Warren Bennis Scholars Program

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 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 35-year career at USC. Learn more about Dr. Bennis below.

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


Warren G. Bennis (1925-2014)

About Warren Bennis

Eligibility & Selection Criteria

The program invites applications from:

  • current USC undergraduates who are second-semester sophomores in majors from all university departments, divisions, and schools
  • students with 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.

Cohort Experiences

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.

View photos from previous cohort experiences:

Award Details

Applications are currently closed for the 2023-2024 academic year.


Online Application

All candidates must create an account and complete the online application.

Resume / List of Activities

Your application must include a one-page list of academic, leadership, and extra-/co-curricular activities. Please be sure your resume includes a ‘Leadership’ section specifically in which your leadership experience is listed. Activities from high school may also be included.

Three Essays

Essays should be double spaced, in 12-point font answering the following questions:

  • Essay 1 (250-word limit): Give us an example of when you took a leadership role. What motivated you to lead?
  • Essay 2 (250-word limit): Imagine waking up 20 years from now. What does your professional life look like?
  • Essay 3 (250-word limit): Tell us about an experience when your personal values were tested and how you resolved that dilemma.


Students: Please select a recommender, preferably a USC professor or administrator, who can speak to your leadership capacity.  We understand that you are early in your college career and may not as yet have formed any close relationships with professors.  If you do not have a professor or administrator who can submit a recommendation, please ask an individual who has seen you in a professional or leadership setting — perhaps an internship or job supervisor or club adviser. Recommenders should not be students. Once you log into the application portal, please add your recommender and send them a request for recommendation email. Recommenders will be asked to answer a series of short-answer questions rather than submit a letter of support.

Recommenders: We are looking for students who display an exceptional capacity to lead and have community impact over the course of their careers. You should receive an automated email once the student sends you the recommend email via the application portal. The recommendation will consist of a series of brief questions; a formal letter of recommendation is not required.

Interview Availability

Candidates selected for interviews will be notified by the end of February. Interviews will take place in March.

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


Questions about the program should be directed to:

Marelle Berry
USC Marshall Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab