By Lou Malmgren

In March, 24 second year Darden students travelled to Patagonia for a Global Topics Course in experiential leadership in collaboration with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). The course took students on an 8-day expedition through the rugged mountains of Patagonia, backpacking across scenic vistas, up snowy mountain passes and through dense forests, all while exploring practical leadership lessons. Before departing for Chilean Patagonia, students worked with faculty lead Bobby Parmar who outlined the framework of the expedition, set expectations and goals for the experience and led a group debrief of the course upon the students’ return.

During the course, each student served as the designated leader of their hiking group for a portion of the trek, providing the opportunity to develop individual leadership styles in moment-to-moment decision making. Branching trails encouraged individual decisiveness, while campsite planning facilitated teamwork. Encounters with inclement weather and difficult conditions built resilience and tolerance for adversity and uncertainty. Nights spent constructing and sharing multi-person tents imbued their lessons with camaraderie as students worked toward their destination. Students debriefed their experience at the end of each day, sharing and receiving feedback on each other’s leadership styles.

By the end of their expedition, students developed unique business leadership skills, such as under-pressure decision-making and team coordination. “I was thankful for the opportunity to struggle through uncertainty and adversity in a leadership role and learn from it through feedback sessions with my classmates,” said Morgan Kelly (MBA ’19) who participated in the 2019 NOLS Experiential Leadership Course. “I am a stronger outdoorsman, a better communicator, and a more confident leader thanks to my experience in Patagonia.”

Enjoy a 60-second glimpse of the 2019 course: