M.B.A. Academic Program
The Darden School’s two-year program leading to a degree of Master of Business Administration prepares men and women of high promise to be leaders in the world of practical affairs. Darden M.B.A.s are taught to be action-oriented, take an enterprise perspective, and lead with integrity, vision, judgment, determination, and social responsibility. The Darden curriculum is an integrated program that provides an understanding of the fundamental areas of business while it develops the capacity to analyze managerial problems and present intelligent and resourceful solutions to these problems. The M.B.A. program compresses years of experience through the study of several hundred real business situations or cases involving a breadth and depth of analysis impossible to gain in years of on-the-job training.
The educational approach employed by the Darden School places significant responsibility for self-development on the individual student. Students are admitted not only for what they can learn, but also what they can teach their classmates in a discussion oriented setting. The curriculum is carefully planned and coordinated by the faculty, but the daily discussion revolves around student preparation and participation. This shared faculty and student responsibility for the classroom learning makes the Darden classroom experience highly dynamic and stimulating.
The Darden curriculum also emphasizes the ethical nature of leadership through required course work and broad integrated discussions of the role of the corporation and its leaders in business and society in general. The school’s concern with ethical values continues the tradition of the University of Virginia evident in the Honor System.
The Student Body The Darden School admits approximately 310 highly qualified individuals yearly. New students come from around the world and virtually every profession. These students are then organized into learning teams of five to six students and sections of 65 students. Each learning team and each section are designed to have a diversity of functional skills, demographics, and international background. Darden students quickly learn that one of the most important assets of their education is the network of relationships built among classmates from all over the world. The first year sections are shuffled at the beginning of the second semester in January to provide maximum opportunity to meet, learn from, and form long-term relationships with a wide range of classmates.
The Case Method The Darden School uses business problem oriented cases in the vast majority of classes. In case method, students learn in four steps: individual case reading, preparation and analysis; learning team discussion; section discussion; and post-class reflection and integration. Each case presents students with a real business situation and related decisions to make. Most cases require the student to decide and present extemporaneously what they would do in that situation. Students are expected to define the issues they identify in the case, use sound analytical techniques in applying their knowledge to the available data, evaluate the alternatives, make a reasonable decision, and recommend measures to implement their plan. This process simulates the function of modern managers in a wide variety of different industries, products, processes, and styles of management.
Case method is demanding. Potential students should be prepared to commit 60 to 80 hours each week to their academic endeavors. Darden School students will spend 3-5 hours a day on individual preparation, 2-3 hours in learning team meetings, 4.5 hours a day in class meetings with their section of 65 classmates, and 1-2 hours a day integrating the day’s learning into their business judgment base. Classroom time is spent largely in discussion, focusing on the definition, analysis, and a wide range of feasible approaches to a problem. To attain academic and personal growth in this environment, the student is required to participate in case discussions. Students’ grades are based in large part on the quality of their in-class contributions. Classes in the second year vary in size, but case discussion is still the chief learning experience.
While the following first year schedule is intended only as an example, it does indicate the degree of commitment expected of our students:
8:00 - 9:25 First class
9:25 - 10:00 Coffee
10:00 - 11:25 Second class
11:45 - 1:10 Third Class
Afternoon Prepare cases for next day
Evening Meet with learning teams
While the case-method philosophy dominates the program, other methodologies (role-playing, simulations, field trips, guest lecturers, and exercises of various sorts) are used to augment students’ understanding of modern business practice. The Darden educational experience is a careful blending of theory and current practice designed to equip students to act confidently in a complex world.
Standards for the M.B.A. Degree The Darden School requires a minimum performance standard for its M.B.A. graduates. In addition, the school has performance standards for the first year program, each semester of the M.B.A. program, and each course.
In administering these standards, the school uses five grades, defined by the faculty as follows: A, Distinguished Performance; B+, High Performance; B, Standard Performance; B-, Low Performance; and F, Unacceptable Performance. In addition, occasions arise that necessitate assigning a grade that falls outside the standard range. The symbol IN (incomplete), assigned in such cases implies that, for reasons known to the individual faculty member, an enrolled student has not completed the work of the course at the end of a specified academic period.
An important element of student performance is classroom participation. Depending on the appraisal criteria of the instructor and course, classroom participation frequently accounts for up to 50 percent of a student’s grade. This proportion reflects the central role and importance of active engagement by the student in the learning process.
While assessments about classroom participation are incorporated into grades received by students at the end of each term, the first year program expects each student to be aware of, and responsible for, her or his participation on an ongoing basis. Although individual faculty, course faculty, or section faculty may find it appropriate to provide an assessment of student participation during a term, there is no requirement that they do so on a consistent basis. The responsibility for being informed of the impact one is having on others resides with the student. Consistent with this philosophy, a student who is uncertain about the value added by participation in class is expected to initiate discussions with faculty and students who can provide an independent perspective.
A course with 30 sessions is defined as one-course unit. A course with 15 sessions constitutes a half-course unit. For the purpose of assessing academic performance, the grades categories of Distinguished Performance (A), High Performance (B+), Standard Performance (B), and Low Performance (B-) are weighted on the basis of either a one-course unit or a half-course unit depending on the number of course sessions. The Unacceptable Performance category, (F grade) is always weighted as a one-course unit grade. An interim grade given at the end of the first semester of the first year has the course-equivalent units of the entire course for purposes of academic standards.
Session and Semester Grade Requirements
Two metrics are applied in assessing a student’s academic performance against the grade requirements stated below:
1. Unacceptable Performance metric: the number of F grades
2. Low Performance metric: the number of B- equivalent grades calculated from B- course units grades. For the purpose of assessing minimum performance standards with this metric, a B- grade in a 30-session course will be considered 1.0 B- course equivalent unit, while a B- in a 15-session course will be considered 0.5 B- course equivalent units. For example, one B- grade in a 30-sessions course and one B- in a 15-sessions course will be translated into 1.5 B- course equivalent units (1 + 0.5)
A student will be dismissed from the M.B.A. Program if any one of the following three conditions exists in the student’s cumulative grade record:
1. A grade of F is earned in two courses.
2. The number of B- course equivalent units meets or exceeds the semester-specified limits set forth.
3. The number of B- course equivalent units and F grades meets or exceeds the semester-specified limits set forth.
Unacceptable Performance Course Grade and Make-Up Requirements
Students who earn an F grade in a First-Year Program core course must successfully complete, with a minimum grade of B-, a core-content examination covering the entire course. This make-up examination requirement will be administered by the course head of the relevant course and must be completed prior to the beginning of the Second-Year Program. The course head must inform the Academic Standards Committee of the outcome. A failing F grade on the examination results in dismissal from the program with no appeal to the Academic Standards Committee.
Students who earn an F grade in a First-Year Program elective course will be required to earn a minimum B- grade in an additional make-up First-Year Program elective course. This additional, make-up elective will count as a First-Year Program elective course, and it is to be completed during the student’s second year studies at Darden. A student may chose to retake the elective course (with permission of the instructor) or select a make-up elective from (a) the First-Year Program electives offerings in Quarter 4 of the First-Year Program or (b) the First-Year Program electives offered in the Second-Year Program.
No make-up activity is required for a student earning an F grade in a second-year elective course.
An F grade remains on a student’s transcript and continues to be counted in the student’s performance record.
First Semester, First Year A student who, at the end of the first semester of work, has received an interim or final grade of F in courses that have had at least 15 meetings or has accumulated 3 to 5 B- course equivalent units from final or interim course units grades shall, in order to continue in the program, be required to submit an action plan for grade improvement to the Academic Standards Committee prior to beginning the spring semester classes.
A student who, at the end of the first semester of work, has received a grade of F in two or more courses or, has accumulated 5.5 or more B- course equivalent units or, has accumulated a single grade of F and has accumulated 3.5 or more B- course equivalent units shall be notified by the Academic Standards Committee, acting on behalf of the faculty, that he or she is dismissed from the M.B.A. Program. The student may petition the Academic Standards Committee for readmission.
End of First Year A student who has received a grade of F in two or more courses or, has accumulated 5.5 or more B- course equivalent units or, has received a single grade of F and has received 3.5 or more B- course equivalent units shall be notified by the Academic Standards Committee, acting on behalf of the faculty, that he or she is dismissed from the M.B.A. Program. The student may petition the Academic Standards Committee for readmission.
Second Year Course overload programs will not generally be approved for students under Academic Standards Committee jurisdiction. The chairperson of the Academic Standards Committee or his/her designee must approve the final second-year selection sheets of students under Academic Standards Committee jurisdiction to ensure compliance with the overload constraint.
At the end of the third semester, a student who has received a grade of F in two or more courses or has accumulated 6.5 or more B- course equivalent units or has received a single grade of F and has accumulated 4.5 or more B- course equivalent units shall be notified by the Academic Standards Committee, acting on behalf of the faculty, that he/she is dismissed from the M.B.A. Program but may petition the Academic Standards Committee for readmission.
At the end of the fourth semester, a student who has received a grade of F in two courses or has accumulated 8.0 or more B- course equivalent units or has received a single grade of F and has accumulated 6.0 or more B- course equivalent units is dismissed from the MBA Program and will not be recommended for the M.B.A. degree.
In either semester of the second year, a student who receives 3.0 or more B- course equivalent units or receives 1.0 or more B- course equivalent units and a grade of F shall be notified by the Academic Standards Committee, acting on behalf of the faculty, that he/she has failed to meet the standards for continuing the M.B.A. Program but may petition the Academic Standards Committee for readmission.