Today’s post authored by Second Year student Sam Newby (Class of 2022). Newby is a member of the Second Year Admissions Committee, a credit-bearing class that allows students to work on special projects, conduct interviews, and work alongside Darden’s Admissions team to recruit future classes of MBA students. This group of students also serves as informal ambassadors to the Darden experience, lending their own knowledge and expertise to prospective students and applicants.

Your first year at Darden can seem intimidating, especially when students and professors throw out phrases like “core,” “the case method,” and “cold calls,” but what does that really mean? I’m here to break it all down for you.

What is the Darden Core Curriculum?

Sam Newby (Class of 2022)

During the first three quarters of the year, all First Year students are enrolled in the core curriculum. From finance and accounting to marketing and ethics, these required courses are designed to provide students with foundational and fundamental business knowledge. These courses cover important themes in business that are vital for any global leader. Sound intimidating? Have no fear, during core students collaborate with their learning teams on assignments so that they can be better prepared for class. Your learning team will become your second family while at Darden!

The First Year core areas include: leadership communication, global economies and markets, financial management and policies, accounting for managers, marketing, operations management, leading organizations, decision analysis, business ethics, and strategic thinking and action.

What is the Darden Case Method?

Classes at Darden, including the core curriculum, are taught using the case method. This approach puts students in the role of decision makers faced with difficult business situations. Students read a “case” prior to class, usually of a real-life company facing an issue, and are expected to come to class ready to discuss their strategy. The case method teaches students how to think through difficult decisions, develop arguments, and engage with classmates. In addition to providing students with a global perspective, the case method also strengthens students’ ability to understand the implications of their decisions in a way that emulates real life. What is so unique about the case method is that it puts students in real-life scenarios that help better prepare them for what they may face later on in their careers.

What Is a Cold Call?

To further support the skills that students develop in core through the case method, professors implement “cold calling” to keep students engaged. At any point during class, a professor can ask a question and “cold call” a student with no warning, looking for them to answer. While at first this seems intimidating, cold calls are less about catching an unprepared student and more about fostering meaningful class discussions. Cold calls help students develop coherent and cogent arguments quickly and allow the class to hear from students with different backgrounds and experiences. The skills students develop due to cold calls translate into how they approach their internships and careers. Darden students are well prepared, bolder and more confident in their convictions, and not afraid to ask questions.