Meet Virginia Darden’s MBA Class Of 2024


Victoria Velasquez experienced a similar enthusiasm. During the application process, a Darden student helped her with her essay as the deadline neared? When she asked a student from a different school to review her essay? She was told to apply in a different round! Darden’s supportive culture extends to its graduates, Velasquez adds.

“Now as I am weighing offers from different consulting firms, it has been the Darden alumni at each firm who have been the first to congratulate me and have gone out of their way to ensure I am connected with the right people and resources to help me make my decision.”

A Darden student also “invested several hours” to prepare Carlos Saballos for his interviews. However, his best Darden story didn’t involve a student or alum at all. “I opened up to a client about my desire to attend Darden. I didn’t know how he would react since it meant I would hand off his account to another banker. He smiled, offered his full support, and told me Darden’s dean Scott Beardsley was his boss at McKinsey in the late 90’s. I promised that if I got into Darden, I’d send him a selfie with Scott. Sending that picture was cathartic!”

Saballos adds that school traditions also reinforce the closeness of the MBA community. At Darden, ‘Cold Call’ actually enjoys a dual meaning for students – with students looking forward to the after-class event. “Every Thursday evening after classes conclude for the week, students, faculty, and staff come together on the lawn for an informal opportunity to get to know each other,” Saballos observes. “I’m excited to gain new insights from the Darden community and this seems like a great venue for meaningful conversations and idea exchange.”

Come 9:30 a.m. – after the first class – the Darden community also gathers for a daily ‘First Coffee’ – a half hour devoted to sharing ideas, networking, and just catching up. “As Corey Spera (Darden ’22) generously shared with me during my application process, “Don’t underestimate the power of Darden’s structures in building community,”” explains Yonah Greenstein. “First Coffee is part of Darden’s larger emphasis on building supportive and transformative structures that foster togetherness. Each step of the Darden experience comes with a team – a Learning Team, a Section – that builds lasting relationships and deepens each of our experiences.”

Class of 2024 students at opening


Those teams come into play with the case method, which relies on students reading stories, performing analysis, and meeting with 5-6 student learning teams to discuss their viewpoints. From there, each team member heads to a different class section. Devin Waddell points out that these student learning teams always include one or two students who possess different learning industry experience.

“Therefore, we can learn theoretical and current real-world practices for various industries during every class,” Waddell adds. “The case method enhances our management skills by preparing us to navigate ambiguous situations, assess business challenges, and handle differing viewpoints.”

Make no mistake: the case method is synonymous with the Darden School. Think of cases as exercises in the uncertainties of the moment. Like real life, the data is conflicting, incomplete, unreliable, and ever-changing. When it comes to the characters populating the cases, they have different perspectives and priorities – ones that differ from each other and sometimes don’t align with their company’s best interests. That’s why MBAs seek out patterns, always looking to address the underlying issues over scoring quick wins with band aids. Operating in scenarios where there is no right or wrong answers, cases also teach MBAs which questions are critical depending on the variables. In the process, students decipher what’s pertinent and priority, frame the downsides and risks, and anticipate the reaction from various constituencies. Soon enough, the process becomes second nature to them.


The class is entirely student-centered,” asserts Aya Kirihara, who previously worked in asset management. “A student’s opinion is questioned by another student and a discussion begins. It is truly an experience of decision-making processes through the case method. We repeat this cycle: 3 cases, 4 days a week for a year. Repeating the decision-making process in a diversity-rich class, listening to various opinions and using a variety of methods, will improve your skills as a better manager.”

And it is a more “stimulating” way to learn too, adds Yonah Greenstein. “It transforms every lesson into a story, with each member of the class playing a key character. I know that, for me, hands-on learning and listening create an environment where my classmates and I will be continuously developing through active engagement with new concepts and challenges. Having to prepare meticulously, work collaboratively, and never knowing what to expect is similar to the impact-oriented team structures I truly love. Lastly, I would honestly be bored out of my mind sitting in lectures all day.”

The case method may involve work but don’t worry: There is plenty of time for play says ’22 grad Isabel Fortuño Seitzer. “While the academics certainly are challenging, our community of clubs and the events they put on is extremely active. You can have something going every night of the week if you so choose. I have done so many interesting things that I never expected to do in business school since arriving here. Did I ever think I would find myself white water rafting in West Virginia? No, but it was one of the most memorable experiences of the last two years and I can thank the Darden Outdoors Club for pushing me to come along.”

Darden Grounds. Darden photo


Overall, the Class of 2024 is comprised of 348 students, including 13 ‘Future Year Schools’ who are part of the school’s deferred admissions. As a whole, Darden recruited 43% international students, a record-high for the school. 48 countries are represented in the class, with India, Nigeria, China, and Brazil producing the largest number of candidates outside the United States. Women account for 37% of the class, while U.S. Minorites hold a 20% class share. Another 16% of the class are first generation college graduates. 24% of the class is married or in a committed partnership, while 8% are LGBT. In addition, 9% of the class possesses military experience.

This year’s class set another record: a 720 average GMAT, up 5 points from the Class of 2023. The class also posted a 319 average GRE and a 3.51 undergraduate GPA. They also bring 5.8 years of work experience on average, with the largest segments of the class hailing from Financial Services (20%), Consulting (16%), and Technology (11%).

Academically, the Darden MBA posted the 5th-highest score for Management curriculum, according to the business school deans and MBA directors surveyed by U.S. News & World Report in 2022. The Financial Times ranked Darden as the 7th-best program for Environmental Social and Governance (ESG). Before The Economist shuttered its MBA ranking this summer, student respondents had ranked Darden #1 for Education Experience for ten years running (including 2022). When The Princeton Review surveyed MBAs about their program’s quality in various areas last year, Darden finished 1st for Consulting, 2nd for Management, and Top 10 for Finance, Marketing, and Non-Profit.


Victoria Velasquez, for one, has been impressed with the resources that Darden has invested in consulting-related programming along with its Career Center and Consulting Club). “This programming has helped Darden achieve one of the highest placement rates for full-time consulting roles year-after-year and has helped solidify its reputation for developing strong management consultants,’ Velasquez tells P&Q. “For example, when I was making my decision about where to attend business school, I was able to speak with a partner at one of the MBB consulting firms to get her advice on which school produced the best consultants. She said, without hesitation, that the best consultants that she had worked with came from Darden. I have already taken part in some of Darden’s consulting prep programming while recruiting for internships as part of the pre-MBA recruiting cycle, and I can attest to the strength of the school’s programming. Getting to participate in the Consulting Club’s Summer Case Camp and having access to dozens of second year students for mock interviews have helped me secure four summer internship offers for 2023 before even starting classes at Darden.”

In the same Princeton Review survey, Darden ranked 1st for Teaching Excellence and 3rd for Classroom Experience. One reason: Teaching excellence is the program’s defining feature. It determines who is hired and promoted, with student evaluations holding sway over research citations. What’s more, faculty members’ approach cases in a fashion that mirrors student learning teams. Investing hours together, faculty members design pathways and flesh out takeaways to ensure each section class receives consistent quality. Yes, Darden is the home of teaching royalty: Yael Grushka-Cockayne, Ed Freeman, Jeanne Liedtka, and Michael Lenox among them. For Isabel Fortuño Seitzer, a ’22 grad, Sean Martin personifies the best of Darden teaching. Despite teaching three-hour evening Leadership Learning Lab, she says, he was able to fire up his students without any let up.

“He is an extremely passionate professor; he not only helps guide us with theory but also with opportunities to practice the challenging conversations required of leaders with live simulations in the classroom, Fortuño Seitzer explains. “He pushes us beyond our comfort zone all while creating a safe and supportive environment to help us grow. I credit him with helping cultivate the relationships between all the student leaders here, and for that, I am extremely thankful.”

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business, MBA Program at the Charlottesville Campus


Princeton Review respondents also lauded Darden for being its family friendliness and campus environment. Visually, the campus is stunning. Designed by Thomas Jefferson, it features a mix of gardens and lawns, with the central campus highlighted by Neo-Classical designs featuring red brick and columns. Even today, the campus reflects Jefferson’s vision for education: an interdisciplinary town square, where faculty and students live and learn together. At the same time, Charlottesville remains a two-hour drive from DC; students can enjoy bucolic college town life in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains – all while having quick access to top employers and influencers (including 2,000 of Darden’s 18,000 MBA alumni).

“One of the key aspects as I was choosing a business school was a close-knit community, admits Alyssa Tulabut. “I felt that I would be best able to foster deep connections with my classmates away from a busy city where folks could disappear to on the weekends. Charlottesville would provide a certain level of seclusion for our cohort while also offering numerous vineyards and breweries, scenic views, and plenty of other options for stress relief.”

The Darden School even boasts a satellite campus across the Potomac River from DC, which houses its first part-time MBA cohort. That wasn’t the biggest news at Darden this fall. In October, the school received a $44 million dollar gift from ’78 alum Dave LaCross, which will fund new residential housing and an AI Research Center (among other areas). What else can business school applicants expect from Darden? This fall, P&Q reached out to Dawna Clarke, senior assistant dean of admissions at Darden. From signature experiences to favorite student hangouts, here is Clarke’s low-down on the Darden MBA.

Next Page: Profiles of 10 Darden First-Years and An Interview with Senior Assistant Dean Dawna Clarke

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