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Senior Emily Stone came to IYA to find her island of like-minded misfit toys. Along the way, she’s built friendships, learned lessons and mastered how to swipe her key card without using her hands. Read on...
Tell me a little bit about your journey to IYA? What were you looking for in an undergraduate program?
I came to IYA looking to find my island of misfit toys. In high school, I was very interested in math and science, but also interested in art, user experience design and economics. Many teachers advised me to pick a path; that I wouldn't be able to pursue all of the things I was passionate about, but would instead need to choose one and have the others as hobbies. As soon as I found out about IYA, I knew it was where I wanted to be. I'm so grateful to have found a place where design, technology, and business are blended in my coursework. IYA was not only accepting, but actively looking for misfit toys, and that's what makes the program so invaluable.
How have you evolved over the past four years?
I've learned a lot of lessons about the kinds of people I want to be around and the kind of person I want to be. It's helped me to value my mental health, to stop blaming others for how their actions impact me and to really understand the importance of hiring and working with the right people.
Describe an IYA moment that you’ll never forget.
My freshman year, I was very determined to key into the Garage without using my hands to take my ID card out of my back pocket. I'd been trying to do it for weeks and looked like a fool the whole time, of course. I was coming into the Garage late at night to work on some project, and I actually did it! I was so remarkably proud of myself, and yet no one had seen it. The next day, I got an email from an IYA IT personnel titled "Your Accomplishment" with the body text reading only "Congratulations." He'd sent me the security camera footage. What a great guy. That was when I knew I'd peaked in life.
What advice would you give to a freshman?
Don't solely rely on the other students at IYA for your friendships. There are amazing people in this program, a number of whom will be close friends for life, but the bubble of our program can keep us from meeting a lot of great people.
Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?
I'm from Idaho.
What is the one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?
My dad, an exceptional salesman, always told me “Perception is everything.” I always thought this was advice about how I portray myself, but have come to take away much, much more from it. It's why design is so important. It's how many companies succeed. It's how even more companies fail. It's why you're ultimately responsible for how you handle problems in your life. This is why IYA students can be so good at problem solving--what looks like an obstacle is merely an opportunity for something better, and it's all in how we perceive the obstacle in the first place.
Is there an inspirational quote you live by?
I've been adapting spoon theory to the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson and treating f*cks like spoons, knowing I only have a finite amount to give in my life, and saving them accordingly. Does that count?
What goals do you have post-graduation?
To do the right thing, whenever I can. And to be happy. And to be a net good blip in this world.
Describe a passion project you’re currently working on and how you came up with the idea for it?
Haha it's in the works right now.
What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?
1. Water bottle
3. Pocket knife
4. Laptop and charger
5. First aid kit
6. Snacks...gotta be ready for anything!
Favorite app or website?
As boring as it may sound, I just love organizational tools. My favorite apps are ones like Notion, Calendar, Slack, and Google Sheets.
Favorite class at USC and why?
AMST 274 -- Exploring Ethnicity through Film. Professor Chris Finley is one of the most amazing people I have ever met, and is an absolutely fantastic professor. I can't believe that I enjoyed a GE (general education) so much, but made amazing friends in the class, learned a lot about representation in film and changed the way I watch movies and TV shows. It was just amazing. Take the class if you need C+G GE credits.
Favorite way to de-stress?
Making a cool coffee or tea drink, listening to an audiobook and doing something that needs to be done (cleaning, laundry, stretching, going for a walk).
Minecraft. Definitely Minecraft.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.