Allison Sellman is the Director of The Executive Program (TEP) at Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning (EELL). TEP is the most comprehensive advanced management and succession planning program for business executives and C-Suite leaders. Allison joined the team in August 2022, but is no stranger to lifelong learning, having worked in the space for the past 15 years.

In her role, she partners with organizations to better understand their learning and development goals, and identify business leaders, both in the U.S. and globally, who are the right fit for TEP, in addition to overseeing the delivery and management of the program.

Why higher education and Darden?

I was raised by a family of educators, so curiosity and continued education were always encouraged. My mom was the Administrator for the Charlottesville/Albemarle Adult Learning Center until she retired. Seeing the work that she did with refugees and others that weren’t able to complete their K-12 education helped me understand that education is nothing to take for granted – and that learning is continuous. Offering learning experiences that are accessible and available outside of the typical K-12 and college-degree track is an extension of that philosophy.

Joining Darden was a no brainer! We are the institution that provides programs for organizations and individuals to make positive change in the world. Darden is the number one business teaching school and home to the top-ranked faculty. Being part of this elite institution is an honor and providing programs like TEP that allow talent to continue their development and grow their organization is an important piece of what we do. We equip organizations and individuals to transform the world, one leader at a time.

Can you imagine a world where we stopped learning when we entered our first job? Change is constant and there will always be opportunities to grow and develop.

- Allison Sellman, Director of The Executive Program

Why do you believe in lifelong learning?

Can you imagine a world where we stopped learning when we entered our first job? Change is constant and there will always be opportunities to grow and develop. I believe learning is a continuous journey, and helping prepare current and future leaders to succeed in a dynamic world is a positive outcome not just for the individual, but the whole of society.

What do you think makes The Executive Program (TEP) different from other executive development programs out there?

The faculty are the heart of the program. I observed several of the sessions during TEP’s October module and it reinforced my role here and the significance of what we offer and how we do it. Seeing how the faculty engage with the cohort is truly special. Our faculty don’t lecture, they lead case study discussions using the Socratic method. Guided by faculty, the participants learn by interacting with each other, asking questions and coming to a conclusion as a group. It provides participants with deeper skill development because they’re challenged to “exercise their brain” and think through key issues and concepts in transformative ways. These classroom and experiential learning components build skills that the cohort can immediately implement in their organizations.

Our program is also unique because of its focus on developing the whole leader with a wellness component throughout the program. You can’t be an effective leader unless you take care of yourself, and these sessions help leaders prioritize their own well-being and tackle stress management in effective ways.

In addition, each participant enters TEP with a business challenge project. During TEP, students work with faculty, peers and executive coaches to work on their project and return to their organization with an action plan to address the project.

Lastly, the cohort learn from their peers. We intentionally keep a small and diverse cohort that represent various industries, experiences and geographical locations. This allows for different perspectives to share in program discussions and peer feedback.

What have you enjoyed most so far about your role?

The connections! It’s been rewarding to partner with executive leaders to discuss TEP and share the impact that our advanced management program will have on their organizations. It’s essential to have a succession plan in place and I get to help corporations execute their succession plan with Darden-trained talent.

Last – but certainly not least – Darden’s EELL team is incredibly supportive. I work with passionate, gifted, and dedicated colleagues that share in the mission of providing inclusive, participant-focused programs to individuals and organizations so they can continue to advance. The team has been generous with their time as I’ve joined the team and they’ve been integral to my own development. I am grateful to have their support and enjoy collaborating with them daily.