Alumni-Led Effort to Create Scholarship for DC-Area Women Off to Strong Start
By Dave Hendrick
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business has made impressive strides attracting female students to the School, with the residential MBA Class of 2017 representing a School-record 35 percent women and the Class of 2018 poised to exceed that mark.
For Karen Kosiba Edwards (MBA ’84), the progress has been remarkable, as the former chair of the Darden Alumni Association Board of Directors recalls that her class was closer to 20 percent women.
“We’re competing with the very top business schools in the world today,” Edwards said. “We have had a meteoric rise in ranking and the caliber of students we are admitting and graduating from Darden, but to attract women, especially, requires that we also be competitive in the financial aid that we offer them. It’s very competitive at the top.”
Edwards, who serves on the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, said many of her fellow alumnae felt like they were in a strong position to do something to assist the progress at the School.
A tight-knit group of Washington, D.C.-based alumni representing all three MBA formats — including Edwards, Abby Ruiz de Gamboa (MBA ’04), Katherine Neebe (MBA ’04), Alyssa Franklin (MBA ’05), Shelley Reese (MBA ’08), Stephanie Bennett (MBA ’09), Kristen Heavener (EMBA ’12), Rebecca Kilduff (MBA ’93) and Lyn Lansdale (MBA ’84), among others — have been regularly meeting to discuss how to encourage more women to pursue an MBA and, ideally, consider Darden.
Knowing that increased engagement with the D.C. area and attracting more women were both key areas of focus for the School, the supporters — with the guidance of Darden staff — decided to launch the D.C. Women’s Scholarship, a financial award that aims to provide for half tuition for two female students from the Washington, D.C., area.
Although the formal initiative is only a few months old, funds have been raised for the first of the two scholarships, which will be awarded to a member of the Class of 2018, and Edwards said the team is close to meeting its goal.
Ruiz de Gamboa, who sits on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, offered that “part of the goal of the effort is to foster a tighter community of Darden women in the D.C. area, and to bring the scholarship recipients into that environment from the moment they select Darden. And, we hope, to create an environment that encourages them to pay it forward for future classes.”
“We have a really supportive community, and I think that’s especially important to women,” Edwards said. “Our alumni are there for each other and you become part of that group for the rest of your life. My best friends are from Darden.”
In addition to increasing the diversity of the student body and ultimately growing the Darden network, Edwards and her peers see the effort to encourage more women to consider business school as critical to building a business world that more closely reflects other aspects of society.
“If you look at the leadership of corporations in America and worldwide, women are still vastly underrepresented. All the studies coming out on board composition and the C-suite continue to show pretty dismal numbers. We all thought that would have changed by now,” Edwards said. “I feel very confident about the talent pool graduating from Darden — both from the residential and the MBA for Executives and Global MBA for Executives tracks — and I think we have an opportunity to change C-suites around the world as well as the boards directing those enterprises.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. 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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