Louis Chapman is a Senior Engineer at AstraZeneca and a student in Darden’s Part-Time MBA Class of 2025. For Chapman, pursuing an MBA had always been in the cards, and the Part-Time MBA program helped him transition into his team lead position. 

How did you become interested in pursuing an MBA? 

It was something I always envisioned doing in my career, especially as I grew towards leadership positions. I took into consideration where I was in life, knowing I had enough professional experience to put an MBA into context, and trying to do it before I start a family.  

It didn’t make sense for me to take two years off and go to a full-time program, but I still wanted a top MBA experience. The timing as I was transitioning from a senior engineer on a project to a senior engineer leading a team was perfect for me. 

What drew you to Darden?

I was specifically looking for Part-Time programs, and because I live in DC, and was born and raised in the DMV area, it’s somewhere I wanted to be and grow my professional network. Darden rose to the top of my list because of the in-person opportunities and its easy, accessible location.

As I learned more about the program, the case method of teaching was very new to me. I attended some mock classes and thought the case method would be a good way for me to engage with some of the more traditional business coursework I didn’t have a background in. It is an exciting way to learn, and I’ve had an excellent experience at Darden so far.  

What have been some of your favorite memories from the program so far?

Two things stand out right away.  

During the first Residency week in Charlottesville, our schedule was packed with academics and opportunities for personal connections with our classmates. The very first case we did in class required creating a product strategy, and the key to cracking the case relied on a simple business concept I just wasn’t familiar with because of my engineering background. Seeing the case get talked through by everyone in the class was really eye-opening for me. It made me realize how much more I’m going to learn and the value I’m going to get out of the MBA for my own career and development and interest because of this learning approach. 

The second thing that stands out to me was meeting my classmates during that first week of school. I didn’t know what to expect with it being an inaugural cohort for Darden’s Part-Time MBA program, but it was just incredible meeting everyone. The breadth of experience and how supportive everyone is bonded us quickly. 

Something that was special during the week was Darden Stories, an optional opportunity for folks to get to know each other by sharing a personal story about a defining moment, experience or cause that you really connect with or is important to you. It was a really powerful experience.  

You don't want to be the person in the room that just reiterates the conversation from the meeting, you want to help drive the meeting forward. Coming to class twice a week for three years is a great way to grow that skillset so you can be a leader in the classroom, meeting room and future boardroom. 

How would you explain the case method for someone who may be new to it?

It’s a relevant representation of challenges that you’re going to actually face in your job. You’re not memorizing facts and finding right answers but assessing a situation of uncertainty. Being able to apply the right business concepts and get good outcomes when you don’t have all the information is crucial in any environment. I think it’s a great way to prepare for future roles, to practice thinking on your feet as well as communicating your ideas to build on a discussion.  

You don’t want to be the person in the room that just reiterates the conversation from the meeting, you want to help drive the meeting forward. Coming to class twice a week for three years is a great way to grow that skillset so you can be a leader in the classroom, meeting room and future boardroom. 

When you look at how you’ve grown, how has the Part-Time program made an impact for you?

This experience has been really positive. I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to do this while continuing my professional career. It’s been incredibly beneficial to have the opportunity to apply the concepts I’m learning in the classroom to my work in real time. One of the first classes I took was Leading Organizations. This class allowed me to explore different techniques and ways of motivating the people I’m working with on a daily basis, which has been so valuable. 

How has the program supported you in your career?

The program has been really great. In the first two quarters, there are so many opportunities that are more structured through the core curriculum, plus Career Center presentations. Knowing what the options are coming out of an MBA program, especially for students who are interested in a major career switch, but don’t have the full breadth of understanding of what options may be available to them, is really valuable. Global Executive MBA

I’m not looking to switch careers, but I’ve talked with classmates who are interested in making bigger career changes and because of the pacing of the Part-Time MBA program, they have time to think about their next steps before jumping into recruiting. I think it’s incredibly valuable to have some time to internalize what we’re going through academically and personally through the program, and then try to understand how that matches up with future job opportunities.  

What’s one piece of advice you have for prospective students?

I’ve gotten so much out of the case method. It works well when addressing more technical topics, like finance, as well as broader concepts like leadership. How all this worked was harder for me to conceptualize coming into the program, so I would strongly recommend any prospective students to attend a class, whether it’s a mock class or a class observation. 

Participating in a class visit is an incredible way to get to know how the program may fit into your life. Visiting Sands Family Grounds gives you a chance to test drive how the commute fits into your schedule. I would highly recommend putting yourself into the school environment and seeing how you feel.