Robert J. Coury Applied Leadership Program

A highly interactive workshop series whereby Marshall first-year students learn tools and skills to launch their personal leadership plans

Our Mission:

The Robert J. Coury Applied Leadership Program is a new program designed to encourage confidence, character, and courage in first-year undergraduate students within the Marshall School of Business. First-year students (freshman and transfers) participate in two seminars and follow-up cohort meetings throughout the spring semester in an effort to identify and develop their strengths and values as leaders. Program sessions will be facilitated by Marshall faculty, staff, and Student Mentors. 

Participant Benefits: 

  • Better understand leadership identity, strengths, and values 
  • Build motivation to lead and self-confidence, character, and courage
  • Introduce roles, tasks, and responsibilities of leaders at all levels 
  • Practical application and knowledge-building for resume and interview preparation


Program Components: 

Program Components consist of seminars, breakouts led by student mentors, practice, cohort meetings led by student mentors, and on-going practice

Student Mentors: 

Student Mentors are current Marshall sophomores, juniors, and seniors who receive specialized leadership training to co-facilitate and coach first-year and transfer participants. Student Mentors must be on-campus for the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and commit approximately 25 hours to the program, including evening hours, throughout the year. Students Mentors must have been a Marshall student for at least one full semester. To read more about the unique mentor experience, take a look at our current Student Mentor bios.


Faculty Director: 

Dr. Jody Tolan is an Assistant Professor of Clinical in Management and Organization at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. She leads the faculty team that teaches Leading Organizations, the core organizational behavior class for undergraduate students from a wide variety of disciplines. Her interest in curriculum development and pedagogy led to work implementing the School's critical thinking initiative and reviewing the undergraduate core curriculum. She continues to promote critical thinking through a Marshall faculty working group and mentoring fellow faculty. Professor Tolan was recently awarded a Learning Environments Incentive Grant by the USC Center for Scholarly Technology to promote collaborative learning and critical thinking. She has also been recognized with the Ernst & Young Inclusive Excellence Award for Accounting and Business School Faculty for promoting diversity and inclusiveness. 

Professor Tolan developed her leadership and organizational expertise consulting with a wide range of clients to build skills among emerging managers, middle managers and senior executive teams to meet strategic and organizational goals. She has also led workshops on leading teams, management communications and strategy development. She began her career on Capitol Hill followed by positions in several boutique consulting firms in New York City. Professor Tolan holds a B.A. in American Government and International Relations from Smith College, an MBA from USC with a concentration in organizational development and financial analysis, and an EdD in Organizational Change and Leadership at the Rossier School of Education at USC with a focus on student leadership development. 

Contact Us:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements to be a part of the program?

The Robert J Coury Applied Leadership Program is offered to freshmen and first-year transfer students in the Marshall School of Business and Leventhal School of Accounting. In order to participate, sign up by registering on the main page of our website.

Do I have to attend all the sessions?

Yes, it is necessary to complete all five sessions (two main sessions, two cohort sessions, and one capstone experience) to receive a certificate of completion. Each of these sessions build on each other, and in order to understand the methods of the program it is important to attend each session.

What if I miss a session?

If you miss a session and have a valid reason, we will offer one makeup session to offer you the full experience. However, it is important that you try to attend all sessions with your cohort.

What is the time commitment?

The Robert J Coury Applied Leadership Program meets five times in the spring semester. The two main sessions and the capstone session run from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Fridays with breaks and food. The two cohort meetings with your student mentors are catered to your availability during the week, and run for 90 minutes. 

How much work do I have to put in outside the session?

Before the two main sessions, we ask that you complete a self assessment. The first assessment is the Clifton StrengthsFinder survey, where you will discover your Top Five talent strengths and complete a short reading assignment to better understand your strengths. The second assessment is the VIA Character Survey where you will explore your values and read the descriptions included in your evaluation. Each of these tasks should take no longer than an hour of preparation. Since the program is very much hands on, we expect you to apply what you learn to the activities you engage with around campus.  For example, you should be leveraging your strengths in your next project team meeting or student organization event to develop your confidence in leading and influencing others. 

Is this program free?

Yes, the program is free for freshmen and first-year transfer students and does not count for school credit. A certificate will be offered upon completion of the program.

What do the student mentors do?

Student mentors are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who are trained to help program participants realize their strengths as a leader and manage crucial conversations in both the business world as well as personal life. Mentors lead the two cohort sessions as well as facilitate breakouts during the main sessions.  They also support participants leadership growth throughout the program with ad hoc meetings and other communications.  Student mentors come from a wide range of backgrounds and apply for the position in the Fall semester.

How will this program help me be a better leader?

In a competitive world, we often find ourselves trying to mimic the actions and leadership of other people to reach the top as soon as possible. The reality is that no two people have the same skills and experience. The Robert J. Coury Applied Leadership Program is designed to combat this idea and create an individualized and strengths-based approach to leadership that will help you to better understand yourself as an individual and a leader. In building your confidence, character and courage, the skills you learn will be beneficial to you in the present on campus as well as in your professional endeavors as future leaders who will make a difference. 

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Now Seeking Student Mentors!

Applications due Friday, October 4th