By Dave Hendrick

Newswise — The University of Virginia Darden School of Business’ alumni ranks swelled by nearly 450 new graduates on 19 May, as newly minted graduates from the School’s MBA and Ph.D. programs accepted their diplomas on Darden’s Flagler Court.

The ranks of new graduates included 319 full-time MBA students, 122 Executive MBA students and six Ph.D. students. Among other notable achievements, the full-time MBA students included the highest percentage of female graduates ever, and include the first group to include students graduating with a dual MBA/Master of Science in Data Science.

Addressing graduates, their friends and families, Dean Scott Beardsley likened leaders in the 21st century to Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Vitruvian Man portrait, which shows the human form in perfect balance, within a circle placed atop a square of equal area.

“You are asked to achieve perfect balance in an imperfect world with forces that pull you in different directions,” Beardsley said. “And as the person in the middle, as a leader, you are exposed and vulnerable, standing at the intersection of your individuality and the world’s context and constraints.”

To excel in the modern world, Beardsley said leaders must understand the levers they have within their own control: healthy habits, a carefully curated environment, a growth mindset and curiosity.

“As a leader in this world, you will be asked to square the circle — to find balance across manifold and contradicting dimensions. Society will ask that you to be a Vitruvian leader with perfect equilibrium,” said Beardsley. “It won’t be easy. Contradictions and conflicting, polarizing forces will try to destabilize you. Your energy will be tested. But the world needs responsible business leaders.”

Beardsley left the Class of 2019 with a sentiment able to be distilled into a single tweet:

“Go make the world a better place, in the way you want to. And in doing so, may you achieve your full potential.”

Student Speakers Reflect on Unique Community

Student speakers elected by the full-time MBA class and Executive MBA class reflected on their two years at the School.

Full-time MBA student Anne McKenna (MBA ’19) noted the various ways she and her classmates were transformed by Darden. She encouraged graduates to be inclusive and reach beyond their places of comfort when forming communities, and to make a difference in the world through small, deliberate actions.

“Don’t forget that change begins not from large, systemic changes, but instead from a collection of many small changes,” said McKenna. “As we embark on successful careers, the challenge is to critique by creating — we have the tools and the network to create the change we desire.”

EMBA speaker Chris Thomson (EMBA ’19) discussed how an Executive MBA cohort of professionals working full time and spread across the world merged into one family by the program’s end, thanks to sharing a common experience in the Darden classroom.

“The Darden School of Business’ core competence is education. They’re really good at it — award-winning internationally,” said Thomson. “But what makes the Darden heart truly beat is the humility to allow a space to materialize, a space where the outcome is uncertain.”

The Darden classroom creates an environment where a fission-like reaction releases “profoundly transformative energy,” Thomson said.

New Grads in High Demand

Preliminary figures show Darden graduates continue to be the subject of intense demand from employers.

As of 16 May, 87 percent of students in the full-time MBA class had accepted job offers, up from 84 percent for the Class of 2018 at its graduation. The picture is bright for international students, as well, with 80 percent of full-time international students seeking employment accepting full-time offers, up from 70 percent at the same time last year.

Consulting remains the top draw for Darden students, with 39 percent currently entering the field, followed by financial services (25 percent) and technology (17 percent).

The Boston Consulting Group is currently the employer hiring the most graduates. Additional top hiring companies include Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, Wayfair and Microsoft.

Continuing the trend of attracting some of the highest salaries for new graduates, early figures show Darden graduates reporting an average base salary of $136,169. That is a more than $8,000 increase from $127,767 for the Class of 2018, which U.S. News & World Report said secured the third highest salary and bonus of all MBA graduating classes, behind only Stanford and Wharton. The average base for Class of 2019 international students also showed strong growth at $129,801, up from $121,969 in the previous year.

Students Honored for Standout Performance

A number of new Darden graduates were also recognized for their contributions to the School.

Thomas Gonzalez (MBA ’19) received the Frederick Morton Award, which recognizes a student for excellence in leadership.

Steven Neece (EMBA ’19) received the Executive MBA faculty award, which recognizes a student whose attitude and high engagement contributed to the classroom experience.

The C. Stewart Sheppard Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes students for exceptional contributions that are nonacademic in nature, included Class of 2019 graduates:

  • Kwaku Adjei-Frimpong
  • William Childrey
  • Kimberly Diaz
  • Hanna Dobbels
  • Catherine Fuller
  • Jane Hannon
  • Colin Leslie
  • Justin Masters
  • Anne McKenna
  • John Mishu
  • Amanda Richardson
  • Freyan Soonawalla
  • Caitlyn Unsworth
  • Allison Yarborough

Graduates in the Top 10 percent of the class were also awarded the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence.

See more pictures from graduation.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.