It’s just an initial step, but one that could lead to
an outsized impact.
University of Virginia Darden School of Business
is planting its flag in the global gateway of Washington, D.C., bringing
its Executive MBA to the area and laying the
groundwork for deeper engagement with the region.
The move plunges Darden into the nation’s capital region
at a dynamic time, and will ultimately take advantage of the School’s largest alumni
base, its deep ties to the government and public policy ecosystem, the region’s
entrepreneurial community, and the proximity between Darden and Washington,
D.C. It also underscores how Darden continues to foster an expansive global vision
for the School while strengthening bonds with an influential region just two
hours north of Charlottesville.
“We’re about 100 miles away from a key global gateway
and what is arguably the world center for political, social and business
thought leadership,” said Dean Scott Beardsley. “As a business school with a
charge to develop the next generation of globally minded, world-changing
leaders, it just makes sense to take advantage of this incredible good fortune
This August, a new group of Darden students will step
into the classroom for the first time, excited and nervous about the
transformational personal and professional journey on which they are about to
The class will be like many that have gone before
them, a diverse group soon to be united for life by the shared Darden
The students in this particular Executive MBA cohort
will also be unlike any section that has gone before them, however, as the
first Darden students to be based in the Washington, D.C., area, attending
classes in the Waterview building in Rosslyn, Virginia.
For Professor Ron
Wilcox, Darden’s senior associate dean for degree programs,
much of the rationale behind the expansion of the program’s reach is
straightforward: many talented people are now clustered in the Washington,
“If you think about the places in the U.S. where
talented people tend to go in disproportional amounts — places like New York
and Silicon Valley — D.C. is a big magnet,” Wilcox said. “If you believe that,
in many ways, Darden’s destiny lies in the number of talented people whose
lives we’re able to help shape, then it makes eminent sense for us to be in a
place where there are lots of talented people.”
While fully expecting to mine the deep well of talent
in the D.C. area, the program’s designers have scheduled classes in such a way
that students from nearby metropolitan areas should be able to attend monthly
Friday to Sunday residencies with limited disruption to their professional
Although establishing a physical location in the D.C.
area was a critical component, Wilcox said proximity alone was not going to be
enough to guarantee success or sufficiently advance Darden’s goals.
Indeed, Wilcox said the Executive MBA team’s
overriding charge was to “design a program that a lot of people want to take.”
To that end, the Executive MBA is being reborn in a
more customizable, global and appealing format.
Beginning with the Class of 2018, students entering
the Executive MBA will choose the D.C. area or Charlottesville, Virginia, as
their base learning location, and opt for the traditional MBA for Executives
(EMBA) or more globally intensive Global MBA for Executives
(GEMBA) track. EMBA students will pick at least one global residency, and all
students will have the opportunity to participate in an expanded list of Global
Business Experiences, Global
Consulting Projects and electives. For the first time, loans
will also be available to international students seeking to join a Darden
Taken together, the actions represent both a dramatic
expansion of the global footprint of the Executive MBA format and plant a clear
flag in the global gateway of the D.C. market.
Wilcox, who called the move to the D.C. area the
“biggest and most exciting thing” he’s been involved in during his time
shepherding the EMBA format, said he had little doubt that the move would
represent a win for both students and Darden in the short and long term.
“We are rightly protective of our MBA program and our
student experience and so we’re conservative with respect to changing any
aspect of it,” Wilcox said. “So when we get something like this that is a true,
big innovation, it’s very exciting. The students are going to love it; there’s
just no doubt in my mind.”
While Darden coming to the D.C. area in a physical
fashion is a notable culmination of years of careful study, it’s far from the
only iron in the capital region’s fire. Indeed, the ties between the School and
the area are longstanding, strong and deep.
Through the generosity of Frank
Sands Sr. (MBA ’63) and Frank
Sands Jr. (MBA ’94), Darden maintains space at the Sands
Capital Management offices in Rosslyn, nearby the Waterview classroom space, for a variety of Executive Education
programs such as the pre-MBA Darden
Business Institute. Research centers such as the Institute for Business in
Society and the Batten Institute
for Entrepreneurship and Innovation have also forged relationships
with key partners in the area. For instance:
Fairchild has also been
named associate dean for the Washington, D.C., area and
academic director of public policy and entrepreneurship. Fairchild serves as a
liaison and ambassador for Darden in the D.C. area as well as the administrator
of Darden’s Rosslyn office.
Perhaps the biggest built-in advantage for Darden’s
continued expansion can be seen via the well-worn path alumni have made from
Charlottesville to the D.C. area, as the region is the metro area with the
single largest concentration of both UVA and Darden alumni, with about 36,000
and 1,500, respectively.
Abby Ruiz de Gamboa (MBA ’04), the former co-president
of Darden’s D.C. alumni chapter and a member of the Darden Alumni Association Board
of Directors, said D.C.-area alumni congregate in large numbers for events
ranging from jazz at the National Gallery of Art to networking events with
admitted students, but avenues for additional engagement remain.
“While the D.C. chapter has always been highly engaged
with Darden, there is still more opportunity to take advantage of the strength
of our alumni base in this area,” said Ruiz de Gamboa, a partner at Deloitte. “I
think bringing the School to the area is a good starting point.”
Ruiz de Gamboa said she hoped Darden could “continue
to capitalize” on the current energy in Washington, D.C., a city that is
booming in a number of ways. The Darden grad said she had been heartened to see
new alumni interested in engaging on many fronts. This includes networking and
lifelong learning, as well as a new initiative to launch the D.C. Women’s Scholarship
Fund, which seeks to raise funds for deserving D.C.-area women and create a
“community and culture around bringing more top female talent to Darden.”
Said Ruiz de Gamboa: “People are coming out of the
woodwork who want to be engaged, and there are new opportunities for
engagement. So we have to keep making those connections.”
The opportunities for engagement seem likely to only
increase as the opportunities for Darden graduates proliferate.
Kristin Gunther (MBA ’09) came to the area with her
Darden-grad husband, Matt (MBA ’10), to work in private equity and venture
funding. The company she works for, Revolution Growth, has found ample
opportunities for investment in companies born out of the vibrant D.C.-area startup
“D.C. is a great place for young companies
to be given proximity to policymakers and access to universities, law firms, et
cetera,” said Gunther. “The addition of incubators like 1776 has raised the
profile of local startups and shows there's enough entrepreneurial energy here
to warrant a real infrastructure.”
Gunther said the expansion of Darden into
the area was a logical move for the School as it seeks to further tap the
“Most people in D.C., at least in my world, have
respect for the Darden name, but having a physical
presence here can only strengthen Darden's visibility among prospective
students and employers,” Gunther said. “I expect the move will raise the
already high bar for the Executive MBA, and that's also great for everyone.”
Learn more about Darden’s activities and upcoming events in the D.C. area.
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. 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.
Sophie ZunzDirector of Media RelationsDarden School of BusinessUniversity of VirginiaZunzS@darden.virginia.edu+1-434-924-7502
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