Defining Darden’s Greatest Needs: Q&A With Dean Scott Beardsley on the UVA Darden Annual Fund

By Jay Hodgkins

University of Virginia Darden School of Business Dean Scott Beardsley calls the School’s Annual Fund an “amazingly important part of Darden’s competitiveness” in the business education landscape, and thanks donors for helping the School pursue its most pressing priorities through Annual Fund support. Below, Dean Beardsley explains how choosing Area of Greatest Need allows donors to support those priorities (and others) with maximum impact.

What are the areas of greatest need for support from the Darden Annual Fund this year?

There are many areas of need for a top business school every year, and some of the priorities for Darden at the moment involve:

  • Attracting the next generation of faculty
  • Offering scholarships to make Darden affordable and accessible as we compete with other top institutions student by student
  • Giving every Darden student a global experience and making it affordable

There are always other great priorities and, every year, the financial support in a given area evolves. For example, right now Darden is reinvesting in our Career Development Center and innovating in other areas.

So if you think about the Annual Fund and checking the box for Area of Greatest Need, it is probably the most impactful way to give. It gives Darden great flexibility to have an impact where it needs it at that moment in time.

Why is the flexibility achieved through giving to Area of Greatest Need an advantage compared to other forms of giving?

First of all, every donor should do what gives them the greatest meaning and impact.

However, a lot of Darden’s philanthropy is restricted. Most of our endowment is earmarked for a specific area, such as a scholarship for a student from a certain geography. When you give to the School through the Area of Greatest Need, it allows the School’s leadership to be more nimble and to allocate resources to an area of priority that has emerged in that given year that would not necessarily otherwise be met through restricted endowments.

This year, for instance, we have 11 faculty searches underway. Last year, we had four. For us to land 11 amazing faculty members who are as good as the ones they are replacing, it will require a tremendous amount of financial resources and flexibility to convince somebody that they should leave their current institution. That is an example of one priority that may vary from one year to the next.

How do you envision Darden’s Area of Greatest Need evolving over time?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can say that some of the broad categories are unlikely to change. The need for scholarships, faculty excellence, research or being global are unlikely to go away. But I do believe that, in the long term, we’re going to focus more on some of the non-degree areas — Executive Education, lifelong learning and new innovations that Darden hasn’t come up with yet.

To remain a preeminent business school, we have to innovate. The areas in which we’re going to do so will involve the use of technology and connecting with alumni — and also practitioners — with non-degree options. I think we’re going to hear more about that while continuing to see the need to respond to the competitive landscape and a rapidly evolving business context. The Annual Fund will help us pave the way.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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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David Hendrick
Associate Director, Editorial & Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia