Academics, Darden Community, Executive MBA, Full-Time MBA, Podcast

Dean Scott Beardsley Shares Insights on Leading, Teaching and Responding to a Pandemic

By Maggie Dodson-
dean-scott-beardsley

On this week’s Experience Darden and ExecMBA podcast episodes, Darden Dean Scott Beardsley  joins podcast host and Director of Admissions Brett Twitty. Their conversation covers a wide range of topics, including how Dean Beardsley’s tenure at McKinsey & Co. has helped influence his work as dean and how Darden’s leadership team is navigating these unprecedented times by putting students first.

Dean Beardsley and his family reside in Pavilion I, next door to the Rotunda, on UVA’s historic Lawn, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Beardsley family recently welcomed a golden retriever puppy named Lawnie to their home.

Lawnie in front of the UVA Rotunda

Residents of the Lawn are known as “Lawnies,” but as Dean Beardsley quips in the interview about their new puppy, “she’s the queen of the lawn.”

Beyond his work as dean, Beardsley stays busy in many ways, including reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and a science fiction fantasy novel by one of his favorite authors, Terry Goodkind. As a former band member, it should come as no surprise that music also plays an important role in Beardsley’s off hours. When asked what he’s listening to, Beardsley shares that he’s been revisiting some of his favorite live performances through the decades, such as Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmore and Led Zepplin’s final live performance, Celebration Day.

Beardsley shared some insights on his personal journey to Darden after an international career with McKinsey:

I’m kind of global citizen — a little bit of a nomad but with deep roots and a love for what I’m doing. The things that give me the greatest meaning in life are directly related to helping other people achieve their full potential. I’m a deep believer in education. I came from a family of educators and so I was the black sheep of the family that ended up going into the business world. At some point, I figured out that it would be the right thing for me to go into higher education.

Focusing on international business and support for international students is deeply important to Beardsley’s outlook and goals for Darden.

I have a deep belief that business is global, and I have a huge place in my heart for people from other countries. My wife is not American and our three children are Belgian, French and American citizens. I am a citizen of both France and the United States. Business is global and we have interconnected economies. Certainly, we are learning with the coronavirus that we all have a common shared humanity that ties us together. Our commitment to international students and global business at Darden couldn’t be stronger.

Though not required to teach during his tenure as dean, Beardsley has chosen to instruct a number of electives.

I choose to teach a number of courses because, as a lifelong learner, I want to learn — and I love the students. Teaching is a great way to stay connected, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to grow and learn from some of the best professors at Darden. I teach a strategy consulting elective where we examine some of the key strategic frameworks you can use with corporations. I teach a course in Thomas Jefferson’s original classroom, which is also my

dining room in Pavilion I. That course is called “Maximizing Leadership Potential in Sports and Business.” Really, it’s a course about how to get the most out of your life. I also teach an

Dean Beardsley talks with Darden students in front of the UVA Rotunda, September 2019.

elective called “The CEO and Leadership in the 21st Century,” which examines crisis and major leadership decisions that chief executives need to make. Finally, I teach a global course — this year, the topic is on community based conservation in Africa. In previous years when we could travel, I took students abroad to Italy, Israel, Belgium, Holland and Cuba.

Beardsley also shared insights on what leading Darden during the global pandemic has been like:

On one level, responding has been extremely busy and intense because it’s been such a fast-changing environment and it has been all hands on deck. At the same time, it’s also been a period of great innovation and teamwork and collaboration. I’ve seen such a surge of teamwork, and that has allowed us to come up with some of the innovations that you all are starting to see. I won’t lie, it’s definitely been very intense and there’s been a need to communicate and make decisions quickly. In one way, you’re isolated during the coronavirus pandemic because you can’t see people in person. On the other hand, I’ve had connections with alumni, students, faculty and staff through virtual town halls and forums. In some ways, I’ve never communicated and interacted with so many people in such a short period of time.

Listen to the full episode on Experience Darden or the ExecMBA podcasts.

View Dean Beardsley’s interview with Poets & Quants earlier this year.

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