Enrich Others to Enrich Yourself, Fairchild Tells UVA Students at Convocation

26 October 2015

By Dave Hendrick

University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Greg Fairchild had a simple message to the crowd of UVA students, faculty and families assembled for Fall Convocation: Remember the investors who helped you get where you are today — the most honored students at an elite university on the cusp of promising careers.

Fairchild, the keynote speaker at the Fall Convocation ceremony, said the students had certainly invested in themselves through hard work and study. But their parents — many of whom filled the seats at John Paul Jones Arena — had as well.

So, too, had their friends, their professors and countless other teachers and mentors throughout their educational careers.

While those investments had largely been positive, Fairchild decried what he termed an “investment mindset” in higher education, one that sought to determine the worth of a degree and collegiate experience based solely on hard metrics such as post-graduation salary.

Fairchild noted a recent initiative by the federal government that measures schools based on the amount of tuition, scholarship dollars and eventual salary as evidence of the pervasiveness of these attempts to quantify the education experience.

“In the rush to think about tuition and salaries, we focus on me and have forgotten the we,” Fairchild said, noting that the careerist mentality failed to take into account collective experiences and shared pains. Moreover, such thinking places inadequate value on one’s abilities and efforts to give back to their community.

Fairchild told the honorees to keep in mind the Woodrow Wilson quote that adorns Old Cabell Hall, “You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.”

The professor of entrepreneurship, a clear believer in one’s ability to enrich the public good, noted the chance he had to put his ideals to action when he received a type-written note from an inmate asking whether there was anything Darden could do to help him.

The following year, Fairchild and Darden students began teaching entrepreneurship, financial literacy and negotiation in prison. Seventy-four Darden students have taught in the program, and in the current year 43 Darden students applied to fill 28 spots.

Fairchild said this led to the unusual act of telling Darden students, “No, you may not go to prison this year.”

The Darden students who choose to engage with the program do so for a variety of reasons.

Some want to “experience a broader sweep” of the population than with whom they have previously interacted. Others are drawn to the challenge of explaining difficult problems to a group who may not be predisposed to great financial literacy.

Some Darden students turned part-time prison teachers are veterans, alarmed at the number of their own who are now incarcerated.

These efforts by Darden students to give of themselves may not show up in their salary, Fairchild said, but they are evident in the enrichment of the community through the ex-offenders who are now out of prison and gainfully employed, or furthering their education.

Of the 117 inmates who have graduated from the program, Fairchild said, “We are proud to call them part of our UVA and Darden family — and we mean it.”

Look for similar opportunities to better yourself by assisting others, Fairchild said, encouraging the honorees to find profit in something larger than personal enrichment.

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.


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Sophie Zunz
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia