USC Warren Bennis Scholars Program

Warren G. Bennis (1925-2014)
Warren G. Bennis (1925-2014)

The Warren Bennis Scholars Program is a university-wide initiative offered by the Office of the Provost through the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at the Marshall School. Each year, 20 students across academic disciplines are selected at the end of their sophomore year to participate in the two-year leadership program. Scholars receive leadership training in and out of the classroom. Upon successful completion of all requirements of the program, students will receive a designation on their transcripts.

The program honors the memory of USC Distinguished University Professor, Warren G. Bennis, an internationally recognized authority on leadership, who served as adviser to several U.S. Presidents and mentored countless students during his distinguished thirty-five year career at USC. Learn more about Dr. Bennis here.

Congratulations to our inaugural class of graduating Bennis Scholars! Read more about their experience here.

About the Program
Application & Interviews
Graduating with Honors
Lead Faculty
USC Contact Person

The Program

The Bennis Scholars program provides a variety of developmental activities intended to prepare students for leadership roles in whatever professional fields they choose to enter. These activities will include:

  • Participation in an honors colloquium (a one-unit course each semester for four semesters);
  • Skills-building workshops;
  • Guest speaker and networking opportunities; and
  • Coaching and mentoring.

In particular, such experience-based activities are designed to develop life-long commitment to community service and to hone the skills required for leadership.


The program invites applications from current USC undergraduates who are second-semester sophomores in majors from all university departments, divisions, and schools, and who have at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA.

While academic achievement is the baseline requirement, Bennis Scholars ultimately will be chosen based on their moral force of character and instinct to lead on behalf of others. The program is intended for students who display intellectual curiosity beyond their major fields of study, and who are willing to engage in socially important endeavors that require risk-taking and development of new skills.

Finally, Bennis Scholars must agree to take an active part in all formal group activities, most of which will be offered on Friday afternoons. Other activities will be flexibly scheduled in order to accommodate the Scholars’ different class demands.


Applications for the spring 2019 recruitment cycle are now closed.

For the spring 2019 application process, eligible second-semester sophomores must submit an online application, including the following items:

  • Resume or one-page list of your academic and extra-/co-curricular activities;
  • Three essays (Double-spaced, 12-point font) answering the following questions:
    1. Essay 1 (250-word limit): Give us an example of when you took a leadership role. What motivated you to lead?
    2. Essay 2 (250-word limit): Imagine waking up 20 years from now. What does your professional life look like?
    3. Essay 3 (250-word limit): Tell us about an experience when your personal values were tested and how you resolved that dilemma.
  • Recommendation from an individual who has observed you in a leadership role. Recommendations from USC professors or administrators are preferred. However, recommendations from coaches, volunteer managers, and internship or job supervisors will also be accepted. Recommenders will complete a series of short-answer questions rather than submit a letter of support.



A selection committee will evaluate the applications and invite the most qualified candidates for individual interviews in March. Candidates will then be invited to a final group interview round. Candidates selected for the fourth cohort of Warren Bennis Scholars will be notified in April.

Graduating with Honors

Scholars who successfully complete the program will receive four units of academic credit, public acknowledgment at graduation, and an honors notation on their official University transcript.

Academic Director

Adlai Wertman
David C. Bohnett Chair in Social Entrepreneurship
Founding Director, USC Marshall Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab


Questions about the program should be directed to:

Michelle Chow
Associate Director, Programs
USC Marshall Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab


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