Episode no. 239 of the ExecMBA podcast features Assistant Dean for Student Engagement for the Professional Degree Programs Sherri Watson. She is primarily based at UVA Darden DC Metro in Rosslyn, Virginia, and leads student engagement for the Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA programs.

Sherri Watson welcomes Part-Time MBA students on the first day of their program. August 2022.

A recent addition to the Darden program team, Watson has a strong record of leadership in supporting students through academic advising, coaching and career advising. She has been a student success advisor and coach as well as a mentor to students throughout her career.

In the wide-ranging conversation, Watson highlights her passion for working with students, what led her to Darden, her impressions of UVA Darden’s Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA student communities and more.


Watson shared, “I have really found my niche in education and helping students be successful. I am a first-generation college student myself, and I really think that’s where my passion for student success and student support comes from. My family always emphasized the possibilities and the doors that college can open. It is life changing, but I think one of the critiques of higher education is it can be really challenging for those of us who aren’t familiar with the lingo, or the social capital, or what it means to get an advanced degree, especially getting a masters and a doctorate. Students who are experiencing this for the first time are learning as they go and trying to figure it out as they go along. Having personally been in these situations has grown my passion for student support and success.”


In her student engagement role, Watson will specifically focus on the support and success of Executive MBA and Part-Time MBA students.

“The experience of a working professional student is remarkable, and I don’t know that they get enough credit. They’re so used to doing. We have students that drive an hour each way to come to class twice a week, and they are also working full time. Many of them are parents or have other family or professional commitments. I was really drawn to the working professional space for many of these reasons — not only that, but Darden has a very student-focused student-driven philosophy and approach. I was impressed by the student support framework, and the student focus model is something that I personally believe in it, and I like to align myself with with those values.”

On supporting working professional students, Watson noted, “When we think about student support and student access and engagement, we can’t separate out what’s happening in the world and how it impacts our students when they step into the classroom. The focus for me is how can we provide a robust system to help them navigate through through all these different things. They are balancing life, pandemic and health, what’s going on in the world and all these other things. We can be there to support students as they’re navigating their way through whatever comes their way.”