This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Jamie McCourt's course is a home run

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If you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, you undoubtedly know who Jamie McCourt is. Newly named as CEO of the Dodger organization, McCourt has co-owned the team with her husband, Frank, since 2004. She is the highest-ranking woman in Major League Baseball.Jamie McCourt Headshot

If you are an M.B.A. student in the UCLA Anderson School of Management, however, you might know McCourt in another capacity — as the instructor of “The Pursuit of Leadership: A Female Perspective.” One of the most popular courses in the Anderson School curriculum, it is designed for women, but open to everybody, of course.

“My goal for the course is pretty clear-cut,” McCourt said. “I try to teach people to identify their skill set, to leverage it and to use their voice. I’m trying to empower people.”

And the roster of high-powered guest speakers that she invites to the classroom shows off that female might. They have included Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California; Gloria Steinem; Sherry Lansing; and Wallis Annenberg. “I like to cover the gamut,” McCourt said. “I’ll bring in a lot of people, because I believe you shouldn’t model yourself after one person. You should be who you are.”

Anderson School Dean Judy Olian counts herself among McCourt’s many fans.

“I’m in awe of the fact that, with all she has going on in her life, she chooses to devote her very precious time to the cause of learning and education, and especially to helping women navigate their careers and dreams,” Olian said. “I can’t tell you how many of them tell me that Jamie’s class was not just their favorite at Anderson, but the one with the most impact on them.”

One of these young women was Nicole Adrien, an M.B.A. student who graduated in 2006. Now director of investor relations at Oaktree Capital Management in Los Angeles, Adrien signed up for the class because she was impressed that it was being taught by a businesswoman who would speak from experience.

“Jamie was just incredible. I remember meeting her on the first day and saying to myself, ‘I want to be like her when I grow up!’ ” said Adrien, laughing. “She’s all about real life, and she pushes the students to really think about the issues and the questions. … I think a lot of us are tempted, when the going gets tough — because it is tough as a woman to manage a career and a family — to say, ‘This is too much for me, and I don’t have to do it.’ She has a firm view that, yes, you actually do. It shouldn’t feel so much like a choice. You have to make it work.”

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From left: Tiger Woods, Jamie McCourt, Dodger manager Joe Torre and Frank McCourt. Photos by Jon SooHoo.
McCourt never urges her students to do anything she hasn’t done herself. Married to Frank in 1979, she earned a J.D. that same year and practiced law for 15 years. She had four sons along the way — Drew, now 27; Travis, 25; Casey, 21; and Gavin, 18 — and earned an M.B.A. from MIT in 1994, while the boys were young.

The family pulled up roots and moved from Boston to Los Angeles in 2004, when Frank and Jamie found that their bid to buy the Dodgers had been accepted. “I think we were very fortunate at the way things turned out,” McCourt said. “And, God willing, I’ll never go back east. I love it here so much. I’m like the poster child for Los Angeles.”

This quarter she’s again teaching her class, which has been gaining interest among male students. Former M.B.A. student David Sauvage, who graduated in 2007, is an independent filmmaker who benefited not only from McCourt’s teaching, but also from her benevolence. Through the Dodgers Dream Foundation, McCourt served as executive producer on Sauvage’s documentary film, “Carissa,” about a fellow student in McCourt’s class (http://www.carissaproject.com/).

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Celebrating Tommy Lasorda's 81st birthday.
“There’s something painfully enlightening about listening to the challenges women face in the workforce,” Sauvage said. “We talked about the idea of how these young women are going to balance their growing desire to be mothers with their increasing responsibilities as executives. This is obviously something that I’m aware of, but never stopped to think about for five minutes. And to see what a serious challenge this was for women couldn’t have done anything other than make me more sympathetic.”

With more men signing up, McCourt is considering redesigning the course. “There are things to be learned from men and women,” she said. “Men have the same concerns in some respects as women do.”

But lest you have worries that men will be taking over the course, don't. “I have two brothers, four sons, a father, a husband and a baseball team,” McCourt said, laughing. “I don’t let the men intimidate the women. Forget it! It’s not happening.”
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