Meet Virginia Darden’s MBA Class Of 2022

A case discussion extends beyond the classroom at Darden


That was the past year. What can Darden MBAs expect in the coming year? This fall, P&Q reached out to Dawna Clarke, the school’s executive director of admissions. From new developments to unexpected benefits, here are Clarke’s thoughts on the state of the Darden MBA.

Dawna Clarke

Dawna Clarke, Darden executive director of MBA admissions

P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments at your program?

Clarke: “For applicants, one of the most exciting developments is surely our introduction of test flexibility. When the spread of the coronavirus closed standardized testing sites across the world in March, the Darden School offered increased options for applicants to demonstrate evidence of academic aptitude and accomplishment.The increased flexibility proved successful for both applicants and the Darden Admissions team, allowing Darden to offer accommodation and additional ways for applicants to demonstrate academic excellence without lowering admissions criteria. We have long said that standardized tests are just one indication of a student’s ability to succeed at Darden, and we believe we will draw from a widened pool of incredibly talented students who are ready to succeed in Darden’s purposefully intense curriculum. The incredible Class of 2022 and early interest in the Class of 2023 application suggests we are on the right track.

For current and incoming students, they will be pleased to see the ongoing renovations to Darden Grounds. The W.L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Laboratory (i.Lab) will soon transition from its existing location to a new, dynamic space in Darden’s main classroom building. This will effectively bring the heart of Darden’s burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem to a central location, with a new flat classroom, shared workspaces, collaboration spaces and makerspaces. Students will also be interested to know that Darden is rethinking and revamping its dining options on Grounds, with the existing dining room in the midst of a remodel into a more casual and energetic setting. Upgrading many of Darden’s buildings and facilities is one of the priorities of Darden’s $400 million Powered by Purpose capital campaign.”

To ensure students had access to excellent, skills-building internships amid the pandemic, Darden in 2020 also launched the Impact Internship program, offering full-time, paid opportunities with Darden’s award-winning faculty and executive staff leadership. The curated collection of projects offered applicants the chance to gain valuable experience applicable to any next step in their career journeys. More than 70 took part in Darden Impact Internships meant to supplement shortened internships or delayed full-time start dates. These experiences also ensured that several First Year students with canceled internships gained meaningful, paid work experience in areas ranging from consulting to data analytics, and on matters of critical importance to the School.

Students may also be pleased to know that the School is now paying student fees for our “Big 5” career clubs, so there is no barrier for students with limited means joining these very important resources.”

P&Q: What is the two most unique or differentiating features of your full-time program? How do they enrich the MBA experience?


1) Darden is known for its teaching. Darden students come here in part because they want to learn alongside the best professors in graduate business education — and the culture of mutual respect and positive intent that develops in the classroom as students and faculty members work together through the case method. Darden has been named the best education experience in the U.S. by The Economist for nine years in a row, and a significant portion of that experience occurs in the classroom.

2) The intensity of experience. Darden is purposefully intense, simulating the performance pressures of modern business and preparing students to be high-performing contributors at every stage of their careers. The Darden curriculum is not a slog, however, and students and alumni tend to love the experience — the School routinely ranks among those with the most satisfied alumni.”

Darden Professor and Global Chief Diversity Officer Martin Davidson chatting with students on Darden’s Flagler Court.

P&Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your business school?

Clarke: “Like many schools, Darden moved to virtual instruction in March 2020, as the pandemic began to take hold. The move from the traditional Darden classroom, thought ultimately successful, was a dramatic change; luckily, the case method appears to transition well to virtual environment.

COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of how we learn and work at Darden, and notably changed our approach to how we recruited the Class of 2022. Darden immediately extended its final round of admissions until July 15, and due to the closures of many test centers, offered to accept alternate evidence of strong academic merit, including undergraduate university entrance exam scores. When it became clear that an August start would prove impossible for many students, we offered the option of a January start for a second cohort. The flexibility and accommodation appears to have paid off — applications rose 25% for the Class — and we recently welcomed more than 400 incredible full-time MBA students in the Class of 2022, including a record number of women and Consortium students.

The fall will begin with a mix of in-person and virtual instruction for full-time MBA students, with health and safety top priorities. To enhance its virtual delivery capabilities, the School will convert one of its theater-style classrooms into two studios purpose-built for virtual delivery of courses in the full-time MBA, Executive MBA, Master of Science in business analytics degree programs; non-degree programs from Darden Executive Education; and other programs and events.

While it is not the typical start to the year, we have every intention of providing a world-class education experience despite the circumstances.

The pandemic has also impacted the School in countless smaller ways. As one example, to build community amid social distancing and help offset the cost of meals when students arrive on Grounds, Darden is providing lunch each day of class for all First-Year students throughout the core curriculum. Second Year students will also receive this new meal plan, and we hope the classes to come together, safely, over meals in our renovated dining facilities.”

P&Q: What makes Charlottesville a great place to spend two years in business school?

Clarke: Charlottesville is a mid-sized college town with big city amenities. With the Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop and located just a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C., Charlottesville offers an incredible concentration of excellent restaurants, live music venues of every size, unparalleled college sports and a thriving, diversified economy.

Darden students tend to love their time in Charlottesville, and hundreds of Darden alumni move back to the area after graduation — and with the rise of a multitude of career-ladder jobs, many come for Darden and never leave.”

The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff Photography, LLC


What do the students love about the Darden experience? That would start with the case method, which teaches students how to synthesize, analyze, prioritize, listen, and present all in one fell swoop. This is what Darden MBAs, past and present, had to say about the case method:

1) “Darden’s case study method and required core and learning team create a collaborative environment that teaches you to think on your feet and to eloquently and effectively articulate your ideas and reasoning through practice. In essence, it best mimics the corporate world and teaches you the emotional intelligence you need to be an impactful leader.”
Flavia Dias (’20)

2) “Life, and especially the business world, is but a series of cases. We are consistently faced with challenges that are presented not as a series of tables in a textbook, but rather as a conversation among peers with the goal of finding the strongest solution. With the case method, I can get the best inputs from my classmates with their variety of fascinating backgrounds and use those inputs to craft a solution. In my experience in the workplace, the best ideas came from collaborative workshops where everyone was encouraged to share their point of view. As a manager, you are strongest when your team feels empowered to speak up and be a part of crafting the solution. The case method trains us to operate this way first, not as a last resort.”
Isabel Fortuño Seitzer (’22)

3) “The case method is problem-solving in action and allows students to apply, rather than memorize, core business concepts. It also encourages participants to hear alternate perspectives and build on each other’s insights in order to make a decision. Real-life business problems faced by managers rarely have a clear right solution, but the case method provides an opportunity to become comfortable navigating the gray area.”
Heather Hoffman (’22)

4) “The case method enables students to direct the learning experience with the professor who masterfully guides the class. Many of my classmates are subject matter experts in their own fields and the case method promotes the exchange of thought and learning from a plethora of experts. Additionally, the case method creates a simulation of the real world where deliberation, communication, and persuasion are key factors to the success of a great manager.”
Stanley Lu (’22)

Page 4: In-depth profiles of 11 members of the Class of 2022

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