Students come to Darden from all over the world, each with their own unique story to tell. Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions Dawna Clarke and Senior Associate Dean for the Residential Full-Time MBA Program Melissa Thomas-Hunt held a candid conversation about the Darden experience.

Melissa is the former Head of Global Diversity and Belonging at Airbnb where she led the strategy and execution of the global internal diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging programs. She also previously served as global chief diversity officer and faculty at Darden where she led the Women in Leadership executive education program.

Darden emphasizes the value of having an inclusive and diverse community. Through groups such as Hoo Crew and learning teams, students are able to form connections across the community even before they arrive on grounds.

As part of the University of Virginia, Darden students become true Hoos and love rooting for UVA sports (regardless of the score). Charlottesville has thriving music, outdoor and restaurant scenes as well as being a in approximate location to cities like Richmond and Washington D.C.

"Productivity, although some CEOs are not recognizing this, is fundamentally linked to how connected individuals are, and how much of a sense of belonging they have in a community. So what I, and the team, have attempted to do, is plant more dimensions of connectivity."

- Melissa Thomas Hunt

As applicants are prepare to apply to business schools, here are some tips from Melissa:

  1. Gather as much information as you can on the programs you are interested in. We want people who want to be here.
  2. Take the opportunity to take a quantitative course if you do not have a quantitive background. Even if it’s just for yourself, it can help your transition into classrooms using the case method.
  3. Have conversations with the people you care about, and bring them along on your decision making journey. This experience also includes them, but it is important they understand how much time, concentration and focus Darden requires from its students.



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