UVA Darden Dean Scott Beardsley Named Dean of the Year
By Dave Hendrick
Citing his “stellar leadership,” advocacy for a compassionate and flexible approach to the application process during the coronavirus pandemic, his “obsession” with teaching excellence, and his push to expand the School’s presence beyond Charlottesville, the publication named Beardsley the 10th graduate business school dean to receive the honor.
The publication noted Beardsley’s nontraditional path to the dean’s office — he completed his doctorate in higher education management during the final years of his tenure at McKinsey & Co.— and the manner in which he has immersed himself in the life of the University of Virginia and Darden with full force.
To say that Beardsley threw himself into the job would be an understatement. “Unlike most deans, Scott has done a deep comprehensive McKinsey study of Darden,” says Michael Woodfolk, president of the Darden School Foundation and the school’s chief fundraiser. “As part of that study, he has looked at what are the strong arteries that flow to the heart of the school. One of those arteries is the student experience, and he has been determined to make sure it remains the best there is.”
By the end of his first year, Beardsley had interviewed all 70-plus faculty members in one-on-one meetings that ranged from one to four hours each. He made 75 speeches, racked up 100,000 frequent flier miles traveling throughout the U.S., to Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa to meet with alumni and donors, and entertained half of the school’s students in his own home, one of the ten Pavilions on The Lawn of the university, the historic center of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, amidst students and other faculty.
Beardsley Spoke to Poets & Quants on the ROI of an MBA in 2019
Lauded for Compassionate Approach to Applications Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
In March, as the coronavirus pandemic closed testing sites and upended lives across the globe, Darden extended its Round 3 deadline for the Class of 2022 and suspended certain testing requirements, offering qualified applicants alternate ways to demonstrate professional and personal accomplishments. The School subsequently launched the first-ever January cohort for those who faced challenges to make the traditional August start. Darden will soon welcome 57 students in the Class of 2022 to “Section J.”
The move to break down applicant barriers helped spur a 25 percent increase in applications for the full-time MBA Class of 2022. Encouraged by the positive feedback on the move, the School launched its application for the Class of 2023 with test flexibility and a test waiver option fully in place.
Poets & Quants in August named the move toward test flexibility one of the “10 biggest business school innovations of the past decade,” and a number of other top schools have subsequently made similar moves.
While he and [Executive Director of Admissions Dawna] Clarke had talked about the overreliance of the GMAT and GRE for admissions when they first met in Maine in 2016, COVID and its hardships made it the right time for the move. “When the pandemic initially hit, I went to Scott and said I think we should extend some flexibility to our R3 candidates because test centers were closing down,” says Clarke. “It was Scott who said we should accept SAT and ACT scores and extend the deadline into July.”
It was a bold and courageous move, but it was an inclusive one, too. “He is deeply personally committed to diversity, equity and inclusion,” adds Clarke. “At a time when all leaders should be looking at policies, this change is highly relevant to what is going on in society in looking at policies of systematic racism. Going test flexible and offering a test waiver is an inclusive way to evaluate candidates. He was very committed to ensuring that Darden was highly sensitive to the predicament our admits were facing during a global pandemic and in particular to our international students. He conceived of the January start date to accommodate students who would benefit from an alternative in the wake of visa issues.”
Although the pandemic has altered some key elements of the Darden experience, from course delivery to recruiting, Poets & Quants noted that Beardsley and a team of leaders from across the School and University helped guide Darden through the pandemic with comparative success. The School has had a very low incidence of COVID-19 and remained open for hybrid and in-person classroom experiences since the start of the academic year.
A Record of Action to Bolster Darden’s Standing
Beardsley, who began his tenure at Darden at the start of the 2015–16 academic year and was recently appointed to a second five-year term, has helped usher in numerous advancements and enhancements, all while fortifying Darden’s commitment to Darden values and the education experience. The School has been named the No. 1 education experience in the United States by The Economist for nine years in a row.
Notable accomplishments cited in the Poets & Quants article include:
- A steady rise in the caliber of an increasingly diverse student body: From increases in GMAT scores to a record number of women and 40 Consortium fellows in the Class of 2022, the Darden full-time MBA has never been stronger. The Executive MBA class has been on a similar trajectory, and recently welcomed 151 students to the Class of 2022.
- Fortifying the world’s best faculty: Beardsley has hired 38 full-time faculty during his tenure, and nearly 50 percent of the new hires hold non-U.S. passports and more than a third are women. The faculty has been repeatedly recognized as No. 1 in graduate business education, including by The Economist (2017–19).
- Increased accessibility and affordability of the Darden MBA: Beardsley has prioritized fundraising for scholarships, and the School’s $400 million Powered by Purpose capital campaign has spurred the creation of 82 new scholarships. In 2020, Darden launched AccessDarden, offering a need-based aid program for the first time, which should aid the School’s efforts to attract qualified students from all walks of life.
- Expansion to the Washington, D.C., area: Under Beardsley’s tenure, the School formally expanded into the global gateway of Washington, D.C., and opened the Sands Family Grounds at UVA Darden DC Metro in 2018. UVA Darden DC Metro is now the home base for the Darden Executive MBA, Master of Science in business analytics, and an expanded suite of Executive Education & Lifelong Learning More than 400 students now study in the Washington, D.C., area.
- The launch of the largest capital campaign in Darden history: The funds raised in the Powered by Purpose campaign are earmarked for faculty and thought leadership; scholarships and student experience; the Darden Grounds Master Plan, technology and innovation; and the Darden Annual Fund. Through December, the School has raised $265 million toward its goal. The sum includes the single largest gift in Darden history — $68 million from Frank M. Sands Sr. (MBA ’63), which received a $14 million match from the UVA Bicentennial Professors Fund for a total impact of $82 million, to launch the Sands Institute for Lifelong Learning and helped jumpstart construction of a new inn and conference center.
The moves to bolster the School have coincided with continued rankings momentum, and the School climbed into the Top 5 in the most recent Bloomberg Businessweek ranking.
In 2011, Poets & Quants named Dean Emeritus Bob Bruner Dean of the Year, as well, making Darden the only top business school to have two consecutive deans awarded the honor. The publication has also bestowed MBA Professor of the Year honors on Professor Greg Fairchild and Lalin Anik.
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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