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Student Stories

Fresh Encounters: Jean Daniel (JD) LeRoy

Jean Daniel "JD" LeRoy is a natural explorer. Whether it's exploring the world around him using videography and photography or rock climbing, he's always looking for a new learning adventure...

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy? What were you looking for in an undergraduate program?  

I was actually accepted as a USC spring admit last year as a Global Health major in the Keck School of Medicine. USC offered various options for the fall including enrolling into community college or studying abroad at the four American institutions in Europe: France, England, Italy and Switzerland. Having been raised bilingually, I chose to test my French skills by studying at the American University of Paris. Alongside the equivalent of Writing 150, I took a class on Wes Anderson’s film universe to fulfill some GE requirements.

Midway through fall semester, I came across the USC Iovine and Young Academy. I knew I had interests ranging from engineering to design and had spent my high school career working on various portfolio items from geodesic metal furniture to segmented wooden bowls. I thought I had a solid chance and decided to research the (internal) transfer process.

 Another passion of mine was photography and videography and I had recently bought a film camera at a market in London to capture the moments. This inspired my pitch video about an all-encompassing film development service. Using the limited resources at the Parisian school, I spent a month drafting and editing my pitch video. Behind the scenes, I was working on my solidifying my portfolio items and answer the question: What will the Academy allow you to accomplish that your current degree program will not? I wrote an amalgamation of an essay on how rock climbing related to problem solving as well as how a program catered towards makers and disruptors would allow me to continue to cross-pollinate ideas and avoid dogmatic thinking.

I went on to continue to study GEs in the Spring—my first semester at USC and found out at the start of the summer that I had been accepted after two applicant rounds. I then randomly ended up in the same summer program as Academy sophomore Ashley Pakzaban who was studying product management in Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town, South Africa | iXperience from Jean-Daniel LeRoy on Vimeo.

Describe a passion project you’re currently working? 

I’m currently working on an ongoing Instagram and Photoshop collage series for my photography/multimedia work. I had shot dozens of rolls of film in addition to digital photos the past year and wanted to work on storytelling skills rather than unconsciously post photo highlights. I used photoshop to manipulate my work into various colleges that would leave the in-between spaces for viewers to imagine. I hope to expand on the project and maybe become a little bit more active on the platform. Outside of photography, I hope to take advantage of the Academy’s Garage to build some more things.

What inspired the project?

A variety of friends and outside influences (Casey Mcperry, Dan Mace) were the biggest influences on this project.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you? 

I wouldn’t be staying true to my high school-era idol if I didn’t mention Buckminster Fuller (inspired my Geodesic dome lounge chair). Recently, I’ve been following engineer/videographer Daniel Dearco, travel photographer Alex Strohl or Casey Neistat.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?

“Comparison Is The Thief of Joy” - Theodore Roosevelt

What are three goals you have this year?

  1. Make more stuff
  2. Learn more stuff
  3. Climb more stuff

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

I’m an avid rock climber.

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

You can learn anywhere and everywhere, especially if you let the critic inside you make way for the student.

Fun Facts

What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?

I have an Olympus MJU ii point and shoot 35mm camera in my backpack on most occasions.

Favorite app or website?

I like the “1 Second Everyday” video diary app. I haven’t missed an entry since January 1st of 2018 (but also lost the first 4 months when I broke my phone—backup your phone!)

Favorite class at USC and why?

I really like our agile guest speaker series RLM class. We’ve only had it once but I learned a whole bunch.


Favorite way to de-stress?

Head over to Cliffs of Id and spend time crushing climbs.

Guilty Pleasure?

Strawberries, banana, assortment of frozen fruit, vanilla whey protein, greek yogurt, coconut water smoothie.

More information about JD's photography and projects can be found on his website.

Thank you, JD!