Darden Business in Society Conference: Local Roots, Global Reach

 BIS Conference Logo 2014

The Darden Business in Society Conference is an annual event co-organized by the student-led Net Impact, Energy, Business & Public Policy, Healthcare, Education, and Emerging Markets Development Clubs, with support from the Institute for Business in Society

The Business in Society conference aims to bring together a diverse audience of students, community members and business leaders to discuss the role of business in providing lasting value in an increasingly complex global society.

This year, the theme of "Local Roots, Global Reach" aims to explore the convergence of local and global players in impacting society through business solutions.  Sessions will explore how local actors can produce big wins and how big players can drive local change.  The conference will feature a broad collection of panelists and speakers from the public, private, and non-profit sectors.


Please register for the conference by clicking here and filling out the registration form. Registrants will be sent calendar invites and additional conference information. 

Keynote Speaker

We are honored to have Katherine Neebe (Darden ‘04) as this year’s keynote speaker.

K NeebeKatherine serves as the Director for Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement at Walmart.Katherine joined Walmart's sustainability team in June 2013 and leads Walmart’s external stakeholder relationships, focused on key eNGO partnerships. In addition, she manages and responds to emerging environmental issues for the company.

Prior to Walmart, Katherine spent six years at WWF managing one of the world’s largest corporate-NGO partnerships, a $97MM sustainability-driven initiative with The Coca-Cola Company focused on water. Work addressed river basin conservation, water and energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture and packaging. In 2011, the effort expanded to include a cause-marketing platform directed towards polar bear conservation. Work is active in 49 countries.

Over the past 16 years, Katherine has worked with a wide range of corporate, government and nonprofit organizations. Weaving together her intensive business experience and commitment to social and environmental responsibility, she brings a practical ability to ground sustainability into actionable terms. Katherine received her MBA from The Darden School at UVa in 2004 and has a BA in English from Colorado College.


Friday, February 14:  

  • 9:00-9:30 a.m. - Breakfast (available outside Abbott Auditorium)
  • 9:30-10:30 a.m. - Welcome and Keynote Address
  • 10:30-11:00 a.m. - Coffee/Networking
  • 11:00-11:45 a.m. - Session 1: "Are Renewables Do-Able?"
  • 11:45-12:15 p.m. - Break/Lunch
  • 12:15-1:00 p.m. - Session 2: "Unlocking Technology Potential for Social Impact"
  • 1:00-1:15 p.m. - Break
  • 1:15-2:00 p.m. - Session 3: "Scaling Small Business Impact"
  • 2:00-2:15 p.m. - Break
  • 2:15-3:00 p.m. - Session 4: "The Local Role of Large Companies"
  • 3:00 p.m. - Closing

***Speaker Bios  

***Contact Christine Dreas with any Conference questions.


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Session Info

Session 1

11:00 - 11:45 a.m.

Abbott Auditorium 

“Are Renewables Do-Able?”

Currently, renewable energy accounts for ~8% of US energy consumption. This session will take a deep dive into the future of renewables. Stakeholders will engage in a debate on the benefits and costs of renewable energy for local communities, as well as whether renewable institutions can survive without government subsidies and support. What financing is required to make renewables do-able? What policy changes are required to make renewables feasible?

Moderator: David Slutzky, President, Fermata LLC

Session Participants:

  • Robert M. "Bob"Blue (Darden EMBA ’08), President, Dominion Virginia Power
  • Patrick Sullivan (Darden MBA '06), Senior Director of Business Development, NRG Solar

Session 2

12:15 - 1:00 p.m.

Classroom 50

“Unlocking Technology Potential for Social Impact”

In a time of constant technology advancements, technology allows organizations to vastly extend delivery of their services to underserved communities with limited resources. In this panel, experts from the healthcare and education fields will share their experiences with using technology to build a larger footprint for social impact. They will share their insights and their challenges in implementing technological solutions to community problems. They will also discuss the limitations of incorporating technology in our neediest communities.

Moderator: Michael Lenox, Darden Professor, Associate Dean & Executive Director of the Batten Institute

Session Participants:

  • David Cattell-Gordon, Director, Office of Telemedicine, UVa Health System
  • Kristin Palmer, Director of Online Education, University of Virginia

Session 3

1:15 - 2:00 p.m.

Classroom 50  


 “Scaling Small Business Impact”  

50% of people in this country work for small businesses. Just like large businesses, small businesses need to consider a variety of stakeholders. In our local community, these players are working with customers, financial backers, nonprofits, and elected officials to boost economic development. During this session, hear our panelists draw upon their mix of experiences and backgrounds as we discuss how businesses (especially small businesses) engage with the community as a stakeholder in their businesses, as well as how local businesses are central to economic development and community vitality. Big questions include how to think about the impact of an individual business on a larger scale and how businesses can be part of solving systemic social problems.

Moderator: Bidhan "Bobby" Parmar, Assistant Professor, Darden School of Business

Session Participants: 

  • Dave Fafara, Owner of Shenandoah Joe Coffee Roasters and Espresso Bar
  • Ridge Schuyler, Founder of the Charlottesville Works Initiative
  • Casey Gerald, CEO of MBAs Across America

Session 4

2:15 - 3:00 p.m.

Classroom 50

“The Local Role of Large Companies”

Small businesses are the heartbeat of our communities.  They're the corner stores that create jobs.  The hardware stores that help build the economy.  And the mom and pop shops whose very presence makes a neighborhood, your neighborhood.  Created by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses nationwide.

In this session, learn how American Express helped create one small day that has grown into a movement to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country.

 Session Participants:

  • Katie Washington, Director of Small Business Saturday & Shop Small, American Express OPEN
  • Liz Putze (Darden MBA ’13), Manager of Small Business Saturday & Shop Small, American Express OPEN


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