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Student Stories

Student Spotlight: Suraya Shivji

"Directing your own education allows learning to become fun." Suraya is a self-motivated entrepreneur dedicated to helping others find relief from the stress of modern life. In this senior spotlight, Suraya talks about the product she's designing with her fellow Academy student, the value of collaboration and advice for incoming students...

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

In high school, I learned about tech and design through projects that I’d do for fun. I was looking for a program with a project-based curriculum that offered a lot of freedom in terms of class selection. The Academy felt so unreal because, for the first time, I looked forward to class. Within my first few days in the Garage, I felt right at home and fell in love with the Academy!

Describe a passion project you’re currently working on?

I’m currently working on a product called Mello with my superstar roommate (and fellow Academy Cohort 2 member) Jamie Haberman. Smart home products have skyrocketed in the last few years. People are now willing to bring companions into the home. While these products focus on technological and voice innovation, we believe that the home should care for you. Home products must be approached from a point of wellness, not just technology. Mello is an intelligent diffuser for the home that creates blends in real time based on the user’s changing moods and environmental factors. We’re working to introduce aromatherapy to a new, younger demographic by designing a passive, ambient and personalized solution.

What inspired the project?

Jamie and I have always been interested in the wellness space and had experiences of using aromatherapy for stress relief. We realized that most methods of stress relief are fleeting because they require time and effort. We wanted to use technology to create a product that offers personalized wellness and fits seamlessly in people's lives.

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you?


My parents.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?

"Our time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life." - Steve Jobs

What advice would you give to a freshman?

Throw yourself into your classes. Freshman year Academy classes are some of the most interesting academic experiences I’ve had in college. It’s a great time to really fall in love with learning by stretching yourself across disciplines and collaborating with your cohort. Be open and have fun with all the cool projects.

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

I applied as a Psychology major to most other colleges. 

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

Do what you want -- my parents taught me to always think for myself and pursue anything I find interesting. Directing your own education allows learning to become fun.

Fun Facts

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

Water bottle, AirPods, markers, notebook

Favorite app or website?


Favorite class at USC and why?

Founder's Dilemma by Noam Wasserman is the best class I’ve ever taken. I think it should be a requirement for every major because it teaches you how to assess interpersonal conflict and make informed decisions. This is the first class where I get FOMO (fear of missing out) when I can’t make it and it makes me so excited to pursue entrepreneurship for my long-term career!

Favorite way to de-stress:

Music, aromatherapy

Guilty Pleasure?

The Bachelor

Thank you, Suraya!