Q&A With Chequeta Allen, UVA Darden’s New Assistant Dean of Career Development
University of Virginia Darden School of Business Assistant Dean for Career Development Chequeta Allen joined the School in October following a successful term as executive director of the Career Management Center at the R.A. Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary.
Allen joined Darden with 30 years of professional experience in academia and corporate settings, including at Oracle, Stanford University and Stanford University Medical Center, the University of Southern California, and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. Throughout her career, she has excelled at marketing, administration, training and applied research.
Now settling in after her first month at Darden, Allen provided her thoughts on Darden, the future of the Career Development Center and plans to improve career advancement opportunities for Darden students.
Welcome to Darden! What are your initial impressions of the School?
I would describe my first week at Darden as the best first week with a new employer in my career! I have been welcomed and embraced in an overwhelmingly positive and professional manner. Earlier in my career when I first relocated to Virginia from Ohio, I had my sights on joining Darden to pursue an MBA. As it turned out, I arrived under very different circumstances. Nonetheless, I am very pleased to become a part of this intellectually stimulating and dynamic community.
You’ve had varied career experiences, leading programs at academic medical schools, working in the private sector at Oracle and most recently leading the Career Management Center at Mason School of Business. How did that career trajectory prepare you for where you sit now?
Interestingly for me, there is no question in my mind that all of my prior career experiences have played a part in my preparation for this coveted role in leading and developing others. I have been fortunate to have had some tremendous mentors and bosses who fostered my growth and trusted me with developing, changing and managing key parts of their organizations. Some experiences were much more complex and challenging than others. Collectively, all of them offered valuable lessons on how organizations work; how to lead, motivate and train others; and the importance of staying relevant in your role, industry, product or service.
Career advancement is the top reason students choose to pursue an MBA. How do you think about the role that the Career Development Center (CDC) can and should play in the lives of admitted students?
In my view, the CDC should be evaluated by prospective students for career development competency and fit just as the institution is evaluated by students for academic competency and fit. We have assembled a team of professionals with industry and functional experience and expertise in areas based on the demonstrated interests of Darden students. As those interests change, our preparation must change so that we are always in alignment with the job and internship search campaigns of our students. This is particularly true for students who have both traditional and non-traditional MBA industry and function career interests.
Our job actually begins before students arrive in planning and communicating how we will support them and in preparing them with expectations once they arrive so they are not overwhelmed early on with simultaneous academic and career requirements.
How is career development support for students different today than it was 10 years ago? And how do you think it will change over the next 10 years?
Today, career development support is more ongoing, and much more of a partnership than it was 10 years ago. It is also much more dependent on available technology. Not only for networking, but also for learning about and responding to job opportunities, including global roles. New tools and technology have emerged in recent years that have helped to integrate the steps for a job search. We now have much better data and feedback on where our students are going, and how successfully they compete for jobs. We also have better insight on whether or not our salary offers are competitive and moving upward with the market.
What’s your impression of what today’s MBA student expects and wants out of a career?
I would say that most MBA students want to know, with complete certainty, that their time and resources invested in completing their MBA degree will return a series of interesting and unique career opportunities that provide them with great job satisfaction, a wealth of professional experience and opportunities to advance. And, of course, fair to generous compensation.
What professional sectors are particularly hot for students and the CDC right now?
The MBA job market overall is great right now! We still see great interest in consulting and financial services for students. But we also see growth in the high technology sector and much more demand and interest in social entrepreneurship than before. We also have a group of students who remain focused on general management, and we are looking at this group’s pathway to career planning to determine if we can enhance their career exploration experience early on in order to accelerate their job search focus and minimize any stress.
The School Grounds are in Charlottesville, but Darden is an increasingly global enterprise. What are the ramifications for your office given an increasingly expansive focus?
The CDC is prepared to support our students to enter job markets wherever a student desires to travel and wherever these jobs are located in the world. We have information about global opportunities through a number of resources. We have corporate contacts, engaged alumni, and our faculty and executive format programs throughout the globe that help provide us with information and new relationships. We also belong to professional organizations that give us direct up-to-date information about the MBA job market and specific demand for MBA talent in global markets.
Darden has been lauded for the diversity of recruiters who come here to meet with Darden students. In your conversations with recruiters, what’s your sense of why Darden seems to have broad appeal?
Recruiters love returning to Darden because of the tremendous job we do in preparing our students for business leadership and challenging management roles in many different industries and functions. Our students are able to assume key strategic roles and drive an organization’s mission forward. This is one of the many reasons that companies look to us for new talent.
What is an area where you would like to see our career development efforts improve?
One immediate area of focus will be our expansion of company relationships with organizations that currently do not recruit at Darden, and have an interest in conducting virtual briefings and remote recruiting sessions with our students. We will also be modifying the timing of delivery for our core career curriculum and adding technology to some of our core and choice curriculum workshops so they are available for 24/7 student viewing.
What do you want to make sure the Darden community and prospective students and recruiters know about the CDC?
I want them to know that the CDC is committed to elevating the career development experience for every individual student at Darden, and enhancing our corporate outreach and engagement in support of student career success. We work hard as a team to deliver service excellence, and spend a part of our day every day asking ourselves, “Is there anything at all that we can do even better?”
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.
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia