The Darden Career Center hosted an Employer-Student Networking Reception last Friday at our UVA Darden DC Metro location.

A fun addition to the Executive MBA Class of 2024’s weekend residency, the event was open to all Executive MBA students and the Part-Time MBA class of 2025. Students connected with employers from around the DMV area, many of which were represented by Darden and UVA alumni.

This was a great way to discover and learn about companies and opportunities in the DMV area. Speaking with Darden alumni and learning about their transition from an MBA student into a successful applicant is information you cannot find online or on any company website.

- Salah Al-Chanati, Executive MBA Class of 2024, ESA Career Representative

Participating Employers:

We recently caught up with two members of the Career team – Managing Director, Professional Degree Programs, Gopika Spaenle and Assistant Director, Employer Engagement & Recruiting, Emily Funk – to hear about the reception and how these events support the Executive and Part-Time MBA students.

What was the inspiration for this event?

Gopika Spaenle (GS): In conversations with students and alumni, they consistently shared how important it was for them to have an opportunity to meet with DC metro based companies and organizations to broaden their network. Employers are also eager to learn more about us and our students, and this event brings these groups together.

We want to support continued career exploration for our students. Most of them are curious to discover what other professional opportunities are out there and this networking reception provides a convenient and accessible opportunity for working professional students to see what is possible.

How did this year’s event compare to the prior year’s?

GS: This event built on the success from last spring. We saw an increase in student participation (about 1oo students across our professional degree programs), and were joined by more employers and alumni.

Traditionally, consulting, technology and finance have been represented, but this reception also included employers from media, government, hospitality, sports and aerospace. Going forward, we anticipate hosting this event twice a year.

Emily Funk (EF): We were thrilled to welcome back participants from our spring event including a number of Darden and UVA alumni. For many of the other participating organizations, it was their first time visiting Sands Family Grounds. Their excitement and enthusiasm from being on grounds and engaging with our students was a wonderful glimpse into the networking connections that are fostered here at Darden.

How do these events fit into the suite of resources and programming the Career team offers for Executive and Part-Time MBA students?

GS: For and MBA student, but particularly our Executive MBA students, networking is going to be a big part of their career development. Networking is part of our Professional Advancement Course (PAC), a required, credit-bearing course for Executive and Part-Time MBA students. These kinds of events allow the students to put these skills into practice.

How did you develop the list of participating employers?

(EF): Our goal was to have a wide array of industries that align with student interests across a mix of larger and smaller organizations across the DMV area.

We used two key factors to help develop our list of participating employers: employers whom we had an existing relationship with and the strength of Darden’s alumni network. Our network is incredible and the enthusiasm from our community to give back is not something we take for granted.

You hosted networking opportunities this summer for the Part-Time MBA Class of 2025, how did those go?

GS: During the summer, Part-Time MBA students had the opportunity to participate in small sessions (5-6 people) with Darden alumni from target employers. The idea with these events was to provide a space and comfortable venue for advice. We hosted 11 alumni from 7 companies: Amazon, McKinsey & Co., BCG, Fannie Mae, Hilton, Oracle, Microsoft and Lazard.

What is coming up from the Career team?

GS: So many things! We have two more networking panels this fall – one focused on consulting in November and another on technology in December. We will also offer career discovery opportunities for our first year Part-Time MBA students, including presentations on careers in finance, consulting and entrepreneurship.

In October, Darden’s Batten Institute will host DC Tech Connect, an immersive day of industry panels and collaborative workshops. This will bring together students interested in technology with alumni at emerging and established tech companies. In addition, Darden’s Mayo Center for Asset Management is hosting a series of nine sessions on Venture Capital.

Interested in learning more about Darden’s career resources for working professional students? Join us for our Career-focused webinar on 8 November at 5:00 pm ET. Plus, check out our podcast conversation with Gopika Spaenle and Assistant Dean, Career Development Center, Jeff McNish.