Roski student uses design for service

Daily Trojan March 3, 2015

By Priscilla Chu

In January 2013, Alexis Cotton, a sophomore majoring in fine arts, co-founded a national student organization called Motivate and Empower that aims to inspire positive leadership movements on college campuses by serving as a catalyst and support network for student action.

“M&E created an outreach program for students to tutor, mentor and spend time with L.A. youth. We also conduct events to discuss social issues relevant to our campus,” Cotton said. “Currently, we are in the midst of bringing A-list rappers to USC for a concert addressing racial profiling and police brutality.”

Not only is Cotton passionate about her designs and creations, but she also utilizes her skills to give back to the USC community and the surrounding neighborhood. As a talented graphic designer, Cotton dedicates a majority of her time to Motivate and Empower, where she serves as vice president of marketing and creative direction.

She talks with passion about the beginnings of the project.

“My roommate founded the organization after seeing the lack of community and communication among USC students, as well as the stereotypes and social issue that segregated the student body. We wanted to create a diverse space for people to discuss social issues, start initiative and volunteer together.”

Motivate and Empower has lofty goals in mind, but Cotton seemed unfazed by the future challenges.

“It is great to see that our presence at USC and our eight other campuses nationwide are sparking ripples of positive change,” she said. “My favorite part is watching other students get inspired by M&E to start their own initiatives and get involved on campus. I love being able to see that we are sparking ripples of positive change.”

Cotton has noted how actively participating in Motive and Empower has helped her develop skills that will be useful in her future career path in marketing or advertising. As an extremely passionate student about social issues and change, Cotton is outspoken about the responsibility and power that design can impart on society.

“As I work with Motivate and Empower, I am understanding the power of celebrity influence. Positive celebrity representation has the potential to buffer against the influx of media and societal racism that is perpetuating devastating internalized oppression into our modern society.” Cotton said. “A career as a creative director within the entertainment industry will allow me the ability to work with musical artists to positively declare what is hip, popular and beautiful. I will have a platform to use marketing strategies and my creative license to enact social change.”

Even before attending USC, Cotton has been passionate about pursuing her creative strengths in higher education. She attended a major arts high school in New York City, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, at which the curriculum covers a wide array of arts such as dance, voice, instrumental music, fine arts, drama and film. Cotton’s high school experience was out of the ordinary, but it cultivated a foundation where Cotton could explore her passions, while providing a viable route for success in the working world of creative industries.

“It is very similar to the movie Fame where students apply to the programs,” Cotton said “I had to complete a portfolio and a series of essays in order to be considered for the school. I enrolled in two art classes of varying mediums each semester. It wasn’t until I took a graphic design course in junior year did I realize that I wanted to pursue a degree in graphic design.”

In the classroom, Cotton enjoys the same freedom that she enjoyed in high school. The Roski School of Art and Design offers similar course personalization for students.

“I love the freedom that Roski provides students in terms of their course choices. In contrast to arts colleges, you do not have to declare a single emphasis and can study across all disciplines if you decide to. In addition, for the majority of courses there are multiple professors to choose from,” Cotton said.

Cotton, harbors massive goals for her future. Her career path is not one that is based on profit, but of making the world a better place. She said that her favorite aspect of design is being able to take what she has learned in her courses and translate it into real world application.

“I view design and advertising as a catalyst for social change. Through an artistic lens I can showcase the ethnic diversity of our society, helping people visually appreciate unique representations of beauty, success, and fulfillment,” Cotton said.