David Kutas joined Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning (EELL) as Senior Director of Client Solutions in July of 2022, but was no stranger to the Darden enterprise. Prior to his current role, Kutas was a part of the Partnership for Leaders in Education (UVA-PLE) team, a unique joint venture between Darden and UVA’s School of Education and Human Development. Here, he discusses his career journey, the first year in EELL and more.

Tell us about your journey to Darden and your current role.

My larger career aspirations have always been to engage with senior leadership teams to create learning conditions that allow their primary end user to flourish and thrive in the environments that are engineered by these leadership teams. I’m a big believer in leadership having a much more acute responsibility in design and engineering than I think we commonly think or talk about, and there’s a lot of potential there. I gravitate towards helping folks make design decisions and creative decisions that establish the conditions for their end users to learn.

My first eight years at Darden, those end users were students in public K-12 school districts and schools. On the UVA-PLE team, I worked with school district leaders to create the conditions that we know most enable students to be able to learn. I absolutely loved it. Then I transitioned into my current role as a Senior Director of Client Solutions with EELL, where I get to do a continuation of the core work of working with executive teams to design the learning conditions that allow their leaders and employees to flourish.

Since you’ve been in your current role for over a year, is there a particular story of impact that you’d like to share?

Impact is such a versatile word! It aspires to ROI but is welcoming of subtle changes in practice. At EELL, we always keep our eye on the ball of impact for learners and impact for organizations. But across the range of possible impacts, behind each is a lot of work, coordination, and planning from the designer. I’m consistently gratified by Darden’s emphasis on ensuring that our clients and learners are provided the opportunity to practice, extrapolate, and implement our learning so that desired impact can flourish.

In EELL, Shaun Rozyn and Lisa Cannell each exemplify the commitment that aspirational impact requires. Shaun’s commitment to thoughtful design alongside our great faculty unlocks experiences that our learners benefit from in clear ways. Conversely, Lisa’s acute awareness of faculty strengths and conviction in the possibilities that a Darden education provides are a constant source of connection and aspiration for me and others as we engineer client learning objectives into the necessary ROI to spell success for our clients.

What would you say makes Darden different from its competitors?

There are two things that are top of mind. The first is that the faculty at Darden are exemplary. They’re personable, brilliant, accessible, nimble and just insightful. They have an indefatigable spirit to engage in world-class teaching and learning and they’re always looking at ways to improve the learning experience.

The second thing is the dynamic between Darden’s leadership and the university’s leadership team. There is a clean and clear connection between them. I see President Jim Ryan’s orientation on being both good and great manifested in Dean Beardsley’s leadership and his commitment to being a servant leader because at the end of the day we’re here for the people that we serve.

Why is lifelong learning important to you and why should it matter to others as well?

There are a lot of different answers to this question, and I take somewhat of a biological lens. As organisms, we need to continue to adjust, learn and assimilate new data in a structured way that allows us to thrive. It’s easy and trite to say that if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards. I don’t know if that’s necessarily how I feel, but I do think that there is something at the core of being alive in the world that is so well complimented by learning and engagement in content that you may not have thought about before.

I also think the transfer of knowledge is the most powerful way that lifelong learning manifests itself. You can be learning about one topic, but when you can take the connections from that topic and apply it to other areas in your life, that’s when you see exponential personal and organizational growth, which I get really jazzed about.