MBA Elective Highlights

Darden has over 100 elective offerings, more per student than almost any other business school. Below you can learn about some of these unique and innovative MBA courses:


Darden Consulting Projects

Consulting projects are for-credit projects in which teams of one to five students under the direction of a faculty advisor work to assist a client organization in resolving a set of demanding business issues. Consulting projects offer a learning experience in specific areas that range from helping the client arrive at an appropriate problem definition to conducting high-level meetings with the client. 

Darden Venturing Projects

Venturing projects are for-credit projects that challenge students to develop their own business ideas into a proposal and business plan under the direction of a faculty advisor. These projects normally require an analysis of the feasibility of the business and the development of a plan for the business' development and funding.

Global Business Experiences

Global Business Experiences (GBEs) are one- to two-week courses that take place outside of the United States in March and May. Based on a unifying theme, each course includes classes and practitioner presentations as well as visits to companies, governmental agencies and cultural sites. The GBEs in Brazil, Argentina, Sweden and Turkey also include hands-on consulting with companies in those countries.

Global Field Experiences

Global Field Experiences are MBA electives that give small teams of students the opportunity to provide consulting services to an international company or organization while working closely with a Darden faculty member over the course of a quarter or semester. At the beginning or end of each course, students visit the company on location to build on-the-ground knowledge and scope the issue at hand. Learn about other global MBA opportunities.

Hot Topics in Finance, Marketing & Technology

Three very popular courses in the Second Year are "Hot Topics in Finance," "Hot Topics in Marketing," and "Emerging Topics in Technology and Operations Management." These classes bring in industry experts (typically Darden alumni with over 15 years of experience) to discuss current issues in their companies or in the industry at large. The structure of the course is uniquely designed each time the class is offered in order to ensure the relevancy of the content to current and pressing business issues.

Reading Seminars in Management

Several small reading seminars are offered to expose students to a wide range of ideas about the practices of management.

University-of-Virginia-LawnOne of the most popular reading seminars meets in a pavilion on the University of Virginia’s historic Lawn and examines the life work of Thomas Jefferson. Students in the class study the many roles Thomas Jefferson played in the founding of our country and the parallels of the challenges he faced to business issues today. Learn more.

Examples of other reading seminars include:

Markets in Human Hope

The "Markets in Human Hope" elective explores audacious innovations in business and markets as viable tools in promoting human development and transforming societies. Students are asked to come up with private sector solutions for long-standing social dilemmas, such as lack of credit. Throughout the course of a year, students create products, services, business methods, financial instruments and/or market-based systems that address the socioeconomic and structural challenges faced by the underserved and disadvantaged.

Innovation and Design Experience

The "Innovation and Design Experience" course examines how design thinking and innovation principles can be used to enhance the value and accelerate the development of business opportunities that deliver organic growth. Students apply design methodologies and innovation tools in a live, corporate project, working closely with a client company with a real problem to solve. Students learn how to employ a business-design framework that includes: identifying new business opportunities based on market needs; designing and testing breakthrough concepts; and developing a viable business strategy and multifunctional operating model.

Global Economics of Water

The new “Global Economics of Water” course will explore sustainability through the lens of water and economics. Students will consider a number of questions, including: How does globalization interact with water availability? How does water use interlock with sustainable development? How can water be managed more efficiently, and what challenges do firms face in this respect? Is there a role for water markets?

Leadership & Theatre: Ethics, Innovation & Creativity

Darden’s “Leadership & Theater: Ethics, Innovation, and Creativity” course is centered around the idea that the job of a theater director is similar to that of a CEO, and each class culminates in a full-length play written, directed and performed by all of the members of the class. While you may not initially see the relevancy of business leadership to theater, there are numerous connections as you will see by watching this video about the course:

Developing New Products and Services

"Developing New Products and Services" is an action-oriented course that takes students through the key steps involved in developing a new product or service. The learning process is highly experiential as students work in groups to develop a viable new product or service via a hands-on team project. Each team of students will identify market (user) needs, develop alternative product or service concepts to meet those needs, flesh out the concepts through a process of iterative design and prototyping, and examine product/service economics. Final working prototypes are presented at a design fair open to the media, product development practitioners, design and innovation experts, potential investors, and members of the University of Virginia community.

Faith, Religion, and Responsible Management Behavior

The "Faith, Religion, and Responsible Management Behavior" course is designed to explore what it means to be a person of faith and how that relates to how one should live, particularly in business. Students will look at this core question from the standpoint of three different religious traditions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Themes explored include: How does faith speak to who I am and what it means to be me? What does faith say about my approach to work and how does this relate to my life at home? To what extent does faith influence my vision of leadership and how I make decisions? To what extent is it appropriate for religion to influence company mission and culture? What kinds of business behaviors and activities are specifically ruled out or required by a faith tradition?

Business and Sustainability

This course is intended to provide students with a comprehensive conceptual and applied understanding of the sustainability challenges and opportunities facing corporations on a global scale with primary emphasis on environmental sustainability. This course examines some of the major factors that are contributing to the adoption of sustainability strategies as a means of gaining future competitive advantage by a number of global industry leaders. Learn more by watching the following video about the course:

Creative Capitalism

This course examines the process of creating value for multiple stakeholders and focuses on business models that “make a difference” by combining traditional value for financiers with the broader concept of value for stakeholders. Students examine the initial feasibility of a new business idea that rests on the conceptual frames of the course. Learn more by watching the following video about the elective:

Leadership Ride: Lessons in Leadership

This course explores leadership by studying the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. The evolving strategies, command structures, and battlefield decisions of the Battle of Gettysburg contain enduring messages for thinking about leadership, teamwork and decision making. Through traditional class sessions, seminar-style discussions and through an intensive field experience at the Gettysburg Battlefield, this course compares leadership styles, systems of authority and reactions to the ever-changing conditions on the battlefield. The battlefield tour is accompanied by US Marine Corps faculty and staff guides who specialize in leadership and strategy during the Gettysburg engagement. Learn more by reading this student blog post about the course: "Cold, Wet, Windy & Worth It: The Gettysburg Leadership Ride."

Valuing Inclusion and Diversity Field Expedition Elective

In partnership with the National Outdoors Leadership School (NOLS), this one-week backpacking course in the Galiuro Mountains of Arizona develops students’ leadership skills through experiential learning, with special emphasis on topics related to inclusion and diversity. The expedition includes significant technical and environmental challenges while pursuing expedition goals. Curriculum delivery concentrates on situational leadership skills applicable to school, business and social lives. This elective is part of a series of pilot courses that vary from year to year.

The Business Leader in Washington: Defense

This pilot course seeks to draw on the immense resources of the D.C. region to explore the business challenges faced by defense contractors in the context of government austerity and the sequester. The course will include meeting with senior executives in the defense industry, the Pentagon and Congress.


To learn more, visit Darden’s Curriculum Elective Areas.

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