have one big “win,” but a lot of small ones. It’s amazing how far you can go and how many great people you meet by simply saying “yes” to every interesting opportunity. Along my trail of “yeses,” I got into the Academy, became a USC tour guide, got an internship at GUESS?, became the creative director of a magazine and joined a start-up team with some of the most talented and smartest people I know.

A young woman poses in front of cardinal and gold flowers and balloons
A young woman in USC clothes holds up a copy of the Daily Trojan

What advice would you give to freshmen?

Join as many clubs as you find interesting (extend yourself beyond your major). Pour 110% of your effort into each class assignment (your classmates and professors are watching). Push yourself to go to that social event even when you feel a little tired (who knows, maybe a pandemic will hit and you won’t see your friends for a year and a half). Apply for every Academy industry and impact lab (they are all worth it). Apply to the internship you think you won’t get (you miss every shot you don’t take). Be friendly to everyone (it pays off). Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember this Winston Churchill quote: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

How have you evolved over the past four years?

I took inventory the other day, I realized that I have worked on design strategy projects for over ten different industries. This includes education, VR, music, fashion, toys, software, hardware, playgrounds, and more. The Academy's Innovator’s Forum freshman class – where we pitch new ideas to a diverse range of entrepreneurs – opened my eyes to how much I love to jump from field to field. I think my adaptability and listening skills have improved because of all of the projects I’ve taken on over the years. As a graphic designer, I am able to more quickly immerse myself in a new brand and inherit their mindset. Picking up on colors, shapes, and fonts is one part of the equation, but I’ve also learned how to pick up on less tangible aspects of a brand like their “language,” workflow, and attitude. I’ve also honed my visual and verbal communication skills. Pitching in front of a large audience doesn’t intimidate me, and I owe it to the Academy’s incredible curriculum that allowed me to practice, iterate, and discover my strengths.

What goals do you have post-graduation?

I want to make as many people’s ideas come to life as possible. I want to make big challenges feel smaller. I want to keep pushing myself to jump head-first into experiences that are out of my comfort zone (within reason!). Just like the Academy has inspired me to do, I want to keep “learning different languages'' and combining them with my own skills and enthusiasm to create better products, services, organizations, and communities. As I continue to work towards a career in design consulting, I want to not just feel like a reliable designer, but an indispensable teammate and cheerleader.

FUN FACTS

What inspires you?

People who run head-first towards their goals and happily bring others with them.

Favorite app or website?

YouTube.

Favorite class at USC and why?

Innovator’s Forum. It’s the hallmark Academy class where you learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur. You get to learn from professionals and insert yourself into their world for a week. You also learn how to make a mean pitch deck. However, the most important thing you gain from Innovator’s Forum is working with your crazy talented cohort. Switching from team to team, forming amazing friendships, and learning from everyone’s strengths is an experience I’ll only get once in a lifetime. By the end of the class, you come out with lifelong teammates and friends.

What is your favorite hidden gem of LA?

The Largo Comedy Club.

If you had to get a tattoo what would you get and why?

No tattoos.

A young woman in a black jacket smiles for her portrait
A young woman poses in front of a Guess sign

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