By Marc Johnson, Executive Director for Global Affairs, Darden School of Business
“What makes the Darden School different?” After a week frequently answering this question in private meetings and Admissions events for 200 prospective MBA students in 3 cities across India, I was struck by how much the week had been a living demonstration of the answer to that question. At 7,000+ miles away from the Darden campus in Charlottesville, New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai might not be the places you would expect to find what distinguishes Darden among global institutions of higher education. But as I reflected on the time engaging with prospective students, alumni, corporate and academic partners and other friends across India in August, I think much of what is special about Darden can be found there. Everywhere Kristen Egan, Assistant Director of Admissions, and I went, Darden alumni stood by to help welcome those of us coming through from Charlottesville, to share their insights on current events in India, to share their experiences at Darden with those prospective students and to gather socially.
The Darden network is global in its reach and in many ways unmatched in its intensity. It is energizing to find alumni who are passionate for the school and willing to give back as I move around the globe for Darden. As part of this trip was to lay groundwork for our Global MBA for Executives students’ residency in Mumbai and Delhi and our MBA students’ Global Business Experience in Bangalore and Delhi next January, many of our meetings were about arranging engagements to make those learning experiences as meaningful as possible. Alumni offered to welcome our students into their firms ranging from a multinational information technology firm to a start-up that is bringing new food products to the Indian market. I was struck that our alumni not only opened their own businesses and organizations for our students but their personal and professional networks, introducing us to everyone from top leaders in the Indian business world to high energy entrepreneurs to passionate social impact leaders. The Darden alumni in India are not only passionate about the school, they are engaged in advancing educational opportunities and learning for Darden in this important global environment.
Seeing what alumni are doing in India was another insight into how Darden prepares entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders who step forward to change the world. Darden alumni have had an impact in India in many ways. This may be creating and growing new industries as VN Dalmia ’84 of Dalmia Continental did in launching the Leonardo Olive Oil brand and growing olive oil into a leading food item in the market or leading the growth of global brands to the market as when Ashok Bajpai ’90 helped grow Yum! Brands in India and is now heading global security firm G4S, or leading the development of the private equity industry to increase access to capital for promising ventures as Rajan Mehra ‘93 has as co-founder of Nirvana Venture Advisors. A common thread in the alumni we met with was this passion and ability to create change.
Darden is fortunate to have alumni and partners around the world who are passionate about the school and helping us meet our mission. For the prospective MBA students who came out to our events, they got a glimpse of how the transformational education experience at Darden could equip them to meet their passions with support from a highly energized global network. We are fortunate to have alumni who are not only stepping forward to make a difference around the globe but passionate about Darden and willing to come out and spend an evening talking with prospective students not just about Darden but their insights on pursuing an MBA more broadly.