New Breakthrough Scholars Program to Prepare Diverse Leaders in Asset Management at UVA Darden

By Jay Hodgkins

The University of Virginia Darden School Foundation today announced the establishment of the Breakthrough Scholars program, a competitive scholarship initiative designed to foster a new generation of diverse leadership in private equity, venture capital (VC), hedge funds and other areas of asset management.

Through this new program, the Darden School Foundation will select an annual cohort of up to 12 Breakthrough Scholars. In its initial year, the Breakthrough Scholars program will be open to students applying to the Full-Time MBA and Executive MBA programs at the Darden School of Business. Students interested in joining the inaugural cohort of Breakthrough Scholars should indicate interest in their admissions application to the School.

Members of the cohort will be awarded merit-based scholarships from the Foundation and other benefits, including:

  • Comprehensive curricular and co-curricular offerings from the Richard A. Mayo Center for Asset Management, the Batten Institute and the Darden Venture Capital Initiative enabling education, professional development and practical experience across a range of verticals within asset management
  • Network and mentoring from current industry professionals
  • A suite of elective courses that combine to best develop industry-relevant skills and expertise
  • Access to career programs and unparalleled internship experiences with notable VC and private equity firms through the Batten Venture Internship Program, Mayo Center for Asset Management Fellowship Program and the newly created Darden Venture Fellows program
  • A private equity or VC industry-related independent study overseen by a Darden faculty expert

“We’ve curated a program that will be an advantage for elite women and outstanding under-represented racial minorities launching careers in private equity, venture capital and related fields,” said Professor Greg Fairchild, an expert on financial institutions harnessing the power of underserved populations and faculty adviser for the Breakthrough Scholars program. “The industry recognizes the need to increase diversity at all levels and firms are eager for partners like Darden to help them find diverse talent.”

Today, only 20 percent of senior leaders at private equity firms in the United States are women, less than 2 percent are Black and less than 12 percent are people of color, according to a 2020 McKinsey & Co. report. A 2020 study released by Women in VC found less than 5 percent of VC firm partners are women and only a third of those are women of color.

“Darden has always taken the lead in educating the next generation of executives, investors and entrepreneurs, and this important new initiative to increase diversity within private equity and venture capital is a continuation of that mission,” said Elizabeth Weymouth (MBA ’94), founder and managing partner of the alternative asset management firm Grafine Partners and former chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees. “Developing a pipeline of diverse MBA talent to join private equity firms is essential for the long-term sustainability of the industry, and I’m excited to use my experience to help women and under-represented minorities break into the field.”

The School’s faculty, consistently ranked the best in graduate business education, also brings a breadth of experience in asset management through influential research and proximity to practice. Among the Darden faculty leaders in the space are Professors Susan Chaplinsky, Fairchild, John Glynn, Elena Loutskina, Pedro Matos and Ting Xu.

“The asset management industry recognizes the need to increase diversity at all levels. These institutions are hungry for partners like Darden to help them find diverse talent,” said Josiah Lindsay (MBA/JD ’03), managing director at Fortress Investment Group. “Darden’s incredible faculty, resources and dynamic alumni network place the School in prime position to connect students, who are the next generation of leaders, to private equity and venture capital firms.”

Alumni, companies and donors interested in supporting the Breakthrough Scholars program should contact Carter Hoerr at or +1-434-243-5871. Companies interested in hiring a Breakthrough Scholar or student in the private equity, venture capital or other asset management fields should contact 

Program Joins Larger Effort for Inclusive Excellence

The Breakthrough Scholars program is part of a new set of Darden School Foundation programs dedicated to advancing diverse leadership in business. It is also part of a larger Inclusive Excellence effort led by the Darden School Foundation.

Each year, the Darden School Foundation selects and awards highly selective scholarships for women and under-represented minorities that range from partial-tuition stipends to full tuition and fees. The need-based AccessDarden scholarship program was launched in 2020 for Full-Time MBA and Executive MBA students.

“A diverse and inclusive student body is required for excellence,” said Dean Scott Beardsley. “Business is global, and we must shape and educate classes that mirror the global business world to prepare Darden leaders for the world in which they will work.”

Building on Darden’s Strength in Asset Management

The Breakthrough Scholars program creates new opportunities for diverse candidates to thrive in fields of asset management, in which Darden brings established strength in thought leadership, talent development and career placement.

Led by Darden’s Batten Institute, Mayo Center and Career Center, the School offers a rich array of courses, experiential learning, events, career exploration and support, and networking opportunities to help students develop relevant skills and career pathways. The Darden Venture Capital Initiative, which will be led by the Batten Institute and Mayo Center and will formally launch later this summer, will provide resources to advance offerings tailored to the VC space.

This year, Darden students and graduates set new school records for placement in VC and private equity internships and full-time jobs: 21 members of the Full-Time MBA Class of 2022 are completing summer internships, seven members of the Full-Time MBA Class of 2021 accepted full-time roles in those fields and many more are pursuing roles in other asset management fields.

These are among the highest career placement levels in VC and private equity among Top 10 business schools.

Darden alumni have founded and led many private equity, VC, hedge fund and asset management firms, such as Grafine, Sands Capital, Glynn Capital, Columbia Capital, Greenspring Associates, Integral Capital, BlueRun Ventures, Discovery Capital Management, CCA Industries, and CAV Angels, among others. They are also industry leaders at firms such as KKR, Blackstone, Bain Capital, Bridgewater, General Atlantic, Silver Lake, Sequoia, and Carlyle.

Darden’s Breakthrough Scholars program will further enhance the School’s prestige in asset management and strong network by establishing a diverse talent pool for the industry.

For more information, visit the Breakthrough Scholars program webpage or connect with Darden Admissions. Exceptional candidates identified through the Admissions process will be invited to compete for a spot in the initial cohort.

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.


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