Two students walking down stairs

Photo by Meiko Takechi Arquillos

Student Life

USC’s Renaissance Man and International Woman

Students Steven Strozza and Akilah Booty are the new face of USC

March 07, 2016 Christina Schweighofer

“Great young people who will make the world better”—those are the types of Trojans John Mork ’70, MS ’12 and his wife, Julie, vowed to support when they gave USC a $110 million gift to endow undergraduate scholarships in 2011.

Talented, academically driven and motivated to lead and serve, these Mork Family Scholars would receive full tuition at USC and an annual $5,000 stipend regardless of need.

Today, the first class of 20 scholars is halfway through college. USC Trojan Family Magazine recently caught up with two of them.

Akilah Booty:? Where Cultures Meet

Learning Arabic was top priority for Akilah Booty the first semester of freshman year. Booty already was conversational in Spanish and French, and she’d just finished an intensive summer course in Chinese.

Why the fixation for foreign tongues?

Growing up in a Dallas suburb, she was drawn to other cultures. Then her middle-school French teacher told Booty and her classmates something that got her steaming: She said American kids trailed European students in learning. “I threw everything into French,” Booty says.

At USC, Booty is double-majoring in East Asian area studies and Middle East studies with a minor in political science. But it wasn’t until she saw the ethnic diversity of Los Angeles and USC that she understood how languages can bridge cultural divides.

Through the International Language Exchange Program, Booty befriended a Saudi Arabian student, opening her eyes to Arab culture. Another program, USC’s Joint Educational Project, took Booty to the Dr. Theodore T. Alexander Science Center, an elementary school, as a teacher’s aide. The children’s experiences there shocked her. “There were fourth graders who needed other students to translate my instructions,” she says. “There were kindergartners with family issues who just weren’t motivated.”

With the shock came insight: Booty realized she wanted to work with disadvantaged people and non-native English speakers. She now interns for the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center, where she experiences firsthand how cultural differences contribute to conflict.

Looking ahead, the USC junior wants to experience life abroad. This much is certain: Her home will be wherever cultures meet.

Steven Strozza: ?Renaissance Man

A biological sciences and international relations major with a taste for haute couture? That’s Steven Strozza.

Strozza contributes regularly to The LA Fashion Magazine, and he interns as an editorial assistant for WGSN, an international fashion-trend forecaster. Until recently, he was the USC correspondent for the blog College Fashionista.

Strozza is also active in USC student government: He chaired the funding board that allocates resources to student organizations, and he belongs to Society 53, the leadership program of USC’s Student Alumni Society.

Biochemistry and student government. Foreign relations and fashion. How do they tie together?

“My parents put a high premium on having us be developed as worldly individuals,” says Strozza, now a junior. All three Strozza children grew up steeped in culture and were expected to excel academically. And all three became Trojans. Nick Strozza ’13 graduated with a degree in business administration. Danielle Strozza just began her freshman year—also as a Mork Scholar.

Steven Strozza was valedictorian of his high school in Reno, Nev., and a National Merit Finalist. He was accepted by 16 elite universities, but USC offered him a Mork Scholarship.

Thanks to a USC study-abroad program, Strozza will spend much of 2014 in Spain and hopes to write a thesis on how Muslim immigration has affected the European health care system. (Besides his two majors, he’s seeking a minor in global health.)

Sometimes he feels so lucky he wants to pinch himself.

“I’ll be walking on campus, and I’ll stop between Bovard Auditorium and Doheny Library and just think, Oh, my goodness, I get to be a student here!” he says. “I am in this beautiful setting, getting to do these wonderful, amazing things. This is my life.”

Click here to learn more about the program. You can help other promising students by donating to the USC General Scholarship Endowment Fund.