Graduation 2017: UVA Darden Graduates Encouraged to Find Meaning, Fulfillment

By Dave Hendrick

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business welcomed hundreds of new alumni to its ranks on Sunday, as the latest graduates received their diplomas in front of thousands of friends and family members on Flagler Court.

Dean Scott Beardsley, whose two-year tenure at Darden has fully overlapped with the Class of 2017, addressed the graduates and encouraged them to consider their “noble purpose” as they pursue professional paths, and to both “find your why” and “put your why to work.”

The graduates who understand what gives them meaning and know their own personal values will be far more apt to achieve professional and personal fulfillment, Beardsley said, adding that it was perfectly understandable if graduates were still searching for the source from which they derive the most meaning.

“You should be open to what life may call you to do,” Beardsley said. “Being able to articulate why your goals map to your values and strengths is powerful.”

Beardsley noted the perceived “irony” of a business school encouraging its graduates to find and pursue their noble purpose, given the perception of business as primarily concerned with making money. Citing Darden Professor Ed Freeman, he emphasized that at Darden students are taught that businesses exist to create value for all stakeholders and that money and profits will follow. It is possible to do something meaningful and earn money.

Beardsley shared the example of alumnus Henri Termeer (MBA ’73), the former president and CEO of Genzyme Corp., who is widely credited with helping to build the modern biotech industry as he worked to create drugs to treat seemingly incurable diseases.

Termeer, who died 12 May, was a passionate and pioneering businessman, and remembered as a “kind, generous leader” and “a mentor and visionary who was also a family man.”

The dean underscored the responsibility the future leaders would shoulder, as a new generation looks to them to help lead through turbulent times.

“You are at the beginning of a great journey,” Beardsley said. “Find your raison d’être and put your why to work. I am confident there are none more prepared to make this world a better place.”

Student Speakers Offer Advice, Encouragement

In addition to Beardsley, the new graduates heard from elected representatives of each of their class formats, with students from the full-time MBA, Executive MBA (EMBA) and Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) all addressing the graduates.

Full-time MBA speaker Yousaf Sajid (MBA ’17) recounted a common Darden experience of realizing, after what seemed like a particularly grueling week, that he possessed the capability to handle everything coming his way.

“Darden introduced [us] to super humans that we never knew were inside of us,” Sajid said. “Our superpower, beyond newfound grit and sheer resolve, was the ability to use every second of every day to maximize our potential, and more importantly, to have the humility to understand we’re not in it alone.”

Sajid said he still had a great deal of uncertainty about his future and future profession, but said he and his fellow graduates could now say, no matter what problems may arise along the way: “We will figure it out.”

Sajid concluded, “Let us remember that we graduated from Darden, and that’s a memory and that’s a love and that’s a certainty to cherish for the rest of our lives.”

EMBA graduate Chris Haugen (EMBA ’17) used the analogy of the heroics of the crew of the USS TANG submarine during World War II to discuss exceptionalism among teams and leaders.

In any realm, Haugen said, leadership was an active force that could take many forms.

“I assert the only real requirement for successful leadership is sincerity,” Haugen said. “What you bring to the table, to your people, to your team, has to come from your core.”

A former executive officer of a submarine in Pearl Harbor, Haugen said he wears his submarine insignia with pride, just as he does his Darden experience and the Darden brand.

“Our mission to improve the world will draw on that Darden brand significantly,” Haugen said. “Every bit of our Darden experience and all the tools that we put in our belt over these past 21 months will be brought to bear. Use them well.”

Aaron Flynn (GEMBA ’17) of the GEMBA program reflected on the experience of traveling and learning in foreign lands, noting that “theory and books have helped us to open our minds to the world around us, but we are unable to truly engage with the world without having first deeply ventured into it.”

The class speaker encouraged his classmates to continue to “walk humbly as guests” as they live and work and travel in new areas.

Noting the unprecedented number of women in his cohort, Flynn looked ahead to a future where women are more strongly represented at the top of companies.

“We can better serve our shareholders and the world by cultivating and creating business environments, which create gender parity,” Flynn said.  “As we begin to populate management positions, keep in mind the richness of your Darden experience and the deep importance that diversity plays in creating a better world.”

Graduates See Strong Employment Environment

Members of the Class of 2017 are finding a strong market, with preliminary figures from Darden’s Career Development Center showing opportunities in a variety of fields. More than 80 percent of graduates have accepted an offer of employment.

Darden has long been known as a key conduit to top consulting firms, and the Class of 2017 continues that trend, with 37 percent of the class accepting consulting positions.

The financial services industry attracted 23 percent of Darden graduates, while technology continues to be the fastest-growing recruiting sector, with 21 percent of new graduates.

The figures show Darden students taking international positions in ever-higher numbers, with 10 percent of the class of 2017 accepting jobs outside of the United States.

“Leading companies and organizations seek Darden graduates because they know the unique skillset these employees bring to the table,” said Jeff McNish, assistant dean of the Career Development Center. “These future leaders will be invaluable employees and ideal teammates as they pursue their goals and help drive growth and transformation. We celebrate their success and look forward to watching them grow in their careers.”

Microsoft is currently the top hiring company of members of the class with 16 hires, followed by McKinsey & Co. (14), Boston Consulting Group (13), Accenture (10), Bain & Co. (10), PricewaterhouseCoopers (9) and Amazon (8).

Those who have accepted positions reported an average base salary of over $124,000, up from the $122,806 reported by the Class of 2016.

The CDC expects to finalize initial employment data for the class by October 2017.

View the Graduation Ceremony.

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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