Career pivots into business school deanships by corporate leaders tend to produce mixed results. Sometimes, executives turned deans find it frustrating to lead a group of independent-minded academics. Other times, the burden of fundraising and jawboning isn’t exactly what someone from the corporate world really wants to do.
But so far at least the pivot made by Scott Beardsley, a former senior partner at McKinsey & Co., who became dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is turning out to be so successful that it might very well inspire more corporate-to-academia transitions in the future. Just three years and seven months into the job as dean, the successor to Bob Bruner, Beardsley was reappointed by UVA to a second five-year term.
Among other things, Beardsley has generated nearly $180 million in new commitments and matching funds since his arrival, money sorely needed for scholarships, global programs, and faculty research. In fiscal 2018, he led Darden to a second consecutive record-breaking fundraising year.
IN LESS THAN FOUR YEARS, 31 NEW FACULTY HIRES AT DARDEN
No less crucial, however, Beardsley has already played a role in hiring 31 new faculty at Darden. Some of those new hires have already received red perfect teaching marks from MBA students and several have been nominated by students to be faculty marshals for graduation, one of the highest honors bestowed on a professor from the students.
He’s also placed a big bet on D.C., moving into a new 40,000 square foot campus in Arlington, VA., led the redesign of the school’s Executive MBA offerings, collaborated with the university’s McIntire School of Commerce on a new master of science degree in business analytics which debuted last year, and introduced a new STEM-designated management science specialization in Darden’s MBA Program that would allow international students to apply for two extra years of federal Optional Practical Training (OPT) to work in the U.S.
The MS specialization, which would appear on a student’s MBA transcript, is an effort to address concerns by international students over the difficulty of obtaining an H1B visa to work in the U.S. after graduation. By taking a sequence of eight electives, a Darden MBA can then apply for the OPT extension beyond the one-year a graduate would automatically receive.
TEACHING FOUR COURSES WHILE BEING DEAN AT DARDEN
For Beardsley, an MIT Sloan MBA who spent 26 years at McKinsey, it’s been a smooth transition. “It’s been better than I expected,” he says. “I would do it all over again with great pleasure. I really believe in the mission of higher education. When I get out of bed in the morning I know that educating the next generation of leaders who have a moral compass is truly a higher calling. I can’t think of anything with more meaning in my life than to help young people achieve their potential.”
Unlike most deans who find the administrative burden too heavy to teach in the classroom, Beardsley has fully embraced the challenge to teach. He leads four courses, including Maximizing Leadership Potential in Sports and Business and CEO Leadership in the 21st Century, both taught from his home on the university’s expansive Lawn, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The classes are held in his dining room as well as downstairs in what had been the former slave quarters of the house. He also leads one global immersion a year and teaches a class on strategy consulting on Darden’s Washington metro campus. “It allows me to get close to the students and I learn from them and what it is that we are doing well and how we can do better.”
Indeed, his decision to live in one of the Pavilions of the academic village originally created by Thomas Jefferson has brought kudos from Provost Tom Katsouleas in his March 28th email to the Darden community announcing the reappointment. “In addition to all his success at the Darden School of Business,” wrote Katsouleas, “Scott has also managed to be a true University citizen…His decision to live and teach on the Lawn is just one expression of his community-minded approach.”
PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT TO DATE: THE SENIOR LEADERSHIP TEAM HE HAS ASSEMBLED
Beardsley says that one of the highlights for him thus far is making the MBA experience at Darden more global. “The world of business is incredibly global and that is one of the reasons I was asked to come here,” says Beardsley, who had been based in Brussels for McKinsey. “We now have almost all of our students going abroad and doing worldwide immersions. Many students are now doing two or three of them. That is really good.”
Asked what his proudest accomplishment is to date, Beardsley points to his senior leadership team at Darden. “Dean Bruner left a school in very good shape and handed me the baton running at full speed, says Beardsley. “This is really a tribute to all the hard work of team Darden. It takes everybody to make a great business school and I couldn’t be more proud of the team we have at Darden. They are so talented, caring and mission-driven in all the different roles.”
His later recruit: Ashley Williams, formerly deputy chief learning officer and chief operating officer of global learning and development at McKinsey & Co. Williams, who started today (April 1), will help lead the school’s executive education efforts. She will join Larry Murphy, another McKinsey recruit from the consulting firm’s Atlanta office, who is president of Darden Executive Education and Lifelong Learning, custom solutions.
‘I FEEL LIKE I’VE HAD A GOOD WARM UP AND THE BEST IS YET TO COME’
With a personal passion for tennis, Beardsley also has managed to work with the university’s highly ranked tennis team and its coach. The team has won four of the last six national titles. He has struck up a mentoring relationship with many of the players, serving as a career coach, and also works to recruit potential players who come to campus.
“I’ve put a big focus on our capital campaign where we’re trying to make progress on a number of dimensions,” says Beardsley. “We want to have the best student experience in the world so we have made great headway on scholarships. We continue to invest in faculty, research and teaching, and we are also taking our physical grounds to the next level. We have been steadily chipping away to improve different aspects of our grounds, including a new project to build a new Darden Inn for executive education.”
“I haven’t yet had five full years of impact but I feel there is exciting and palpable momentum and there is great alignment between the faculty, staff and alumni. UVA is an incredible place to be. I feel like I’ve had a good warm up and the best is yet to come.”