How Darden Is Putting Charlottesville’s Protest Behind It

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

RESTLESS FOR A CHANGE AND CAPTIVATED BY HIGHER EDUCATION

All this in just two years for someone who had never been in academia before. Yet, at McKinsey, Beardsley found himself in charge of the firm’s leadership development efforts and when he began to do the obligatory college visits with his sons, he began to muse about a second act as a university president. He says he was restless for a change after a quarter of a century at McKinsey and captivated by higher education.

He chronicles his failed attempts to gain a college presidency as a non-traditional candidate in a recently published book, Higher Calling, that partly resulted from his dissertation for an Executive Doctorate for Higher Education Management at the University of Pennsylvania. He enrolled in the novel two-year, part-time program, commuting to Philadelphia from Brussels for two days a month in the first year and one day monthly in the second.

When he discovered that Darden was searching for a dean to succeed Robert Bruner, he was in his second year of the program and eager to toss his hat into the ring. He sent his resume to the Korn/Ferry consultant in charge of the search in May, met with him over the summer, and had his first airport interview with members of the school’s search committee at Dulles International in Septemer. Little did he know that to gain the deanship, he would ultimately have to face hundreds of stakeholders in a grueling process that would last seven long months.

‘I HAVE APPLIED FOR EARLY DECISION’

Toward the end, when then UVA Provost John Simon asked him in December of 2014 where Darden stood among his options, Beardsley replied: “To use an undergraduate admissions analogy, you should considr that I have applied for Early Decision.”

A couple of days later, Simon called to tell him this his application for Early Decision had been accepted. The search came down to only a pair of finalists, someone Beardsley vaguely decribes as “an accomplished scholar with previous dean experience at a top business school,” and himself, the non-traditional candidate from McKinsey. Beardsley signed his contract on Christmas Eve and the official announcement of his appointment went public on Jan. 8, 2015.

He approached the job as he would any client assignment, with a focus on McKinsey-like fact-gathering and analysis. Almost immediately, Beardsley began his listening tour, which included three solid weeks of meeting the 70-plus faculty at Darden one on one for sessions ranging between one and four hours long. He spent many hours with Dean Bruner who had been Darden dean for a decade.

‘I HAD A RUNNING START AND DEAN BRUNER HAD A RUNNING FINISH’

“It was kind of like a relay race where he was running to the end with the baton and I was running to take it from him,” explains Beardsley. “I had a running start, and he had a running finish.”

He named strategy professor Michael Lenox the school’s first strategy chief and with Lenox’s help, they dug into the work. “We put together a realistic assessment of where we are versus our competition. We wanted to get input from all the stakeholders. We surveyed students. We gathered a tremendous amount of facts. We deconstructed the rankings, and we shared the facts with everyone. Dean Bruner left the school in good shape. He made it more global and lifted its standing. I wanted to build on his momentum.”

Of his review, he says, “I didn’t find a stinker. I found some great things. I found a group of people willing to try new things and an alumni group far more passionate about the school than I ever imagined.”

ONE AMBITIOUS GOAL: TO MAKE DARDEN’S MBA THE MOST AFFORDABLE & ACCESSIBLE PREMIUM PROGRAM IN THE U.S.

Michael Lenox, chief strategy officer for UVA’s Darden School of Business

Beardsley’s overarching goals are ambitious. They are to make Darden the top public business school in the U.S., to put Darden firmly into the top ten of all business schools, to make the MBA program the most affordable and accessible in the U.S., and to maintain and build upon the school’s well-deserved reputation for having the best teaching in the world with the best student experience.

In fact, those last two already achieved objectives are something that Beardsley has no intention of ever touching. Third-party surveys of students and alumni by Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, and The Financial Times have consistently found over decades that no other business school in the world can beat Darden when it comes to the teaching quality of the professors in the school’s MBA classrooms.

“The norms around teaching here are just different,” says Chief Strategy Officer Lenox. “It’s cherished and celebrated. That is our competitive advantage. You just don’t see this happening at other schools. Instead, you hear professors ask each other, ‘Are you teaching now?’ And if the professor says yes, the reply is often, ‘I’m sorry.’ Teaching is considered a burden that gets in the way of research. It’s a pervasive notion in higher education and it also impacts faculty engagement with students.”

RECORD NUMBERS OF WOMEN, MINORITIES & INTERNATIONAL MBA STUDENTS

Still, Beardsley wants to advance scholarly research—but not at the expense of Darden’s obsession with masterful teaching ethos. He has doubled funding in support of research, increased case-writing support to four full-time case writers, and boosted the number of post-docs to seven from one as well as appointed a faculty member to lead the post-doc program.

In support of his overall objectives, he developed five strategic priorities (see table), including his number one consideration: To “attract exceptional students by delivering and enhancing the world’s best, affordable, global education experience.”

He means it. In his first 26 months, Beardsley has enrolled a record number of women, under-represented minorities, and international students in the full-time MBA program. The school’s average GMAT has gone from its previous high of 706 to a record 713, and Darden has increased its application volume by 10%.

  • 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.