Darden Business Essentials - Washington DC Area

  • Learn how Darden Business Essentials (formerly Darden Business Institute) is helping young professionals get ahead in their careers.

  • Darden Business Essentials, offered in the Washington, D.C., area, is designed to introduce you to business fundamentals in the functional areas of Accounting, Finance, Operations and Marketing. Whether you are thinking about getting an MBA and would like an introduction to business school, or you need real-world business skills that can be adapted to fit current career needs, this eight-week online and in-person hybrid course is a perfect option for you to learn without putting your life on hold.

    Please note, this program is not Darden Before Darden, a course for accepted Darden MBA students. If you are an accepted student looking for information about Darden Before Darden, please contact Wendy Huber at 434-243-8423. 

  • At a Glance

    No matter which industry you work in, a firm knowledge of key business practices and general skills is required in order to work effectively in cross-functional teams, as well as advance your own career. This program provides a fast-paced and state-of-the-art introduction to the business disciplines and tools that are being applied across a wide variety of the world's leading companies.  And because participants are drawn from many different types of businesses and organizations, the course represents an important professional networking opportunity. 

    The Darden Business Essentials program is taught by the Darden School of Business faculty, each of whom teaches in our MBA program.  Because of this, it represents a unique opportunity to "try it before you buy it" for those considering a future MBA education.

    This program is a great introduction to the topics and cases you can expect to see in an MBA program and it was one of the best learning experiences for me.

    Sanchay Gupta, Associate Software Engineer, Capital One

    Every class is taught by Darden's world-leading faculty and uses cases straight from the MBA program. There's no better way to get a quick introduction to business school.

    Kyle Davis, Marketing & Communications Manager, X-energy

    The professors were extremely knowledgeable and provided a very engaging and thorough review of the many potential tracts in an MBA program.

    Jessica James, Business Analyst, Fiber Supply, Enviva

    It was a top-notch experience. The professors are incredible. I would highly recommend it.

    Tara Cappel, Founder, FTLO Travel

    Schedule & Topics

    Course Overview

    Specific topics for each functional business area will include:

    • Accounting: The Language of Financial Position and Performance -  Learn the language that underpins the communication of the financial position and performance for any organization. Students will be exposed to the ways that accounting permeates through an organization to help communicate, incentivize and monitor stakeholders both in and out of an organization.  Whether shareholders, lenders, employees, suppliers, consumers or regulatory bodies, accounting is the common means of communication.  Students will explore how the common language varies to provide financial, managerial and tax information to its constituents.
    • Financial Performance Analysis -  Every investor wants higher returns, but those assets that generate higher expected returns, are also riskier on average.  As a result, understanding the risk and return of financial assets is essential to the investment process.  This module will help students to develop the tools necessary to properly assess investment performance of a financial asset and the risk that is associated with investing in that asset.
    • Portfolio Theory and Investing -  The old adage, "don't put all of your eggs in one basket", is as simple as it is profound.  It is also the key insight behind modern portfolio theory.  By spreading their investments across different stocks, bonds and other asset classes, investors can enhance their return while minimizing their risk.  This module will help students explore modern portfolio theory and the process of identifying 'optimal investment portfolios', namely those with the highest expected return for a given level of risk.
    • Branding -  Developing and sustaining strong brands is a focal marketing activity, often impacting the direction and financial performance of the entire company.  We will explore how strong brands are built and maintained over time and how branding informs and interacts with the larger strategic goals of the company.
    • Pricing -  How to set the price of a product or service is one of the most important decisions in Marketing. The profit implications of this decision are often immediate, obvious and can make the difference between a business that succeeds and one that fails. Pricing inherently involves considering ideas that have their roots in mathematics, economics and psychology. We will learn mathematical, economic and psychological tools that allow us to analyze a business situation and recommend an appropriate pricing strategy.
    • Process Analysis and Improvement -  Processes are the underlying activities by which companies use resources to create and deliver value to stakeholders.  In this module, students will be exposed to the basic tools for analyzing and improving any business process including value mapping, capacity analysis, resource allocation, bottleneck analysis, and performance measurement.  We will learn best practices and tools that are widely used to continuously improve both service and manufacturing processes through iterative improvement and innovation.
    • Supply Chain Management -  In this module, we will move beyond managing processes at an individual companies to coordinating processes across companies.  A crucial insight is that companies cannot operate successfully without taking a network perspective of the value creation and delivery process.  Students will be exposed to leading models for managing production and/or service delivery including make-to-order vs. make-to-stock strategies, inventory management, and supply and distribution channel coordination.

    Course Format

    The online portion of the course will take place on Monday evenings at 6:30pm and are expected to be 1 to 1.5 hours. The weekly in-person sessions, located in the Washington D.C. area, will take place on Thursday evenings from 6:30 - 9:30pm. Specific schedule will be set as each session runs.


      Ron Wilcox

      Faculty Lead; New Market Corporation Professor of Business Administration; Associate Dean, MBA for Executives
      Named one of the "World's Best B-School Professors" by Poets & Quants in 2012, Wilcox has been teaching in Darden's Marketing area since 2001. A former economist for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Wilcox is known for his expertise in marketing financial services and its interface with public policy. His research has appeared in numerous publications, including  The Wall Street Journal,Bloomberg Businessweek  and  Forbes.

      Raul Chao

      Associate Professor of Business Administration

      Raul Chao is a Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business, where he teaches operations management, innovation and new product development courses. Raul's research is focused on helping entrepreneurial ventures and established companies manage innovation and new product development processes. Raul serves as an advisor to numerous early-stage ventures. He recently co-founded and sold Lumi Juice, a beverage startup in the organic cold-pressed juice market. Much of Raul's research and teaching is based on fieldwork and case studies conducted at companies such as 3M, Microsoft, Whirlpool and Lockheed Martin, among others.

      Richard Evans

      Associate Professor of Business Administration

      Associate Professor Richard Evans' research deals broadly with investment decisions. His current research projects explore risk taking on the part of mutual fund managers, the role of broker intermediation in mutual fund investing and the impact of commission bundling and other trading costs on portfolio performance. His research has been published in the Journal of Finance, the  Journal of Financial Economics and the  Review of Financial Studies and cited by the  New York TimesWall Street JournalThe Economist and  Forbes magazine. He has presented his research to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Social Security Administration and the American Finance Association. Evans has also taught executive education courses for investment professionals from Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Citizens Bank and he is the advisor to Darden Capital Management, Darden's student run investment funds.

      Mary Margaret Frank

      Associate Professor of Business Administration; Institute for Business in Society Academic Director

      Associate Professor of Business Administration Mary Margaret Frank teaches in the Accounting area at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Frank is an academic director for Darden's Institute for Business in Society (IBiS). Her current research focuses on the effects of regulated disclosure on the strategy of corporate management, investors and entrepreneurs. Her interest in regulated disclosure focuses on financial accounting, tax and patent reporting. Additional academic interests include the integration of business principles and public policy objectives and public-private partnerships.


      This course is ideal for early career professionals who don't have a strong business background, but want to advance their careers. Taught by Darden School of Business faculty who will be utilizing some of the same case studies taught in the full-time MBA program, Darden Business Essentials will provide an exceptional glimpse into business school for those who are considering pursuing an MBA.


      Weekly in-person sessions will take place Thursday evenings from 6:30-9:30pm at:

      Sands Capital Management 
      1000 Wilson Boulevard
      Arlington, Virginia 22209

      Online sessions will take place on Monday evenings at 6:30pm and should last 1-1.5 hours.




      What makes Darden Business Essentials Different from other pre-MBA programs?

      • Classes are taught by the same faculty who teach in our full-time residential program.
      • The material is selected to correspond to topics covered in the Darden MBA program. In that sense, it is a preview of what you would experience in our MBA program.
      • Our faculty come to you in the Washington, D.C., area to make this program convenient for your work and your life.

      How do I know if this program is right for me or if I am ready to apply to a full-time MBA program?
      Click here to read a related article from Darden Admissions.

      How should I list Darden Business Essentials on my resume of LinkedIn profile?

      Darden Business Essentials I  Darden School of Business
      Fall 2016 

      Darden Business Essentials is an 8-week program provided by the Darden Foundation on business fundamentals in the functional areas of Accounting, Finance, Operations and Marketing. The program is designed and taught by the top-ranked Darden faculty who teach in the full-time residential MBA program and material selected corresponds to cases covered in the Darden MBA program. 

      For additional FAQs and more information, please review our FAQ/Policies and Procedures.