State of the School 2022: UVA Darden Propelled by Multiple Sources of Momentum
By Dave Hendrick
University of Virginia Darden School of Business Dean Scott Beardsley welcomed a record number of Darden alumni back to Charlottesville for the recent Darden Reunion Weekend, the first in-person Reunion event since 2019.
Addressing a full Abbott Auditorium during the annual State of the School address, Beardsley said the state of the school was strong, detailing the sources of current momentum and opportunities to further strengthen Darden hallmarks.
“It feels great to be together in person again,” Beardsley told the alumni. “The pandemic has reminded us that the need for Darden is greater than ever. We are motivated by our vision to meet the full potential of the School’s mission.”
Beardsley highlighted that the Darden School was one of the only top business schools to remain open throughout the COVID-19 crisis and in-person beginning with the 2020-21 academic year. This goal was achieved thanks to the careful guidance and leadership at the University of Virginia and the Darden community’s unwavering commitment to care and concern.
Beardsley stated that Darden is emerging from the pandemic stronger than before, with a clear focus on achieving excellence in several dimensions: continued success in attracting top students who earn top jobs; strengthening the world’s best business school faculty; and positioning Darden Grounds for the future.
Darden Remains a Destination for Top Students, Professors
Beardsley noted the ways in which the School has expanded in recent years, with roughly 1,100 degree-seeking students now learning on Darden Grounds in Charlottesville and at UVA Darden DC Metro in Rosslyn. Darden will soon offer three formats of its renowned MBA. In addition to the Full-Time MBA in Charlottesville, the Washington, D.C., area Grounds are home base to the Executive MBA and the forthcoming Part-Time MBA, which is currently accepting applications for a fall start. A Master of Science in business analytics is also offered on the D.C. area Grounds.
Darden remains a top destination for top students from around the world, Beardsley said, with the MBA Class of 2023 selected from a record application volume and setting new highs across a number of academic excellence and diversity metrics.
As the School works to compete with other top business schools for the best students, affordability and accessibility remain key priorities.
The MBA landscape is intensely competitive, but the result is the ability to change lives, to “make the dream of an education possible” for future generations, Beardsley said, noting that donor support has resulted in a significant boost in new scholarships in recent years, as well as the launch for the AccessDarden need-based financial assistance program.
Similarly, Beardsley detailed the School’s efforts to retain and attract top faculty talent. Since 2015, 17 faculty members have retired. At the same time, the School is gradually expanding the total number needed for continued growth.
“Preserving the special culture around the faculty and providing resources for the next generation is absolutely critical,” said Beardsley. “We must support our centers and institutes, which help the faculty with key research, and also continue writing the cases that underpin our classroom.”
Boutique Hotel, Arboretum to Transform Darden Grounds
Darden Reunion Weekend also gave returning alumni the chance to witness the transformation currently underway on Grounds, notably the hotel and lifelong learning center rapidly rising in the place of the previous Inn at Darden. The new boutique hotel, which will be operated by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, is set to open in 2023. In addition to providing a comfortable place for alumni, prospective students and community members to eat and stay, the new facility will enhance Darden’s academic capabilities in a number of ways, with 11,500 square feet of new meeting space and classrooms.
The Darden School Foundation will own the Kimpton-managed facility, which will be open and ready for Darden Reunion Weekend 2023.
Next to the boutique hotel, the School is renovating Smith Alumni Hall, which will serve as the home of the Darden School Foundation and the Sands Institute for Lifelong Learning.
Additionally, a new arboretum and botanical garden is underway on Grounds adjacent to the hotel. When complete, Beardsley said the School would have “the best outdoor facility of any school,” with outdoor classrooms and various contemplative spaces for wellness.
Alumni Philanthropy Puts Campaign Milestone Within Reach
The growth and momentum at Darden has been made possible in part by the Powered By Purpose capital campaign, which Beardsley noted has almost reached its initial $400 million milestone. Coupled with matching funds from UVA and $38 million given by David Walentas (MBA ’64) in support of Darden through a gift to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, the total impact of the campaign to date has surpassed $460 million.
Before the State of the School address, alumni leaders presented the dean with a check for more than $9 million, representing the total giving from classes celebrating their Darden reunion in 2022.
“We have momentum, and we are so grateful for everything you’re doing,” said Beardsley. “Our goal is to develop purpose-driven leaders for this Commonwealth, for the United States, and for the world. We need responsible leaders. As we’ve seen in our world today, nothing more important than having great leadership.”
In addition to the State of the School address and various class engagements, Darden Reunion Weekend featured multiple faculty and alumni panels on topics such as cryptocurrency, late-career job shifts and women leaders at Darden, among others.
Other events included a graduation ceremony for the Executive MBA Class of 2020 — whose regularly scheduled graduation was made virtual by the COVID-19 pandemic — the presentation of the Abbott Award to Lem Lewis (MBA ’72), and a celebration of the life of Professor John Colley, which was held in Old Cabell Hall on the UVA Lawn.
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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