International relations major India Sposato has been helping the vulnerable since she was a child. Her next steps aim to build on that experience.
The 5-year-old girl couldn’t take her eyes off the Dora the Explorer backpack.
The clothing drive wasn’t quite ready to open, but she found it difficult to distract herself by playing before it did.
India Sposato, who at the time was 15 and running the clothing drive at Malibu United Methodist Church, promised the girl she would set the backpack aside for her so no one else would snag it.
The girl got her wish.
India later learned from the girl’s father that they had seen the backpack at Target a week earlier, but that he couldn’t afford to buy it for her.
“It was a real pivotal moment for me,” recalls Sposato, now 21 and about to graduate from USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences as a major in international relations with an emphasis on global business.
“One small thing can change a person’s day more than you realize,” she says.
Since she was a little girl, Sposato has been focused on helping others — a passion she aims to put into practice with a career at a marketing company that is focused on creating social impact.
During her 3 ½ years at USC Dornsife as a freshman who started in the spring, Sposato, who is Italian and African American, completed a marketing internship at Propper Daley. There, she worked on projects that included John Legend’s FREEAMERICA, which is committed to criminal justice reform, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s National Day of Racial Healing.
Giving since childhood
Sposato’s penchant for helping others began when she was a little girl.
Her father, the music composer and producer Frankie Blue, and her mother, Shante Sposato, a fashion designer, got her involved serving food to the needy during Thanksgiving when she was around the same age as the girl who got the Dora backpack.
Her parents would drive her and her younger twin brothers to Mexico to deliver clothes.
Sposato was 11 when she launched a clothing drive at Malibu United Methodist — a Thanksgiving tradition that she continued to run through her years at Agoura High School and USC, and that flourishes today.
“It’s evolved into this large community tradition, which is really beautiful,” says Sposato, who plans to run the clothing drive again this Thanksgiving.
While in high school, Sposato went to the country she is named for, as well as Nepal, three times. She raised money for a foundation in India that is dedicated to underprivileged and abused children. She also volunteered for an orphanage that rescued women from sex trafficking.
Sposato says her time in India is what got her interested in majoring in international relations.
“It was a very impactful and eye-opening experience,” Sposato says. “And I learned so much studying international relations. It taught me so much about the world around me and how to analyze things.”
Sposato participated in USC Dornsife’s Washington, D.C. Program, studying and working for a semester in the nation’s capital.
But Sposato realized a career in government didn’t really speak to her. She believes things move too slowly in government and feels she can make more of an impact in marketing.
One of Sposato’s favorite teachers, a marketing professor at USC Marshall School of Business, calls her a standout student and person.
“What I enjoy about India is her genuine passion for what she is learning and her endless curiosity,” says professor Therese Wilbur, associate professor of clinical marketing, who taught Sposato the past two semesters.
“She asks the tough, insightful questions to really understand the class concepts,” Wilbur says. “By doing so, she helps other students learn in the classroom because it provides me insight on how to better teach or connect class concepts.”
In one of her classes, Wilbur selected Sposato for a leadership position. As brand team director, Sposato led a team of five students for two capstone projects.
“She’s definitely a team player, and her classmates rated her highly on her leadership skills,” Wilbur says.
A global student
In addition to majoring in international relations, Sposato also minored in Chinese. In the spring of her junior year, she completed a study abroad program in Shanghai.
“My roommate was a female Chinese member of the Communist Party,” Sposato says. “I only spoke Chinese to her, and I made a lot of really great friends. The experience was phenomenal. I traveled all across China, taking advantage of every three-day weekend to explore somewhere new.”
Sposato is proficient in putou, the main Mandarin dialect.
“Everyone was so patient [with my Chinese],” she recalls. “I was able to learn so much because people were so open to speaking with me.”
Sposato, who lives with her parents in Malibu, California, plans to order in food to mark her graduation and celebrate with them. Her brothers graduated from high school last year. One of them lives in Atlanta, the other in South Africa.
“It’s no one’s fault,” she says of traditional commencement being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “What are you going to do?”
Between applying for jobs, Sposato enjoys hiking and surfing. She’s also an avid reader of everything from memoirs to summer romance reads.
“If I have the weekend free,” Sposato says, “that book’s going to be gone.”
By Greg Hardesty