7: Darden Graduate School of Business Administration

General Information | M. B. A. Program | Joint Degree Programs
Doctoral Program | Student Life | School Regulations | Course Descriptions | Faculty

Admission | Financial Assistance | M.B.A. Academic Program | Academic Regulations

M.B.A. Academic Program

The Darden School two-year program leading to a degree of Master of Business Administration prepares men and women of high promise to act with determination, judgment, and integrity in responsible positions of leadership. This objective is achieved through a uniquely integrated program that provides an understanding of the fundamental areas of business while it develops the capacity to analyze managerial problems and present intelligent and resourceful solutions to these problems. Through the study of real business situations, the student is involved in a breadth and depth of analysis impossible to gain in years of on-the-job training. The M.B.A. Program compresses experience.

The Darden case-method approach places responsibility for self-development on the individual student. The content and methodology of the M.B.A. Program are carefully planned and coordinated by the faculty, but the students themselves determine the quality of the learning process in the classroom through their preparation and participation. The program is effective to the extent that both faculty and students share a commitment to make it work. The Darden School accepts as an essential function the goal of making clear to students their moral responsibilities as administrators, particularly those obligations to the business community and society at large. The School’s concern with moral values continues the ethical tradition of the University of Virginia as expressed in the Honor System.

The Case Method   Darden students learn by doing; they develop their decision-making skills daily in the case method. Each case presents a real manager with a real decision to make. Included in the case is information on the company and the environment in which it operates. Each case poses the same question: What would you do? Students are expected to define the issues they identify in the case, use sound analytical techniques in applying their knowledge to the available data, evaluate the alternatives, make a reasonable decision, and recommend measures to implement their plan. The procedure simulates the function of modern managers in a wide variety of different industries, products, processes, and styles of management.

At the Darden School, the learning process depends on the intense, daily preparation of each case by each student. Classroom time is spent largely in discussion, focusing on the definition, analysis, and a wide range of feasible approaches to a problem. To attain academic and personal growth in this environment, the student is required to participate in case discussions. During the first year, classes are limited to about 60 students to facilitate meaningful participation by all the members of the class. Courses in the second year vary in size, but case discussion is still the chief learning experience. The cases themselves are part of a planned sequence, and the growth that each student achieves is a result of the total experience, not of learning isolated techniques.

While the case-method philosophy dominates the program, other methodologies are used to provide as complete a reflection of reality as possible—role-playing, simulations, field trips, guest lecturers, and exercises of various sorts. The Darden School educational experience blends managerial reality with substantive knowledge and techniques of analysis to equip students to act confidently in a complex world.

Curriculum   All of the first-year and approximately 15 percent of the second-year courses are required; no credit is granted for previous course work, and no courses are waived. These courses are fully coordinated into a single program that becomes more than the sum of its parts. While the courses are formally distinct as outlined in this catalog, each one contributes more than the basic knowledge of a narrow specialty; it provides an opportunity to use and expand on knowledge gained in each of the other courses. For example, the problem of determining cost information for a particular product would normally arise in the study of accounting, but this information has important significance for marketing, for operations management, and for the interpersonal relations between people in these areas. The significance of the accounting decision for each function would be treated in accounting; but what might well be a satisfactory solution from the accounting standpoint alone will be modified in the light of its effect in other areas, and it is this modified solution that the program strives to reach, since it is the one most likely to work in a real-life situation.

The result of this program is a comprehensive, integrated view of business. M.B.A. students from the Darden School are expected to use their elective courses to provide depth in the general areas that reflect their career interests.

Graduates of the Darden School will also be well informed and conversant with the current thinking in the traditional functional areas of business; they will be able to use the quantitative methods of the modern business environment; they will understand business applications of the behavioral sciences; and they will have a command of oral and written communication.

With their knowledge and experience of the integrated curriculum, the graduates are qualified to assume leadership in the world of practical affairs at a more rapid pace than would be possible otherwise. They are better equipped to think analytically and imaginatively, to solve problems, and to make things happen, because they understand both the modern techniques and the broad environment of business nationally and internationally.

The First Year   Although the course descriptions that follow suggest a first year of study consisting of a number of independent offerings, the Darden School’s first-year curriculum is unique in its blending of these ingredients into a program with a purpose and vitality of its own. The emphasis here is on “program.” In a very real sense, Darden M.B.A.s are engaged during their first year in a nine-month course in the elements of managerial problem solving and decision making—a course that encompasses a knowledge of analytical techniques, an understanding of the several functional areas of business and their interrelationships, and an appreciation of the environment in which business functions. The different courses are so integrated that the many skills and attributes of business management are developed simultaneously.

The course of study assumes little background in formal business education; much of the entering student’s initial exposure will acquaint him or her with the vocabulary and concepts of business—accounting, communications, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, quantitative analysis, ethics, operations, macroeconomics, and information technology.

From the very outset, however, the attempt is made to show interrelationships among subject areas, to apply concepts that are dealt with in related courses, and to teach more efficiently by avoiding curricular compartmentalization. Many of the analytical techniques taught by Quantitative Analysis, for example, will be used immediately by students who face managerial decisions in Operations.

Class schedules reflect particular emphases during the academic year. During weeks in which Quantitative Analysis and Operations meet frequently, Marketing may not meet at all. In later weeks all courses may meet. Still later the emphasis may be on Marketing and Organizational Behavior, with no class meetings in Accounting. Such flexibility in scheduling supports and emphasizes the conceptual flow of the first-year program.

To ensure that the first-year program is integrated in such a way that relevant material from the various course areas is considered in the best possible sequence, the first-year curriculum is taught as a complete session rather than in two separate semesters. Under the session system, no semester grades are recorded; only an unofficial indication of current faculty evaluation is given to each student at the time of the normal semester break. Formal grades are determined at the end of the nine-month session, by which time the faculty should have a clear picture, based on the complete first-year experience of the student’s ability to cope with business problems.

The M.B.A. Schedule   According to the traditional academic format, the first-year program may be said to contain 45 credits, to be divided among the following courses:
Business and the Political Economy
Management Communications
Organizational Behavior
Quantitative Analysis

Some courses meet more often than others during the academic year, but all have equal weight for grading purposes.

All graduate business schools promise a challenging program and a rigorous work load; the Darden School is no exception. We advise potential students to be prepared to commit to their academic endeavors 60 to 80 hours each week. The following first year schedule is intended as an example only. However, it does indicate the degree of commitment expected of our students.

8:00 - 9:25First Class
9:25 - 10:00Coffee
9:50 - 11:25Second Class
11:45 - 1:10Third Class
AfternoonPrepare cases for next day.
EveningMeet with learning teams
At the beginning of the year, students are assigned to learning teams of five or six students per group. Teams are fluid and usually change somewhat during the year because of geographic location of members, friendships and other factors. The purpose of the learning teams is to give each member a chance to “try out” ideas on a case before presenting them in class and to give or receive help as needed. Teams meet at the School or in the homes of members. Some students choose not to participate in the learning teams, but most find them rewarding.

The Second Year   Second-year students at The Darden School work toward three objectives: (1) synthesis of the first year material into a general management perspective; (2) deepening of experience in the areas of concentration in which they expect to work; and (3) making the transition between classwork and business experience.

While the second-year curriculum is an extension and elaboration of the structurally integrated first year, it allows flexibility in the selection of elective courses. That flexibility can be used to develop depth in functional expertise or breadth in general management perspective.

All second-year students also pursue a business project.

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