What even is Spark? Spark is a family of students that organizes events and initiatives to create entrepreneurial opportunities at USC. Not everything we do is event planning; we created the first-ever student-led course at USC and organized an 8-week fashion design incubator. Each semester, Spark organizes its members into committees that handle its many rotating initiatives. Though we have some ongoing strongholds, like Founders and Project Launch, new initiatives emerge every semester as USC's entrepreneurial ecosystem evolves. We're also a family; Spark is made up of students who span a wide range of majors and minors, personal interests, and professional goals. Spark is made up of artists, founders, filmmakers, CS bros, skaters, writers, scientists, and band geeks. Our love for self-startership and entrepreneurship is what brought us together, but our friendships are lifelong.
What does it mean to apply to Spark?
You don't have to apply to Spark's board to participate in any of our initiatives. Participation in every Spark's event and initiative is free! Some of our initiatives involve some hard work and competition, though, like 1000 Pitches.
"Applying to Spark" means applying to be part of the leadership board that guides the student-led entrepreneurial environment at USC. We organize events and initiatives and work with administration to create entrepreneurial opportunities at USC.
What does it mean to join Spark?
We call new Spark members "Sparklets." Sparklets are full members of Spark who join two existing committees as members for their first semester, as well as Spark Labs, an initiative run only by Sparklets.
When you join Spark, you become part of Spark's family. At the moment, that's roughly 40 USC undergraduates across a range of racial and cultural identities, majors, minors, personal interests, and professional goals. Spark's alumni live all over the world doing all sorts of things – building the future of the internet, solving climate change, helping humans remember better, and crafting the next generation of hardware.
While most of our alumni have founded startups or taken jobs in technology, Spark's interests have become increasingly diverse in the last few years – a trend that Spark's founding members had hoped to encourage with the mission to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit in all disciplines. Our next graduating classes include film-makers, gerontologists, educators, politicians, writers, activists, artists – and maybe even you!
Although we come from very different backgrounds, we share several important things: a heart for our community, a love for our campus, a desire to learn from other people and individual senses of personal entrepreneurship. Most of all, we share a drive around our mission to make entrepreneurial opportunities available to all USC students.
Our mission is to foster entrepreneurial thought and action across communities of all backgrounds and interests within and beyond USC.
We also developed a list of values to help us shape the pursuit of our mission. An early influence in our values brainstorm was Patrick Lencioni, an expert on teams who frequently writes for HBR. He explained that "values can set an organization apart by clarifying its identity and serving as a rallying point for members." Here are some values we hold dear in Spark:
- Mission is paramount. Our mission is the reason we do everything. We need to constantly interrogate our actions – "how does this serve our mission?"
- Everyone is a founder. Anyone can start anything. The founder energy is about ownership of, agency over, vision for, and responsibility for an idea.
- We’re not corporate. We're just a group of young people at the end of the day, so our processes can grow and shift flexibly as our vision changes and as USC changes.
- But don’t forget about opportunities for personal growth. Sometimes, it's best to let someone learn and grow instead of doing the job for them. Our commitment to our own members' chance to grow and learn is what makes it possible for us to serve our mission and improve as an organization.
- Spark is your spark. Every member has an equal stake in Spark. If you think that the org should move in a specific direction, the chance to lead the change is always yours to take.
- We’re a family. Getting vulnerable allows you to have deep relationships with others. If you need a place to stay on short notice or a person to confide in, you'll find it in Spark.
- Intention at the heart of all action. Always ask for context before jumping to a conclusion about how decisions were made. This helps increase communication and trust in Spark.
- An electric sense of purpose. In all things, it's important to remind each other why we do things – whether that's for the mission, for USC, or for each other.