2012 Annual Report, U.Va. Office of the President

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Reinventing the curriculum

Making Every Minute Count

At the Darden School, innovation is not a one-time process. As Robert Conroy, the J. Harvie Wilkinson, Jr., Professor of Business Administration and associate dean for Darden’s full-time MBA program, points out, “We are continuously looking for ways to heighten the relevancy and immediacy of the Darden experience, adapting to a changing business world, a changing student body, and a changing competitive outlook for business education.”

Darden has recently taken steps that not only increase the relevancy of its curriculum but also better align the three curricular, cocurricular, and career elements of the Darden experience. The school began by revamping the governance of its full-time MBA program. Now student services and career development administrators have a voice along with faculty members in deliberations about the program.

Darden also revised its schedule, eliminating conflicts that forced students to choose between curricular, cocurricular, and career activities. The new schedule now divides the school year into five terms, reserving Fridays for seminars with visiting executives and club events while adding weeks in winter and spring that students can dedicate to interviews and an international experience.

The school moved from a management training model of education, which emphasizes the transmission of knowledge, to a management development model, which focuses on competencies. This shift has involved curriculum changes: for example, rearranging course sequences so that core mastery in topics like finance, accounting, marketing, and ethics are delivered sooner in the first year.

Darden is also developing a series of programs that help students assess their own competencies and identify opportunities at Darden to strengthen areas that they have targeted for improvement. “We want to help students take a more purposeful journey through Darden,” Conroy said.

In addition, Darden is launching pilot programs that intensify the experiential part of the experience.

“As a school, we are committed to continuous innovation, because it’s the way we provide the most value-added experience for our students,” Conroy said.