What happens when you cross unparalleled access to U.S. congressmen and defense and aerospace business leaders with the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and its approach to real-life business exploration?
You get a recipe for rich and intensive learning inside the Beltway — an experience shared by a group of Second Year MBA students looking to make their mark in areas related to business and public service.
During the three-day field elective "The Business Leader in Washington, D.C.: Defense and Aerospace," 14 full-time MBA students in the Class of 2014 joined Darden Dean Bob Bruner, Professor Alan Beckenstein and Admiral Gary Roughead, Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, for close examination of the policy impacts and key issues facing the various areas of leadership in our nation's capital.
"The level of access we received to senior policy-makers and decision-makers, from CEOs to admirals to congressmen, was unprecedented," said MBA student Ari Zamir.
Student Scott Poitevent, former explosive ordnance disposal officer for naval special operations, agrees.
"The ability to have open, candid conversations about the issues that each side is facing - congress, companies and the Pentagon - was the case method its best," Poitevent said, referring to Darden's Socratic approach to teaching using case studies, which serve as the foundation for topical learning discussions.
"Getting just one side of the conversation is a lot, but to get so many senior perspectives to come together was truly fortunate," Poitevent said.
Their experience began with a lunch discussion featuring Mitchell "Mitch" B. Waldman, corporate vice president for Government & Customer Relations at Huntington Ingalls Industries.
The day was followed with a panel discussion, which included:
- Former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott - Legislative Branch Perspective
- Former Deputy Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Paul Schneider - Executive Branch Perspective
- Managing Partner for Renaissance Strategic Advisors Pierre Chao - Policy/Think-Tank/Financial Market Perspective
- Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Ships) Allison Stiller - Current Agency/Service Perspective
Their first day ended with a keynote speech from Virginia Senator Tim Kaine during an evening reception.
"I thought the course was fantastic and made for a wonderful capstone experience to my time at Darden," said MBA student Jen Baird.
"I came to Darden for my MBA because I want to pursue a career in the public sector, and opportunities like this are exactly why Darden was such a good fit for me," she added. "I appreciate the fact that Darden is giving students an opportunity to grapple with some of the key business issues facing the U.S. today."
The group's day-two panel discussion took place at Northrop Grumman and included:
- Introduction and Northrop Grumman overview with Darryl Fraser, corporate vice president, Communications
- CFO perspective with Jim Palmer, corporate vice president and CFO
- Government relations perspective with Sid Ashworth, corporate vice president, Government Relations
- Cybersecurity perspective with Kathy Warden, corporate vice president and president, Information Systems
- CEO perspective with Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president
Bush spoke at Darden in 2011 as part of the School's Leadership Speaker Series.
Dean Krehmeyer, executive director for Darden's Institute for Business in Society (IBiS), also accompanied the group in Washington, D.C., and witnessed the value the elective course created for the students.
IBiS aims to develop leaders who positively impact society through business and convene top minds in business, industry and regulation.
"Today's business leaders operate in an increasingly complex environment," said Krehmeyer. "Engaging with highly regarded leaders from business, government and the military showed the students how understanding this context is essential to innovation and creating long-term value. Through courses like 'The Business Leader in Washington, D.C.,' Darden students are better prepared with knowledge, tools and real-world insights to successfully address policy and regulatory forces as they emerge as future leaders."
During the field elective, the students also heard from the following military, business and government professionals:
- Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary for defense policy and co-founder, former president and board member of the Center for a New America Security
- George Little, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs for the U.S. Department of Defense
- The Honorable Sean J. Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy research, development & acquisition
- Vice Admiral Hilarides, Commander NAVSEA
- Michael Bayer, president and CEO of Dumbarton Strategies LLC
"A poignant moment for me was hearing the success story from Secretary Stackley on how the military and industry were able to come together to rapidly solve a very large problem during 2006/2007," said Poitevent. "The military was sustaining a lot of casualties from IEDs, and we were able to rapidly leverage bomb-resistant technologies to develop vehicles that were bought, built and sent to the front lines inside of one year - an amazing feat for a $24 billion program."
Congressman Scott Rigell, U.S. Representative (2nd District of Virginia), met with the students at the start of day three.
The group also traveled to the Boeing Corporation, where they were able to hear from Leanne Caret, Vice President and General Manager, Vertical Lift, Boeing Military Aircraft, and Leo A. Brooks Jr., Vice President, National Security & Space Group, Boeing Government Operations.
In the afternoon, they attended a lunch discussion with Donald C. Winter, the 74th Secretary of the Navy.
Beckenstein, Bruner and Admiral Roughead debriefed with the students to end a multidimensional and lasting educational experience.
For questions or information, contact Abena Foreman-Trice 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.
Sharing via social media? Please tag us: @DardenMBA on Twitter, UVA Darden School of Business on Facebook.