Darden offers several dual-degree programs in connection with other schools at the University of Virginia. These dual-degree programs are designed to enhance the educational experience beyond what could be achieved if the two degrees were pursued independently (not to mention, in many cases, reduce the time it would take to earn both degrees separately). First Year student Brandon Weber is a MBA/SAIS student, and he recently shared insights about his experiences as both a Darden MBA and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies student. Students admitted to both programs will be able to complete the Darden MBA and Johns Hopkins SAIS Master of Arts (MA) in three years instead of the four years it would take to earn each sequentially. 

Brandon Weber (Class of 2022)

Hometown: Fenton, Michigan

Brandon Weber (Class of 2022)

Undergrad: University of Michigan

Pre-Darden Professional Background: United States Navy

Why Darden? Why a dual degree?

I chose Darden because of its renowned academic environment, close-knit community and the fact that Darden’s curriculum and teaching style builds global leaders that know how to tackle ambiguity with confidence. After visiting Darden and meeting the genuine people on Grounds, I knew this would be a place that would help me achieve my professional goals while building life-long relationships.

The dual-degree was important because of the area of work that I am interested in. After having internships with both the US Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank of New York, I knew there were areas of the financial markets that I still wanted to have work experience in. With a Darden MBA, I would develop a broader set of business skills and professional network that could help me enter the competitive field of asset management. Additionally, although SAIS does a fantastic job at providing a global macro picture of international economic relations, a Darden MBA will provide the more micro skills that complement someone with my career interest.

How are the dual-degree students integrated in the main Darden cohort?

Like everyone else! There is no difference for MBA/MA dual degree students and I have been involved in everything that all of the other full-time MBA students have been involved in.

How are you managing the workload? Do you feel that you are missing out on experiences from either of the program?

MBA/MA candidate at Darden and SAIS, but I am also in the first ever January cohort at Darden. Therefore, I am finishing up my last semester at SAIS this fall while trying to stay on top of all the recruiting and events going on at Darden. It has been a balance, but I do not feel that the workload has been overwhelming nor do I feel that I am missing out on experiences at either program. Darden, the student clubs and the career center have done an excellent job at keeping us informed and providing the opportunities to attend as many as events as possible. Like anything else in life, there will be times when your priorities shift and you have to decide what you are comfortable with giving up. Graduate school and the dual MBA/MA degree at SAIS is no different.

How have you utilized your dual-degree and leveraged your connections at each school in your internship/job search process?

At SAIS, I was able to take advantage of doing an internship every semester to build my professional experience and expand my network. SAIS helped me obtain my internships at the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank of New York and I am continuing to utilize those networks as I recruit for my 2021summer internship with Darden. Especially in todays international economic environment, I think there is no better combination of a degree in international economics at SAIS and a Darden MBA that provides the flexibility to pursue broader private sector roles. As I continue to network for this upcoming summer internship, I am finding that marketing this dual degree combo is extremely compelling and a powerful strategy.

If you could go back to the start of your program, what would you do differently to get the most out of your experience?

Although I have barely begun my Darden experience, I can tell it may be more important than ever to formally set time down on my calendar to reach out to people at Darden. The time commitments affiliated with the MBA life can be overwhelming, but just being able to set hard deadlines and move onto another task or priority will be crucial in obtaining the full Darden experience. The people you meet here are just as important than the courses and events that you participate in.

Post-MBA career plans?

I plan to enter either Asset Management or an Investment Bank focusing on short-term fixed income or global macro strategy.

Advice to prospective students considering dual-degree:

Just do it!

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