The Darden Report’s Most Read Stories of 2020

By Jay Hodgkins

As it was for people and institutions around the world, 2020 was a year like no other for the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, with the School’s response to the coronavirus pandemic dominating efforts over the last nine months.

Highlights of the most read stories of 2020 showcase the success of Darden’s admissions innovations to support the classes of 2022 and 2023 and the innovation of alumni pivoting their businesses to succeed amid the pandemic. They also highlight the rise of a new faculty superstar named MBA Professor of the Year and the loss of an all-time faculty legend.

Look back at some of the most important moments of the year with the seven most read stories of 2020 on The Darden Report.

No. 1: UVA Darden Offers Full-Time MBA Class of 2022 Flexibility, Options and Support in Response to Global Uncertainty

Recognizing that some students may not be able to start in August because of the ongoing global pandemic, the School will also offer a delayed start option for a limited portion of the incoming Class of 2022. This group will start First Year core classes in January 2021, but will begin other Darden activities such as career support ahead of their arrival. Those with a January start will take First Year classes into summer 2021, before completing an abbreviated summer internship or field project.

The delayed start option is intended for students who need additional time before they are able to fully join the Class of 2022. Many international students may not be able to secure a visa by August, for instance, and others may need additional time due to altered professional or personal circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic.

No. 2: UVA Darden Grads’ Rhoback Apparel Company Shifts Focus to ‘Victory Mask’ Production

Rhoback, the line of stylish activewear owned and operated by Darden alumni Matt (MBA ’16) and Kristina Loftus (MBA ’17), has temporarily shifted much of its production from performance polo shirts, Q-Zip pullovers and performance t-shirts to face masks intended to stop the transmission of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

Matt Loftus said the company began designing the mask in mid-March, as crisis spread across the United States and reports of face masks in short supply began to multiply. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control formally encouraged U.S. residents to use cloth masks to slow the spread of the virus.

On 3 April, Rhoback began taking preorders for their “Victory Masks” — a nod to World War II-era victory gardens — which they are selling at-cost in a five-pack for $30. The organic cotton and polyester masks are reusable and unadorned, except for a small American flag in one corner.

Just three days after posting the link for the preorder on the Rhoback site, the company had sold more than 15,000 masks at cost. By mid-April, the sum had exceeded 200,000.

No. 3: UVA Darden Announces Leadership Changes, Faculty Promotions

Effective 1 July, leadership changes at the Darden School include:

  • Professor Tom Steenburgh will serve as senior associate dean for the full-time MBA program and chair of the School’s Programs Strategy Committee through June 2023. Steenburgh, who currently serves as senior associate dean for faculty development and associate dean of the full-time MBA program, will work to ensure that the education experience in the full-time MBA program remains unparalleled, while his role leading the Program Strategy Committee will seek to ensure close coordination across programs. Steenburgh succeeds Professor Jeanne Liedtka as chair of the programs committee following the conclusion of Liedtka’s successful one-year term.
  • Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne will serve as senior associate dean for executive and professional degree programs through June 2023. Grushka-Cockayne will be responsible for the Executive MBA formats, including the Global Executive MBA; the Master of Science in business analytics (MSBA), which Darden offers in partnership with the UVA McIntire School of Commerce; and innovation in programs such as Darden’s doctoral programs and collaboration with the UVA School of Data Science.
  • Professor Ron Wilcox will serve as associate dean of executive degree programs during the 2020–­21 academic year and work closely with Grushka-Cockayne on new MBA formats. Wilcox will replace Darden Professor Jim Detert, who will return to the Darden faculty.
  • Darden Professor Casey Lichtendahl, will return to leadership as academic director of the MSBA program, a role he previously held when designing and launching the degree, following his stint as a visiting researcher with Google. He will replace Wilcox in the role.
  • Darden Professor Mary Margaret Frank will serve as senior associate dean for faculty development through June 2023. Frank will invest in the ongoing development and growth of Darden faculty members to ensure the faculty remains the world’s best.

No. 4: UVA Darden Climbs Into Top 5 in Bloomberg Businessweek Ranking

The full-time MBA program at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business is ranked No. 5 in the United States in the new 2019 Best Business Schools ranking from Bloomberg Businessweek.

The ranking also places Darden No. 1 in the U.S. among public universities.

In addition to the overall ranking, Darden showed strength in multiple subrankings. The School is ranked No. 2 in the category of Learning and No. 4 in the category of Networking.

No. 5: UVA Darden Introduces Test Flexibility, Launches Application for Admission to the Full-Time MBA Class of 2023

As part of an ongoing commitment to accessibility through its holistic admissions process and flexibility for applicants, the Darden School is continuing its test flexibility pilot.

As applicants have many different ways to demonstrate academic accomplishment and ability to succeed in the classroom, the School will accept a range of standardized tests and, as a new offering for the 2020-21 admissions cycle, allow applicants to request a test waiver.

This expanded pilot is based on Darden’s successful experience this spring. Following an additional analysis considering the statistical significance of standardized test scores’ ability to predict academic success in the purposefully intense Darden MBA, the School will accept standardized tests including the GMAT, GRE, MCAT and LSAT going forward and, for the first time in the full-time MBA program, the Executive Assessment, in addition to offering the new test waiver process.

No. 6: In Memoriam: Legendary UVA Darden Professor John Colley

Professor John Colley, a pioneering University of Virginia Darden School of Business faculty member well known to generations of students and alumni for his enduring devotion to the UVA and Darden communities, died at his home in Charlottesville on 15 July.

Colley was a pioneer in both industry and academia. He formulated the influential concept of “job shop scheduling” at the Hughes Aircraft Company — helping to ensure tasks were accurately aligned with resources — and played a key role in helping to grow the Darden School to its current place among the world’s top-ranked business schools. Along the way, he taught and befriended thousands of Darden students, forming relationships that endured long after graduation.

No. 7: UVA Darden Professor Lalin Anik Named MBA Professor of the Year

Poets & Quants has named University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Lalin Anik its MBA Professor of the Year.

A professor in the Marketing area, Anik joined Darden ahead of the 2015–16 academic year and quickly became an integral member of the community. She has been nominated for the Outstanding Faculty Award multiple times, received the Faculty Diversity Award in 2017 and 2019 and was selected as a faculty marshal for graduation by the Class of 2019.

In addition to establishing herself as a sought-after professor, Anik, who was also named one of Poets & Quants Best 40 Under 40 Professors, continued to conduct groundbreaking research, exploring a diverse range of topics, from decision-making within the context of romantic relationships to how people derive feelings of fulfillment, and what that may mean for philanthropies.

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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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia