The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business launched Business Management Training in 2004, an intense program taught at the MBA level, in partnership with the National Industries for the Blind, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating employment opportunities for Americans who are blind. The third cohort of the nearly-six-year old program will complete the fifth of five sessions next month.
A rising population of talented, capable professionals who are blind had been emerging from college and university campuses, as well as the workplace, and there was an obvious lack of business leadership training. As a result, the participant-centered Business Management Training program was developed exclusively to NIB’s specifications to provide a pool of management talent for NIB’s 85 affiliated agencies.
More than 70 percent of people who are blind in the United States are out of work, and business management careers still relatively closed to them, largely due to employers who mistakenly assume that they will not easily integrate into today’s technology-rich global business environment. The management program has attempted to combat that frustrating statistic. And it’s proving successful.
“Seventy percent of the NIB Business Management Training graduates have been promoted to higher level management positions, and three have become CEO’s of NIB-affiliated agencies,” says Tom Cross, Darden senior director of Executive Education, who helped to create this program.
Sharon Giovinazzo, who lost her eyesight through multiple sclerosis at the age of 31, has transformed her life since graduating from the program. In 2001, she was sewing linen at the Central Association for the Blind in Utica, NY, and now she is the vice president of development and community relations for the Raleigh Lions Clinic for the Blind in Raleigh, NC.
Giovinazzo recently e-mailed Cross to say, “You took risks with us and with our program, and for that, THANK YOU.”
As Cross says, “What better way to satisfy Darden’s mission of developing principled leaders for the world of practical affairs than to help NIB in developing leaders in their system of agencies?”
Founded in 1954, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business improves society by developing principled leaders in the world of practical affairs.
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