Plugging Into Silicon Valley: Darden Forges Relationships With Players in Tech


Representatives of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business returned recently from a visit to Silicon Valley - the School's third trek to visit U.S. hubs of technology in 12 months.

The Tech Treks are a key component of Darden's increasingly stronger relationships with the tech industry and its position as a thought leader of entrepreneurship and innovation.  Given the rapid pace of change in technology and its leading players, Darden faculty members stay close to alumni and practitioners in the industry and develop new courses, cases and research on the issues they face.

A significant portion of the June trip to Silicon Valley focused on education. Vivek Wadhwa, vice president of innovations and research at Singularity University, discussed with the group the evolution of technology and its effect on education. Wadhwa was recently recognized by Time magazine in its list of the most influential minds in tech. By using examples, such as the innovative Google car and emerging drone technology, Wadhwa emphasized how technological innovations will be used to solve many world problems - such as energy crises, poverty, pollution and global warming - within our collective lifetimes. Technology will also have a major impact on education.

The exponential rate of change in technology offers great opportunity for Darden students to deliver immediate impact in the field and for Darden faculty to share their expertise in strategy, design thinking, business ethics and entrepreneurship. Darden's Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation seeks to improve society by creating knowledge about the transformative power of entrepreneurship and innovation and by cultivating responsible, entrepreneurial leaders. Its executive director, Mike Lenox, will spend a month on the West Coast this summer, working with Stanford, connecting with Darden alumni in the Bay Area and working with tech companies.

Everette Fortner, Darden's executive director for professional development, stresses that it is important to establish strong partnerships with big and small companies in Silicon Valley, as they are thought leaders and places of interest for Darden students and faculty.

Several Darden faculty, including Senior Associate Dean for Executive Education Erika James and Professors Martin Davidson and Ed Hess, joined Fortner on the June trip.  "Faculty are key to the long-term vitality of our relationships with corporations. Our alumni are our on-the-ground advocates every day inside their companies. All these efforts combine to make a real difference," said Fortner.

"A dinner hosted by Centerview Capital Partner Ned Hooper (MBA `94), member of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, provided the opportunity for Darden Dean Bob Bruner, senior Silicon Valley alumni, and other School leaders to discuss Darden's West Coast initiatives and plan activities over the next year - expanding recruiting relationships with technology companies and enhancing the current incubator relationship with Plug & Play - that will provide the opportunity for students and faculty to engage directly in the Silicon Valley ecosystem," said Locke Ogens, executive director for strategic relations. "This targeted strategic engagement will allow the School to develop significant new relationships and also allow for regular and meaningful interaction with existing Darden alumni and supporters on the West Coast."

Fortner believes networking is the greatest challenge for nontraditional MBA students, who pursue careers outside of areas MBA graduates frequently enter, such as consulting, investment banking or traditional corporate jobs. "To get jobs in technology, the students must make themselves known to our alumni and to the companies," he said. "With help from the Darden Career Development Center, students must create multiple opportunities to visit the West Coast over their two-year experience at Darden so that they can demonstrate their knowledge and passion."

For students interested in working in the field of technology,  Everette Fortner and Peter Rodriguez, senior associate dean of MBA programs, are brainstorming about the possibility of leading a for-credit group of Darden students to Silicon Valley next spring break. In hopes for a "domestic" business exchange, modeled after Darden's Global Business Experiences, the trip will focus on technology on the West Coast.

"The sky is the limit for the outcomes that can occur through the relationships forged between Silicon Valley and Darden," Fortner concluded.   

For questions or information, contact Matt Charles at or a member of the Communication team.    

About the Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the world's leading business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. The unique Darden experience combines the case study method, top-ranked faculty whose research advances global managerial practice and business education, and a tight-knit learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who are ready to make an impact.

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