Former rapper turned headphone mogul Andre Young and longtime business partner Jimmy Iovine just gave USC a $70 million donation. New library? Field hockey sticks? Way better! The duo are creating an undergrad degree program that tosses together nearly every Silicon Valley buzzword, simultaneously.
Officially named the (deep breath) USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation (or USCJIAYAATBI), this program sure looks more ambitious than your English degree:
The focus is on invention and conceptual thinking, drawing on the talents and influences of leaders from across industries to empower the next generation of disruptive inventors and professional thought leaders across a multitude of global industries.
The USCJIAYAATBI, where every lecture is a TED Talk. Now the notion of taking components of, say, computer science, design, and marketing degrees isn't the worst idea if you want to create a Media Employee in A Box—it's worked well at NYU's multi-disciplinary ITP program, famous in Silicon Alley for spawning Foursquare. This could be ITP West—a decent mix of book learnin' and vocational preparation with quick feeder access to the new Californian economy. But the more you read on USC's Snow Fall press release, the less you'll understand what this program actually consists of, or what it's really meant to accomplish. It's a melange of jargon and wide-eyed entrepreneurial thumbs-up-isms:
We are committed to encouraging our students to use their intellectual and creative resources to effect change in all segments of society.
Students who complete a course of study in the academy will graduate with a degree that recognizes each individual’s ability to truly engage and to succeed in an educational experience that is constantly asking the question, “Why not?”
New courses will provide students with a solid background in the integration of technology with all aspects of creativity along with a thorough understanding of existing and potential business, marketing and distribution strategies.
That's a lot! Some of the requisite coursework sounds real and potentially rigorous ("Advanced Methods in 2-D and 3-D Visualization," "Design Theory"), though much of it does not ("The Entrepreneurial Mindset," "Developing, Managing and Marketing Radical Innovations," "Creativity"). Jimmy and Dre deserve credit for donating part of their war chest to a school, but as the New York Times' Jenna Wortham points out, "they hope that the program will supply...future employees for [their] current business." This isn't philanthropy in its purest form, but that certainly won't stop Beats-buying kids from applying in droves—who wouldn't want to major in Dr. Dre? What's not so certain is if the academic hodgepodge will feel as sexy after you've paid $43,000 for every semester of it, and you can't remember what you learned in "Creativity."