When you think of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, “teaching” invariably comes to mind. It is the program’s overriding focus, value proposition, and differentiator. In a world where “the customer is king,” the student – not research – stands front-and-center at Darden where the MBA teaching faculty is second to none.
However, great teaching comes with a strong dose of tough love. Think of Darden as a Socratic law school culture. Here, students will digest over 500 case studies in two years. They are expected to meticulously prepare before class – and contribute value during it. Professors deftly guide discussions with “why” and “how” questions, pulling threads that expose fallacies, illustrate challenges, and open up alternatives. In other words, Darden professors do what all great teachers do: They create an atmosphere that flushes out loners and coasters, makes lessons memorable, and pushes students to think, develop, and teach each other.
And Darden students wouldn’t have it any other way.
This approach is one key reason why Bloomberg Businessweek has consistently ranked Darden among the best business school teachers for the past 26 years. The program prepares students to better shape and pitch their ideas after graduation, while fostering a steely esprit de corps among cohorts. For Barker Squire, a United States Marine Corps Captain who started his full-time MBA program this fall, this human element makes Darden “the real deal” among business schools.
“The academics are very rigorous and the opportunities after graduation are limitless,” Squire tells Poets&Quants. “But what sets it apart from other top programs is its emphasis on human interaction. If you have spent any time in the business or military world, you know that interaction between people and teams is usually the largest determinant of success. I chose Darden because the program and the people here—students, faculty, and staff members—are committed to helping me become the best communicator, leader, and person I can be.”
Squire isn’t the only one who’s bullish about Darden’s Class of 2017. Sara Neher, assistant dean of MBA admissions, is also energized by the class’ prospects. “We’re so excited to welcome the Class of 2017 to Darden,” we wrote to Poets&Quants. “They have a wide array of talents, skills and interests, and also boast the highest number of women we’ve ever had at Darden – 35% in the full-time program. Darden thrives on diversity – of thought, of background, of opinion – and this class is sure to bring many insights to the classroom and the community.”
This year, Darden’s incoming class includes 334 students, up 10 from the Class of 2016. Along with a historic high number of women, Darden’s international student population rose from 36% to 38%, with 37 nations represented in the Class of 2017. The percentage of U.S. minorities also climbed from 16% to 17%. Overall, the GMAT and GPA scores remained steady between the 2016 and 2017 classes, with the incoming class bringing in a 706 average GMAT and a mean undergraduate GPA of 3.5.
Academically, the class includes a nice mix of poets and quants, though the poets are clearly on the rise this year. Some 30% of the incoming class earned undergraduate degrees in the humanities and social sciences, up ten percentage points from the 2016 Class. At the same time, business majors and STEM majors plummeted from 35% to 27% and 27% to 18% respectively with this year’s class, with economics majors (18%) remaining the same. The average student age remained 27.
Go to next page to access student profiles of this year’s incoming class.