UVA Darden Welcomes New Classes to MBA, Executive MBA, MS in Business Analytics

By Dave Hendrick

Surge in applications leads to diverse, talented full-time MBA class; Executive MBA, Master of Science in business analytics programs continue strong expansion

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business welcomed several new classes of students in August: the full-time MBA Class of 2022, the Executive MBA Class of 2022 and the Master of Science in business analytics (MSBA) Class of 2021.

While such welcomes would typically be held in-person on Darden Grounds in Charlottesville and Arlington, Virginia, the coronavirus pandemic has put a pause on large, in-person gatherings for the time being, and the traditional opening week events were moved to the virtual arena.

The start of the new academic year for most Darden students followed a remarkable admissions year for Darden, with applications to the full-time MBA up roughly 25 percent and up 45 percent for the Executive MBA. In March, as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the world, Darden added additional accommodation and flexibility for applications and extended the Round 3 admissions to mid-July. The result was the most applications in more than two decades, leading to one of the most competitive admissions cycles in Darden history, and a larger-than-usual First Year class.

“Darden trains future leaders to navigate through uncertainty, and there is more than a bit of uncertainty as we embark on an unprecedented new academic year,” said Tom Steenburgh, senior associate dean for the full-time MBA program. “What we do know is that the entire Darden community is committed to ensuring an exceptional education experience for the Class of 2022.”

Record Size Full-Time MBA Class Includes August, January Starts

The full-time MBA Class of 2022 welcomed 343 students to a traditional August start spread over five sections. An additional full section will begin in a first-ever January cohort, an option Darden offered to provide flexibility to the scores of admitted students who needed additional time before being able to fully join the class. Many international students have been unable to secure a visa due to pandemic-related closures, for instance. Despite the delayed start for the January group, the two cohorts will start their Second Year as one on Grounds in August 2021.

Classes for the August cohort begin 24 August in a hybrid format, with a mix of in-person and virtual instruction. Darden buildings have reopened and the vast majority of full-time MBA students are living in Charlottesville and taking hybrid instruction.

Welcoming the class to Darden on 17 August at a virtual opening orientation, Executive Director of Admissions Dawna Clarke congratulated the new students via Zoom on being admitted in one of the “most competitive admissions cycles in recent history.”

The new full-time class includes:

  • 38 percent women, including a record total number of women in a class
  • A Darden record-setting 44 members of The Consortium, an organization devoted to diversity and inclusion in global business education and leadership
  • 95 students with international backgrounds, representing 35 countries
  • Students drawn from 300 different employers in 30 different industries
  • The first Future Year Scholars to matriculate at the School

“Let me say how proud we are to have you,” said Clarke. “I have all the confidence that this group of highly resilient leaders will be one impressive class.”

Indeed, resilience in the face of uncertainty and adversity was a recurring theme throughout full-time MBA opening week events, which carried a theme of “Dare to Be Darden.”

The full-time MBA students’ week included sessions on building community, living one’s values, mindfulness and career planning, among other topics. Students have also met their learning teams and sections, attended socially distanced Yoga sessions on Flagler Court, participated in virtual Zumba courses and learned more about each other through the popular Humans of Darden storytelling program.

Dean Scott Beardsley, who also welcomed the Executive MBA Class on 16 August, told the full-time class that it was understandable to be simultaneously anxious and uncertain about the future and “excited about the gift of today.”

“The world has seen worse in its history, but for you this is a generation-defining moment, and I urge you not to lose sight of how extraordinary our opportunity is to improve and contribute to the world as the crises we face create momentum in society for change,” said Beardsley.

Despite the unique start to the year, Beardsley said the hallmarks of the Darden education would shine through, promising the students an incredible education, unforgettable experiences and friendships, and eventually, a great career.

“Whether you know it or not, these unprecedented experiences are going to bind you together,” said Beardsley

Darden Student Association President Megan Bailey (Class of 2021) said students could expect to be challenged and stretched in ways they never knew possible, and recalled occasionally feeling like an “imposter” given the backgrounds and talent of many of her peers. Bailey reminded new students that the Darden community, including faculty and fellow students, were there to help ensure everyone’s success.

Said Bailey, “Darden is going to challenge you mentally, physically and emotionally, but if you let it, Darden will strengthen everything about you.”

Executive MBA Class Sees Continued Growth

The Executive MBA Class of 2022 welcomed 151 students from over 20 industries and more than 100 employers. The welcome for the new class included an address from Class of 2020 Executive MBA student Dr. Taison Bell, director of the medical intensive care unit at the UVA Health System, who paused his MBA career in March to help battle the coronavirus.

The new class demonstrates continued steady growth for the Executive MBA program. Both the Executive MBA and Global Executive MBA formats are now based entirely at UVA Darden DC Metro in the Rosslyn district of Arlington, Virginia, with key touchpoints in Charlottesville and expanded global residency options. The convenience of the location continues to expand the geographic reach of the program. Students hail from 12 different states in the U.S., including as far away as California, and the class includes citizens from a diverse array of countries, including the Bahamas, Turkey, India, Peru, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico and Pakistan.

“We’re thrilled with the way the Class of 2022 has come together,” said Yael Grushka-Cockayne, senior associate dean for professional degree programs. “We’re excited to fully engage with them in the classroom through dynamic case discussions, to explore the world through curated global experiences and to be a member of a vibrant, relationship-driven community.”

The average age of the class is 34, with a work experience average of 11 years. Women comprise 30 percent of the class, and students from racial or ethnic minority groups make up nearly 20 percent of the class.

The Executive MBA Class of 2022 are beginning the year with a combination of hybrid and virtual instruction.

Top industries include government and military, biotech and health care, financial services, technology, consulting, education, and manufacturing. Leading employers include Capital One, Amazon, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, Vanguard, AstraZeneca, S&P Global and Inova, as well as a host of U.S. government agencies and military branches.

MSBA Welcomes Largest-Ever Cohort

The Master of Science in business analytics Class of 2021, which is also based at UVA Darden DC Metro, also recently kicked off its academic year. The 12-month program, which is presented jointly by Darden and the UVA McIntire School of Commerce and now in its third year, welcomed a record 72 new students.

The students have eight years of post-college work experience, on average. Nearly a fifth of the class already holds an advanced degree, including three Darden MBA alumni. Working professionals in the program hail from a range of companies, including Capital One, the U.S. Navy, Deloitte and Grant Thornton, among others.

Darden is now accepting applications for the Class of 2023 for the full-time MBA and Executive MBA. The application for the MSBA Class of 2022 will be released in September.

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.


Press Contact

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