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This year, the degree was in perseverance.
The Iovine and Young Academy celebrated the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on May 14 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, along with 1,500 USC graduates and roughly 3,000 family members and friends. The celebration featured speeches from President Folt, keynote speaker Bina Venkataraman, and Dean Erica Muhl who saluted graduating students for boldly pursued ideas from the drawing board to the boardroom in the midst of the most challenging constraint of all: a global pandemic.
"Students, it's most often my place at commencement to provide some final words of inspiration, and hopefully wisdom," said Dean Erica Muhl. "But today, I have to tell you that it's you who have inspired all of us, and that, from you, we have gained the wisdom needed to adapt to adversity with grace, patience, and perseverance."
Iovine and Young Academy students sat six feet apart alongside other graduates from USC Roski School of Art and Design, USC Keck School of Medicine, and the USC School of Pharmacy. The in-person commencement will occur over seven days, starting on May 14 and ending on May 20. The Academy also hosted a virtual celebration for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on Thursday, May 13.
The virtual event included an address from Dean Erica Muhl, Jimmy Iovine, and four student speakers representing cohorts from the undergraduate and graduate programs: Hannah Nowak, BS '20, Andrew Hulin BS '21, Inge Lindholm MS '20, and Sumit Mahawar, MS '21.
"I'm sure by now we've heard the Mike Tyson quote that goes, 'Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,'" said Andrew Hulin, BS '20. "Well, we got punched in the mouth. Hard. But regardless it's something we all persevered through together."
The students' perseverance is clearly reflected in the impressive body of work, startups, and projects students have launched over the past year and a half. By continuing to innovate, take risks, and seize the future for themselves, the graduating students have shown the world they are more than ready for whatever may come next.
"For me, the degree was in resilience and redemption," said Hannah Nowak, BS "I was forced to reimagine my future and I stand before you better for it."
The students also had an incredible community cheering them on – from 3780 Watt Way to the Bay, South Korea, Brazil, and beyond. It's in large part thanks to this network of families, friends, and mentors that Academy students have been able to continue learning from home and reaching for blue-sky ideas.
"We've worked together, dreamed together, laughed together, and even cried together and I couldn't think of a greater cohort of human beings to have shared this experience with," said Inge Lindholm, MS '20.
Founder Jimmy Iovine also joined the virtual celebration to thank Dean Erica Muhl for her leadership since the Academy's launch in 2013. This year's Academy commencement was a significant milestone for Dean Muhl who will be leaving the Academy to become the first female president of Berklee College of Music.
"The Academy...is entering a new chapter and I want to take a moment to thank Dean Erica Muhl," said Jimmy Iovine. "She is a visionary and trailblazer. She took this idea that Dre and I had eight years ago and made it a reality."
This year's commencement not only represents the culmination of years of academic achievement but also signals the arrival of a new generation of innovators who have already proven they are ready to face any challenge the world may throw at them.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and 2021.