UVA Darden School Enriches Residential MBA

15 June 2015

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business today announced several new enhancements to its flagship residential MBA program, which is widely recognized as the world’s best educational experience.

They include the introduction of a new, required experiential course and additional opportunities for enrichment and customization of learning.

“The Darden MBA focuses on generating deep and transformational learning, and the MBA Program Committee is pleased to introduce several new initiatives to achieve our mission to advance knowledge,” said Marc Lipson, associate dean for the MBA program. “Each year, we enhance the program in small ways based on student feedback and innovations in business and higher education, but this past year has been a period of more substantial review and innovation.”


“In response to the changing landscape of skills required to be a successful leader, we will introduce to incoming First Years a new, required course: ‘Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship in Action’ or IDEA,” said Mike Lenox, associate dean for innovation programs and academic director of Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The course will further enable students’ ability to work on real-world, global projects of consequence, which have a high degree of ambiguity and uncertainty. Students will be organized in teams and tackle live field projects over seven weeks. The challenges will be sponsored by corporations, government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

IDEA will be grounded in the approaches of design thinking, an innovative approach to problem solving; agile project management; data analytics; effectuation, a logic of thinking used by expert entrepreneurs to build successful ventures; and lean start-up.

“Students will gain new tools that they will apply to their specific challenges. These tools emphasize a problem-solution-experiment cycle that can be rapidly iterated,” said Lenox.

IDEA will leverage the Darden School’s strength in experience-based learning — in addition to case-based learning — and the faculty’s expertise in innovation. “Our goal here is to make Darden students the best prepared in the world to make effective decisions when facing real-world ambiguity. Our world needs innovative solutions to open-ended problems, and we want to equip our students with the tools they need to innovate the future,” said Lenox.


The second enhancement will further customize the Darden First Year experience. In August, Darden will launch the Darden Academy, a learning enrichment program that will be integrated into the First Year experience. The Academy will offer a changing, weekly suite of opportunities that — though not required — will explore topics of interest to students, faculty and the broader Darden community, including meaningful discussions of such topics, analyses of global current events, reflections on our purpose as leaders, opportunities to build skills that enhance the ability of all students to engage meaningfully in class conversations, and events that explore the links between classroom learning and business practice.

Darden students hail from all over the world; the Class of 2016 alone represents 36 countries.

“Each student brings a unique background and experience,” said Peter Rodriguez, senior associate dean for degree programs, “Our goal is to meet each individual student where they are — to help them obtain in their First Year at Darden the skills and knowledge they want to deepen, in distinct areas.”

Building on the tradition of student leadership at the University of Virginia and at Darden, the Darden Academy will seek inspiration from student proposals and will draw from the resources of the Darden community and its 10 research Centers of Excellence.

“At the end of the day, we are here to present opportunities that help our students realize their full potential as responsible, entrepreneurial and global leaders and learners,” said Rodriguez.  “These two enhancements to the MBA experience were developed in collaboration with Darden students. We know that if we listen carefully to our students and co-create with them, we will deliver on our goal to continue delivering the most compelling graduate management education experience available today.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

Sophie Zunz
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia