How Darden Is Putting Charlottesville’s Protest Behind It

“I’m a believer in silver linings, says Dean Scott Beardsley of the Darden School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

When Scott Beardsley was a first-year MBA student at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he applied for and was rejected by eight different consulting firms for a summer internship.

Undaunted, the 25-year-old Beardsley earned from the MIT faculty a fortuitous consolation prize: He became the student editor of the Sloan Management Review. Over his last year at Sloan, he was in a position to review the essays by the partners of many of the firms that had turned him down.

“I’m a believer in silver linings,” says Beardsley, who joined McKinsey & Co. in 1989 with his Sloan MBA and spent 26 years at the global consulting firm, becoming one of the fastest ever to be elected to senior partner. After those earlier eight rejections in difficult case interviews, Beardsley smiles, “I saw the curve ball and knew how to hit it.”

THROWN A NEW CURVE 26 MONTHS INTO HIS DEANSHIP

Now, two years into his deanship at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, Beardsley has been thrown yet another curve, as wicked as one unleashed by pitching ace Clayton Kershaw: The violent August protests in Charlottesville by white supremacists that made headlines all over the globe.

Even though the protesters came in from out of town and even though it was a random event in a place known for its progressive values, the incident is having a predictable impact on early applications to both the wider university and its business school.

For international students, who have little understanding of American politics and protests, it has been enough to scare off many who might have had the highly ranked Darden on their target lists. For underrepresented minorities and Jews in the U.S., the torchlight procession and racist chants on the university’s grounds—meant to evoke marches of Hitler Youth—may well be hard to erase.

‘WE HAVE A TOUGH TWO YEARS AHEAD BUT I’M GOING TO FIGHT FOR AND ENJOY THE COMEBACK’

Beardsley recalls that after the terrorist attack at the Brussels airport in March 2016, fearful tourists steered clear of Belgium. Tourism plunged, with Brussel’s main shopping district, Rue de Neuve, became eerily empty of people for months.

“It has taken nearly two years for Brussels to bounce back,” says Beardsley, who had worked for McKinsey in Belgium before taking the job as Darden dean in August of 2015. “We might have a tough two years to get through this in admissions,” he concedes. “But I’m going to fight for and enjoy the comeback.”

Beardsley is a firm believer in the famous Winston Churchill retort that one should “never let a good crisis go to waste.” So he has been working overtime to fight the mistaken notion that Charlottesville is unsafe and unwelcoming. He is rallying the school’s stakeholders, from current students to alumni, to reach out and spread the good word about the school and the quintessential college town that is nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.

’20 INCREDIBLE REASONS TO GO TO DARDEN FOR YOUR MBA’

Since arriving at Darden, the dean has compiled a list of “20 incredible reasons” for students to come to Charlottesville for an MBA and among them are highly favorable factoids about life in this small city just two hours from Washington, D.C. Charlottesville, he points out, has been voted the happiest city to live in the U.S., the best town in America to live, the best place for foodies, and the top U.S. college town.

Though Beardsley confides that he finds rankings “annoying,” he proudly ticks off a series of accolades given to Darden’s MBA program from an array of recent ranking lists. They range from having the most satisfied students (Forbes) and the best educational experience (The Economist) to the best career placement of any Top 20 business school (U.S. News) to the best general management program (The Financial Times).

Nonetheless, round one applications are down, and Beardsley is concerned enough to acknowledge that the negative publicity is nothing less than a full-blown crisis for the school. In fact, for a highly selective MBA program with the best teaching faculty in the world, the crisis represents an extraordinary opportunity for savvy applicants who would likely face less competition for a seat in next year’s class.

DEAN SCOTT BEARDSLEY’S 20 INCREDIBLE REASONS TO GET AN MBA AT DARDEN
1. No. 1: Most Satisfied Students (Forbes, 2015-16)
2. No. 1: Best Career Placement Of Top 20 B-Schools (U.S. News, 2017)
3. No. 1: Personal Development & Educational Experience (The Economist, 2012-2015)
4. No. 1: Best Education Experience (The Economist, 2011-2016)
5. No. 1: Facilities (Financial Times, 2015-2017)
6. No. 1: General Management Program (Financial Times, 2012-2017)
7. No. 1: Faculty (Financial Times, 2014-2017)
8. No. 1: Leading MBA Program In The Field Of Business Ethics (Business & Society, 2011-2012)
9. No. 3: MBA Global Ranking (The Economist, 2016)
10. No. 1: Fastest Growing Venture Capital City In USA (The National Venture Capital Association, 2015-2016
11. No. 1: USA’s Happiest City (U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research)
12. Best Town In USA For Food Lovers (Rand McNally)
13. Top USA Wine Travel Destination (Travel & Leisure)
14. Top USA College Town (Travelers Today)
15. Best Place To Live In The U.S. (Cities Ranked & Rated)
16. Most Beautiful College Campus In USA (Best College Reviews)
17. Only University UNESCO World Heritage Site In North America
18. Capital One Cup Winner: Best College Sports Program in USA
19. A ‘Public Ivy’ ranked No. 1, 2 or 3 Public University In USA For Decades (U.S. News)
20. No. 1 Graduation Rate In USA For African-Americans For 16 Years (Journal of Blacks in Higher Education)
  • Edward N Virginia

    Dear Sir/Ms/Them (since we do not know your preferred gender identity):

    Read our discussion above. Here’s excerpt:

    QUOTE

    Even though the protesters came in from out of town …

    FALSE. Many came from out of town. On my own I recognized many ‘career anarchists’ from Richmond because I know them. BUT, many were local folks, certainly. And the continuing protests at City Council meetings, City Planning Commission meetings, City forums, and other City events ARE EVIDENCE that many are from Charlottesville.

    … and even though it was a random event …

    FALSE! The City Council meeting of early December 2014 – THREE YEARS AGO – featured all the things we’ve been seeing through the past couple years, endorsed that long ago, and instantiated as modus operandi of City Council. An incompetent City Council – perhaps pathologically incompetent – but incompetent for sure. A Constitutionally suspect City Council – as adjudicated by at least two court findings. A morally dangerous City Council – as attested to by perceptive activists on all sides and every extreme; both the White Nationalists have called them so, and Black Lives Matter have called them so.

    In the December 15 2014 City Council meeting a MOB shouted down and threatened an elderly speaker – who was speaking in turn according to public comment rules – because they did not like his speech. The MOB – lead by then citizen – now Councilor Bellamy – and reportedly including a current candidate for City Council – threatened an elderly speaker. Got that?! And what did Council do? They asked police to remove the elderly speaker. To protect him? NO! But to satisfy the MOB! Got it? City Council used their POLICE POWERS to prohibit speech that was protected, and timely, but that they did not like, in order to satisfy a threatening MOB! Sound like present times? And what next? Council’s let the MOB take over the meeting for 20-30 minutes!

    … in a place known for its progressive values, the incident is having a predictable impact on early applications to both the wider university and its business school.

    Is SUMMONING POLICE POWERS to prevent rather than to protect speech ‘progressive’? Is encouraging MOB RULE in public affairs ‘progressive’? Is allowing threats to innocent others go unsanctioned ‘progressive’? Is rewarding a mob for threatening innocent others ‘progressive’? And these questions arise from just one meeting.

    UNQUOTE

  • Edward N Virginia

    Global elites are treated much better in Charlottesville that local poor and working classes. So don’t worry. Ya’ll come.

  • Edward N Virginia

    Isn’t it a bit ‘White Supremacy -y’ to be discounting Hitler? If you said that out loud wouldn’t you expect a harassment complaint?

  • Edward N Virginia

    And ancient aliens built the pyramids.

  • Edward N Virginia

    QUOTE
    Charlottesville is an incredibly safe, family friendly town
    UNQUOTE

    UVA STUDENTS, UVA public intellectuals, and many local people have repeatedly insisted that the City if a hell hole of anciently contrived and continually manifest White Supremacy. So, how do you reconcile your ‘Visitor’s Bureau’ slogan with all that?

    And, of course Darden is an incredible school! But, up in the ivory tower/monastic retreat of business-preneurs, graduating into multiple six-figure salaries and immense privilege of the global elite, actually know about the reality of the folks who are living with cross-generational social pathologies, disparities, inequities, and prejudices. You are smart enough to know something – at least – about social structural White Supremacy (that is of course about more than just ‘race’ or ‘color’, e.g. Virginia legislature passed its Racial Integrity Act and its Eugenically Sterilization Act in the same year), social determinants of health and illness, Marmot’s social gradient, and Maslow’s hierarch of needs, epigenetics, etc, right?

  • Edward N Virginia

    QUOTE
    Even though the protesters came in from out of town and even though it was a random event in a place known for its progressive values, the incident is having a predictable impact on early applications to both the wider university and its business school.
    UNQUOTE

    As UVA academic community should know by now, since the community has been deluged with public intellectuals spouting lot of good info and bad info, and stupid info, and harmful info about White Supremacy, there are many unconscious or ‘implicit’ biases which, it seems, are largely not intentionally harbored, but they can be recognized, and, like any other bad habit, might be changes. But, of course it is hard to change bad habits, ain’t it? That does not mean we should not try but it does mean that communities must be supportive of all its members and residents and subscribers to overcome bad habits. E.g Thaler and Sunstein’s good short book, Nudge, describes how social leverage can be a community’s ally toward such a salutary goal. Great book. And certainly one that all Darden faculty, staff, and students should know.

    There are also biases that are overt, intentional or unintentional. Overt unintentional biases need legal remedy, but may more quickly respond to organizational cultural, and social cultural change. Darden folks ought to be experts with that, too.

    Now, overt intentional biases: those likely need the remedy of legal interventions, to protect and to repair those harmed, and to sanction those harming.

    What is the sanction for writers who OVERTLY AND INTENTIONALLY speak/write with bias? For example, the quote from this article is OVERTLY AND INTENTIONALLY BIASED.

    QUOTE
    Even though the protesters came in from out of town …

    FALSE. Many came from out of town. On my own I recognized many ‘career anarchists’ from Richmond because I know them. BUT, many were local folks, certainly. And the continuing protests at City Council meetings, City Planning Commission meetings, City forums, and other City events ARE EVIDENCE that many are from Charlottesville.

    … and even though it was a random event …

    FALSE! The City Council meeting of early December 2014 – THREE YEARS AGO – featured all the things we’ve been seeing through the past couple years, endorsed that long ago, and instantiated as modus operandi of City Council. An incompetent City Council – perhaps pathologically incompetent – but incompetent for sure. A Constitutionally suspect City Council – as adjudicated by at least two court findings. A morally dangerous City Council – as attested to by perceptive activists on all sides and every extreme; both the White Nationalists have called them so, and Black Lives Matter have called them so.

    In the December 15 2014 City Council meeting a MOB shouted down and threatened an elderly speaker – who was speaking in turn according to public comment rules – because they did not like his speech. The MOB – lead by then citizen – now Councilor Bellamy – and reportedly including a current candidate for City Council – threatened an elderly speaker. Got that?! And what did Council do? They asked police to remove the elderly speaker. To protect him? NO! But to satisfy the MOB! Got it? City Council used their POLICE POWERS to prohibit speech that was protected, and timely, but that they did not like, in order to satisfy a threatening MOB! Sound like present times? And what next? Council’s let the MOB take over the meeting for 20-30 minutes!

    … in a place known for its progressive values, the incident is having a predictable impact on early applications to both the wider university and its business school.

    Is SUMMONING POLICE POWERS to prevent rather than to protect speech ‘progressive’? Is encouraging MOB RULE in public affairs ‘progressive’? Is allowing threats to innocent others go unsanctioned ‘progressive’? Is rewarding a mob for threatening innocent others ‘progressive’? And these questions arise from just one meeting.
    UNQUOTE

    So, what are the ways that this writer can correct her/his/their INTENTIONALLY BIASED reporting?

    And, we might add: what can Darden – and its immense resources – do to ensure that the local community is a better society when years and decades of the hard and good work of many is undermined and destroyed by a succession of incompetent, unlawful and dangerous City Councils?

  • lhasan2

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. The group was not only not UVA students, they were all from out of town.

  • Good point re: int’l students. Lots of my international friends are quite apprehensive for their futures in the U.S. under this administration.

  • Marc Ethier
  • Darden

    Any articles on Trump and B-school conundrum ?

  • UVA

    Agreed!

    Plus the kind of warmth and support it is getting from the other B-schools with tags like #WeStandByTuck (and similar ones) on the Instagram/twitter is unprecedented.

    Just to add, nobody can stop me from going to Tuck incase I can an admit.

    But at the same time being an international student under Trump can be immensely byzantine.Just gotta be skeptical.

    Thanks

  • DardenRejected

    well, to be honest, if I got into UVA DArden, even hitler will not be able to prevent me from attending the school, even if i forced to live in the classroom 🙂 It is one of the best schools in the planet and its people, students, staff, alumni all are just incredibly amazing people.

  • Tommy

    Charlottesville is an incredibly safe, family friendly town and Darden is a incredible business school. Thanks for the article.

  • I was in Charlottesville this past weekend when that protest occurred. It is not even remotely possible that “about 90 percent” of the 40 to 50 protesters were UVA students. I very much doubt that a single UVA student was there. These people literally came on a bus, walked around for 10 minutes, and then left on the same bus that drove them out of the city. In no way does this reflect on progressive values and welcoming nature of the the community of Charlottesville. It’s precisely because Charlottesville is a progressive place that a few wackos are coming here. The fact that they came for no more than ten minutes and then rushed off in a bus shows you how afraid they are to stay because they know the community would overwhelm them.

  • UVA

    You do realise that yesterday there was yet another white nationalist protest?

    Though it had nothing to do with UVA but about 90 percent of the people were UVA students.

    As an international student its a BIG turn off.