Virginia’s Darden School of Business
Students must be prepared to discuss three cases per day. This means taking a night off from studying is unthinkable as they are always at risk of being cold called by a professor during class. Class time is spent discussing cases about actual business problems and coming up with potential solutions. Because of the case method, Darden is an optimal choice not only for students who want to sharpen their business skills, but for those also looking to hone their communication and oral presentation skills. Recruiters say Darden grads make for good “front office” people. People whom they can put in front of a client or in front of a customer fairly quickly after they’ve been on the job. Darden grads are also highly regarded for their ability to write and articulate ideas effectively and can be trusted to give an effective presentation to senior management.
The school also boasts a highly collaborative culture that resolves around a ritual famous at the school: First Coffee, a time when the entire Darden community is invited to the PepsiCo Forum for free coffee, tea and conversation at 9:30 a.m. every week day. All the first-year students converge there along with at least half the second-years daily and a good number of faculty and staff. When Dean Bruner is in town (he travels 150 days on behalf of the school), he’s there, too. So, while Darden students are challenged profusely, the Darden custom is for students to lift together as they climb. “We have norms and values at Darden that discourage people trying to get ahead by climbing over the backs of others. We encourage people to teach one another and to bring each other along,” Dean Bruner says.
The school is also ideal for students who don’t wish to limit themselves to a specific concentration. Unlike finance schools such as Columbia or a Wharton, Darden’s curriculum is general management allowing students to explore different facets of business without being pegged to just one discipline. Darden’s first year program and required curriculum provide students with a solid foundation in global business leadership. The integrated curriculum — wherein the same or similar cases are used in several different courses and more than one discipline — illustrates how all areas work together and influence one another. The electives in the second year of the MBA program allow students to explore new possibilities and develop more depth in chosen areas of expertise.
Latest Up-To-Date MBA Rankings:
Darden slipped one place in the Poets&Quants’ ranking in 2012 to 12th from 11, but we’re at a loss to explain why that even occurred. That’s because the school’s rank in three of the five most influential lists remained exactly the same this year, and then Darden eked out small gains in two of the 2012 rankings. In Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s 2012 ranking, the school managed to edge its way into the top ten of all U.S. full-time MBA programs. It was 11th in 2010 when BusinessWeek last ranked the full-time MBAs.
The school had a three-place rise in The Financial Times’ 2012 ranking to 17th among U.S. schools from 20th. Darden fails to perform as well in the FT survey as it should. If not for its weak showing in The Financial Times ranking, which has a clear bias in favor of European schools, Darden would in all likelihood be in the top ten of all MBA programs. One reason is because until only recently Darden had a relatively low percentage of international students. The school has now moved this up to 34% with the 2012 entering class, but only a year earlier it was 27%, among the lowest percentage of any leading U.S. business school. That’s largely because of the school’s emphasis on English language skills which are a must given the fast and furious discussions in its case study classes.
Still, with two major sources ranking Darden higher and the other three–U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and The Economist–maintaining the school’s rank, how could it slip one notch on the P&Q list? Remember this is a dynamic list. Schools moved up and down and their competitive position changes in relationship to the gains and drops of the schools around them. That seems to be the case this year.