Q&A: How Darden Creates Incredible Experiences and Career Opportunities for Students
By Dave Hendrick
Jeff McNish joined the University of Virginia Darden School of Business as assistant dean of the Darden Career Development Center (CDC) in late 2016. An expert in higher education and careers who most recently served as head of the career center at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, McNish shares his early impression of Darden and plans for providing optimal experiences for both students and recruiters.
What are your initial impressions of the Darden School?
I am impressed by the wealth of tradition and history surrounding the School and UVA. Also, a few words that come to mind to describe my initial impressions of both the students and my new colleagues: dedicated, enthusiastic, passionate and devoted!
What attracted you to the position of assistant dean and director of the Career Development Center?
The Darden School of Business holds an impressive reputation in the marketplace, and having the opportunity to practice my talents at a place with such a reputation was appealing to me. The challenge to collaborate with the CDC and other stakeholders to enhance the services and experiences we provide to students and employers is another reason why I was interested in the role. Additionally, I am excited to look for ways that the Executive MBA formats and the residential MBA format can work together on employment opportunities and outcomes.
Have you already identified some early priorities?
Yes, there are a few priorities I would like to focus on. As a team, we’ll work together to set longer-term objectives.
The CDC is implementing a new career management system with a launch date of late spring 2017. This system will give our students and employers a world-class portal to connect with each other and to efficiently match talent with MBA opportunities.
We have a handful of open positions within the CDC, and I’d like to help the team find great talent to join us as quickly as possible. I’m also focused on an employer engagement strategy to build on the great work of the employer relations and business development teams.
In the recent weeks, I’ve invested time to get to know the CDC team and my Darden and UVA colleagues. I value the opportunity to build strong relationships and network on Grounds.
I am focused on the employment outcomes of our students. The CDC team and I are working diligently to provide incredible experiences and opportunities for the members of the Class of 2017 and 2018 in both the residential and Executive MBA formats.
What role would you like to see the CDC play for Darden students, most of whom have come to Darden with the primary goal of career advancement?
I envision the CDC serving as a guide or resource for the students who are searching for opportunities on Grounds and independently. Mastering the art of seeking a job is a key skill for students to practice here — for many, this job search won’t be the only job search they have over the lifetime of their careers.
And for recruiters and companies? How do you think about effectively serving that constituency?
Our goal at the CDC is to connect employers with Darden talent and the Darden experience. Effective account management, consulting with recruiters to understand their recruitment goals, and creating a high level of engagement between companies and the students are key success factors to achieving that goal.
The fields of consulting and finance have historically been the two most popular areas for Darden students. Do you have any sense as to whether that will continue, or are there other areas of interest on the rise?
I believe consulting and finance will remain stable. As businesses continue to become more data-driven, MBA programs are teaching students how to analyze and draw conclusions from data to persuade a company to think more critically about business challenges and strategy. The technology sector and field of entrepreneurship recognize these skills and abilities that MBA students bring to the table, and thus we have seen increased interest in these areas.
Has technology changed the work you do, and the manner in which students are connecting with recruiters and companies?
Absolutely. Technology has given students access to resources 24/7, making researching, collecting information and connecting much easier today. It is important that students understand how to use and navigate this technology, while building a personal connection to recruiters and alumni.
Does Darden have a unique story to tell when it comes to careers?
Unlike other programs, Darden’s case method and use of learning teams create unique student experiences and perspectives, which I look forward to learning more about. I’d like to explore ways to incorporate Darden’s learning process and experiences into the CDC’s business of career management.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about the CDC?
The CDC team is dedicated to the success of our students and employers. We strive to create experiences that help both parties achieve their goals. We look forward to strong, deep relationships with students, alumni, and employers — relationships that create lasting employment opportunities.
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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