Darden’s Global Experiences Add Value By Opening Eyes

By Jay Hodgkins

With global courses and consulting projects in more than two dozen countries, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business‘ international offerings require tremendous support — support that donors fueled through the Darden Annual Fund. Last year, the Annual Fund provided more than $200,000 in financial aid for students to participate in Darden Worldwide Courses. Support was also allocated for logistics and staffing for the international trips.

A focus on growing Darden’s global impact allowed the School to expand its efforts last year. Darden registered more than 450 student enrollments in global academic experiences — a significant increase from about 200 in 2015–16 — and doubled the number of student days spent abroad.

New additions included the “Belgium, Holland and the European Economy” Darden Worldwide Course led by Dean Scott Beardsley.

The one-week course in March allowed 30 members of the Class of 2017 to travel from Brussels to Amsterdam to meet with executives from firms such as McKinsey & Co. and AB InBev and experience local business and culture through visits to the Aalsmeer Flower Auction and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

“It was my first trip to another developed economy outside of the United States,” said David Peña (MBA ’17), recipient of the Class of 1979 Trustees Scholarship Fund. “It was an eye-opening experience to see fully functional, developed economies that have a completely different set of priorities than the United States.”

Many of the experiences were made possible through Beardsley’s deep connections in the region, built during his 24 years working for McKinsey in Belgium before joining Darden as dean. Among the most obvious connections was to Nick van Dam, global chief learning officer of McKinsey, based in Amsterdam. Van Dam presented on key trends in adult learning.

“McKinsey’s key theme is that it is personalized, self-directed, journey-focused, strengths-based, and uses more and more technology for just-in-time delivery,” said Beardsley. “He talked about how the skillset required to succeed is changing.”

Tony Milikin, chief sustainability and procurement officer at AB InBev and member of Darden’s Corporate Advisory Board, spoke to the major changes his company is making to use energy sustainably.

“They were the first company to use Otto, the autonomous truck company, to deliver beer from Colorado to Texas, providing a 40 percent reduction in cost,” Beardsley said.

Gabriel Legendy (MBA ’17) said Milikin’s presentation helped him see how much of a major impact big corporations can have. He was inspired by AB InBev’s efforts to convert the massive amount of spent grain left over after the brewing process to feed 50 million people.

Legendy, who traveled around the world as a member of the U.S. Army for 10 years before Darden, said the course also allowed him to see Europe distinctly from a business perspective rather than the perspective of a soldier or tourist as he had before.

“Throughout the trip, I would ask myself, ‘How would I look at this as a business person? How would I do things differently?’” he said. And those questions are best answered by experiencing the context firsthand, not in a classroom. “You can’t experience it without seeing it. Reading doesn’t do it justice.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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.


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