Elizabeth Hupert serves as the Director of Program Operations at Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning (EELL) and has been a part of the Darden family since 1996. Hupert and her team are the backbone of our programs, ensuring they run expertly and that participants are guaranteed to have a world-class learning experience for which Darden is known. She shares about her journey at Darden, the next level experience her team provides, her favorite part of the job and more.

How did you come to Darden and how long have you been here?

I came to Darden in March of 1996, and except for two and a half years, I have been here ever since. During my entire tenure at Darden, I’ve been exclusively with Executive Education. Prior to Darden, I had a career in logistical management, both in the entertainment industry and at a large global credentialing organization in the financial services sector. It was in these roles that I developed a love for organizing events, and when I found the opportunity at Darden, I realized it would be the perfect fit. Darden feels like home.

How has your role evolved during your time at Darden?

Since joining Darden, I’ve held seven different titles, but they have all been in operations and program management. I’ve been leading the operations team for four years now. As Darden EELL  has grown and evolved, so has the level of responsibility in operations and the depth of our overall impact. As our program delivery model has evolved, as our innovation in design has evolved, and as our technology has evolved, so have these positions and the skills required to support our offerings and the clients we serve. We wear many hats, juggle many balls, and do whatever is required to ensure programs run successfully and yield the highest outcome.

How does the Operations team make the Darden experience so memorable and impactful for participants?

We take pride in providing effortless immersive learning. Every comfort and tool that could make the experience the best it can be is available to our guests. We create an environment that allows participants to maximize their learning experience at every level. When everything is taken care of for them — from lodging to meals, transportation, materials, to being a smiling face in the morning, and ultimately being the trusted primary resource for all they require to feel supported during their stay, they can take full advantage of their time at Darden. We anticipate their needs, being able to as seamlessly and as flawlessly as possible, make corrections or adjustments. Through everything we do, we build meaningful and long-lasting relationships with participants and always look forward to when a participant returns to Darden for another program. Our commitment is to always provide a world-class program, so they confidently return to Darden as they work towards their career goals and continue their learning journey.

We also could not achieve this without our amazing community partnerships with the facilities, classroom support, technology support, food and beverage teams, and The Forum Hotel — who all contribute significantly to our collective success!

I am inspired by the incredible diversity of organizations, industries, and cultures represented in our programs. We build relationships with people from all over the world and are fortunate to learn from those we serve as well.

- Elizabeth Hupert, Director of Program Operations, Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of what I do is getting to know the participants – learning their story. We don’t have to wait for the evaluations to come back when participants leave the classroom on their final day – we immediately know what their experience has meant to them. We see our impact in action!

In The Executive Program (TEP), we host each year’s cohort for two weeks in the fall and then they return for another two weeks in the spring. Being able to welcome them again is like greeting an old friend. We also are privileged to see the resilience of the relationships and networks we have assisted in fostering. An example of this is a participant from the TEP Class of 2001 who I’m still in touch with today. I regularly hear from him and receive updates about how he’s still strongly connected with classmates from his cohort well over 20 years later.

I am also inspired by the incredible diversity of organizations, industries, and cultures represented in our programs. We build relationships with people from all over the world and are fortunate to learn from those we serve as well.

Are there any impactful moments or memories that stand out to you from over the years?

There have been so many amazing moments, and I often feel overly blessed with wonderful memories and opportunities I have experienced both personally and professionally through my work at Darden. For me, I would say supporting our international participants is by far one of the most gratifying aspects of my role. Many of them come to Darden (and the US) and can find themselves far outside of their comfort zone for a variety of reasons. My team and I put extra focus on checking in and making sure that they’re acclimating well – that dietary needs and preferences are being met, that they are recovering successfully from travel and resting appropriately, that they are not having excessive difficulty with a language barrier, and are feeling comfortable, heard and engaged in the classroom. Imagining ourselves in a similar place puts us in a perpetual mindset of attentiveness that builds trust and confidence with our clients.

I fondly remember a woman from Japan many years ago that struggled greatly during the beginning of her TEP experience, and on the last day of the program, she came up to me and gave me the biggest hug and thanked me for everything, expressing that she couldn’t have made it through without the care and courtesy she received. It meant so much to know that I and our team contributed to providing a such nurturing and empowering space for her so far from home.

When we create opportunities for learners who might not have had a way to “get here” so they can “go there” in their career, it never gets old to me, and is the greatest reward.

Why is lifelong learning important to you?

None of us will ever know it all. I consider myself to be a lifelong learner and feel like I have been able to learn side-by-side with the participants that we’ve welcomed. I appreciate being in the classroom and hearing about hot trends, current challenges and witnessing the bloom of great ideas and calls to action that will create positive impact for individuals, organizations and beyond.

There will always be change and you must be able to adapt to it and embrace it. I will always be a huge advocate for lifelong learning both personally and professionally and am incredibly proud of our mission and the work we do at Darden Executive Education & Lifelong Learning!