Darden hosted about 70 attendees at its annual Diversity Conference last week. This celebration of diversity and inclusion kicked off 3 October with a welcome reception and opening remarks by Dean Scott C. Beardsley and Executive Director of Admissions Dawna Clarke. Current students hosted attendees at small-group dinners throughout Charlottesville for a chance to network and get to know more about the broader community. The 4 October programming featured a full day of sessions, including:

After a group dinner on Charlottesville’s historic Downtown Mall, attendees enjoyed free time before a festive closing brunch on 5 October and an optional field trip to King Family Vineyards in Crozet.

We caught up with Associate Director for Diversity Recruitment Marc Paulo Guzman to talk more about the Diversity Conference and upcoming Consortium application deadline (October 15). Tune into the podcast to hear the full conversation.

Morolake Thompson (Class of 2020) was instrumental in the student planning committee for the conference ⁠— she organized volunteers, led the student “real talk” panel and served as a host and preconference mentor.

“My favorite part of the weekend was the student ‘real talk’ panel. There were no administrators in the room, and the conversation was led by the prospective student questions,” she said. “We had seven First Year and Second Year students on the panel and spent 45 minutes answering hard questions that were top of mind for the candidates, which included topics like how we decided where to go to school, how we engage with the Charlottesville community, challenges faced as a student of color at Darden, how different classes come full circle and how career exploration opportunities are encouraged.

On advice for prospective students, Morolake shared:

“Visit Darden and be yourself when you do. So many students told me that after the Diversity Conference, Darden ‘moved up on their list.’ Experiencing any school in person before you apply gives you a better sense of the community and whether it’s the right fit for you.”

Another key member of the planning committee, Haley Whitlock Gyory, director of admissions, said:

“As I reflect on the weekend, I am grateful for the opportunity to show this group of prospective students the authentic Darden community and to showcase all of the things that we tell them when we meet them on the road — how accessible and passionate our faculty are, how welcoming and supportive school leadership is, how kind and real our students are, and how beautiful Darden and UVA are, especially in the fall.”

One 2019 Diversity Conference attendee even shared a bit of feedback with the planning team:

“Your team was so organized and efficient, all while guiding us through a marathon of meaningful sessions with huge smiles on your faces. You provided us all with an understanding of what it truly means to be a part of the Darden community, and for that I am grateful. Every student that I connected with was genuine and enthusiastic about providing me with an accurate view of what life would be like at Darden. I know that is primarily because your team works hard to bring in students who will continue to nurture the ideals of striving for excellence in a culture of kindness.”

Diversity Conference attendees were able to connect with peers, admissions staff, faculty, current students and School leadership during their whirlwind weekend.  Stay tuned for the 2020 Diversity Conference dates, which will be released in a few months


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