Looking Back and Looking Forward: UVA Darden 10-Year Strategic Plan Reaches Halfway Point
By Dave Hendrick
In 2016, after soliciting extensive input from faculty, alumni and the broader University of Virginia Darden School of Business community, Dean Scott Beardsley unveiled a 10-year strategic plan for the School, dubbed Darden Worldwide 2026.
The goal is straightforward — to ensure that Darden remains one of the best business schools in the world — but the plan is multifaceted, touching on everything from student experience and scholarships to the state of Grounds. At roughly the halfway point, Darden Professor and Chief Strategy Officer Mike Lenox, who partnered with Beardsley and school leadership to develop the strategy, considers the path thus far and the road to 2026.
What is the vision laid out in the Darden Worldwide 2026 strategy?
Central to our strategy was a vision for Darden, in the words of Dean Beardsley, “to achieve the full potential of our mission.” Above all our peer business schools, we will be viewed as a positive force for the betterment of society, acting as an agent for change by developing and inspiring responsible leaders and by advancing knowledge.
To this end, we envisioned a faculty that continues to be recognized as the best teaching faculty in the world, generating ideas that change society and raise Darden’s visibility, leading innovative programs on the forefront of business education, and ultimately delivering the world’s best educational experience across modalities — residentially, globally and virtually.
Supporting this vision are the most active, successful, satisfied and passionate students and alumni in the world, a sustainable economic model and endowment that is proportionately among the Top 5 of business schools, and great people at a great place to work. Ultimately, Darden will be a values-based force for good at UVA, the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.
How does the Darden Worldwide strategy inform the Powered by Purpose campaign?
We were very deliberate that the capital campaign flows directly from the School’s overall strategy. The strategic priorities highlighted in our Darden Worldwide strategy inform the four pillars of our Powered by Purpose campaign, which are:
- Faculty, Thought Leadership & Curricular Innovation
- Scholarships, Financial Aid & Student Experience
- Grounds Master Plan, Technology & Innovation
- Darden Annual Fund
The Darden Worldwide 2026 strategy is meant to be a living document to be adjusted as Darden’s strategic actions unfold. What has changed since 2016?
The most obvious answer is that the global pandemic has been a significant disruptor o Darden and all of higher education. The embrace of digitally enabled modes of learning has been greatly accelerated. While we were making great progress on Darden’s digital transformation before the pandemic, we had to radically re-envision the ways we deliver value and create community in an incredibly short period of time.
While we all eagerly await the return to normal in a post-COVID world, the fact is that some of the changes we have seen will be permanent. Executive audiences will continue to demand virtual offerings. Students will desire flexibility and seek opportunities to learn remotely in hybrid classrooms. Our faculty and staff will continue to work from a distance when necessary or desired.
This will likely prove incredibly disruptive to business education and may very well be fatal to some of our peers. My personal belief is that we will increasingly see a bifurcation among business schools with a handful of elite, selective MBA programs providing a robust residential and technology-enabled experience while the rest of schools will be left fighting for students and resources in a highly competitive, price-sensitive online MBA market.
Fortunately for Darden, we are very well positioned to flourish as an elite MBA program. We have a well-defined position as the world’s best educational experience with the world’s best teaching faculty among business schools. Our embrace of digital transformation is complementing and reinforcing this position.
The success of our Powered by Purpose campaign to date and in the near future promises to further catalyze our ability to achieve our aspiration to be a positive force for the betterment of society.
Contact Interim Vice President for Advancement Samantha Hartog at HartogS@darden.virginia.edu or +1-434-982-2151 to learn more about the Powered by Purpose capital campaign.
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.
Associate Director, Editorial & Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia