Perhaps it seems only natural that in an unprecedented year, a nontraditional leader would be named Dean of the Year.
For his stellar leadership through one of the most turbulent periods in higher education, for the compassion he has shown to anxiety-ridden applicants and students, for his vision to strengthen and expand Darden’s standing among the best business schools in the world, Poets&Quants has named Scott Beardsley the Dean of the Year.
Poets & Quants noted Beardsley’s nontraditional career trajectory — from McKinsey & Co. to the dean’s office, and the full force in which he embedded himself in the UVA and Darden communities. Beardsley’s deep appreciation for Pink Floyd and reputation for being a fierce tennis opponent are a few personal examples also cited in the article.
Beardsley’s accomplishments over the last six years include the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the school’s history, which has directly contributed to the School’s impact on student experience, additional faculty and an impressive 82 new student scholarships.
Michael Woodfolk, president of the Darden School Foundation, commented on Beardsley’s commitment to the student experience in the article: “To say that Beardsley threw himself into the job would be an understatement. Unlike most deans, Scott has done a deep comprehensive McKinsey study of Darden. As part of that study, he has looked at what are the strong arteries that flow to the heart of the school. One of those arteries is the student experience, and he has been determined to make sure it remains the best there is.”
As the coronavirus pandemic unfurled in early 2020, Beardsley extended that student-centric compassion to Darden’s applicants as well. Testing sites closed and lives were upended across the globe. In response, Darden extended its Round 3 deadline for the Class of 2022 and suspended certain testing requirements, offering qualified applicants alternate ways to demonstrate professional and personal accomplishments. The School subsequently launched the first-ever January cohort for those who faced challenges to make the traditional August start. Darden will soon welcome 57 students in the Class of 2022 to “Section J.”
The Darden Report shared a summary of Beardsley’s accomplishments, which include:
- A steady rise in the caliber of an increasingly diverse student body: From increases in GMAT scores to a record number of women and 40 Consortium fellows in the Class of 2022, the Darden full-time MBA has never been stronger. The Executive MBA class has been on a similar trajectory, and recently welcomed 151 students to the Class of 2022.
- Fortifying the world’s best faculty: Beardsley has hired 38 full-time faculty during his tenure, and nearly 50 percent of the new hires hold non-U.S. passports and more than a third are women. The faculty has been repeatedly recognized as No. 1 in graduate business education, including by The Economist (2017–19).
- Increased accessibility and affordability of the Darden MBA: Beardsley has prioritized fundraising for scholarships, and the School’s $400 million Powered by Purpose capital campaign has spurred the creation of 82 new scholarships. In 2020, Darden launched AccessDarden, offering a need-based aid program for the first time, which should aid the School’s efforts to attract qualified students from all walks of life.
- Expansion to the Washington, D.C., area: Under Beardsley’s tenure, the School formally expanded into the global gateway of Washington, D.C., and opened the Sands Family Grounds at UVA Darden DC Metro in 2018. UVA Darden DC Metro is now the home base for the Darden Executive MBA, Master of Science in business analytics, and an expanded suite of Executive Education & Lifelong Learning More than 400 students now study in the Washington, D.C., area.
- The launch of the largest capital campaign in Darden history: The funds raised in the Powered by Purpose campaign are earmarked for faculty and thought leadership; scholarships and student experience; the Darden Grounds Master Plan, technology and innovation; and the Darden Annual Fund. Through December, the School has raised $265 million toward its goal. The sum includes the single largest gift in Darden history — $68 million from Frank M. Sands Sr. (MBA ’63), which received a $14 million match from the UVA Bicentennial Professors Fund for a total impact of $82 million, to launch the Sands Institute for Lifelong Learning and helped jumpstart construction of a new inn and conference center.
The moves to bolster the School have coincided with continued rankings momentum, and the School climbed into the Top 5 in the most recent Bloomberg Businessweek ranking.
In 2011, Poets & Quants named Dean Emeritus Bob Bruner Dean of the Year, as well, making Darden the only top business school to have two consecutive deans awarded the honor. The publication has also bestowed MBA Professor of the Year honors on Professor Greg Fairchild and Lalin Anik.
In September 2019, Beardsley shared an interview with Poets & Quants about the ROI of an MBA — which may ring more true now than ever before.
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