By Dave Hendrick

Newswise — The University of Virginia Darden School of Business welcomed more than 460 new graduates to its alumni ranks on 20 May during a hot and sunny graduation ceremony on Darden’s Flagler Court.

The graduating Class of 2018 included more than 340 full-time MBA students and 120 Executive MBA students. The executive class, including graduates of the Executive MBA and Global Executive MBA formats, represented the first graduating class to include a cohort of students based in the Washington, D.C., area.

Darden Dean Scott Beardsley encouraged graduates — the first class he helped to recruit as dean — to determine their own definition of success, rather than chasing after a societal construct based on signifiers such as wealth or status.

“I believe that success is a journey, not a destination,” Beardsley said. “Success is a process to find your full potential — to maximize self-improvement in something that gives you deep meaning. It is contextual and a moving target.”

Beardsley offered four keys of success:

  • Do something meaningful
  • Build strong relationships
  • Dream big and small
  • Have the right habits to provide the energy and patience to stay the course

True success is “knowing you did the best you could with the cards you were dealt in the pursuit of your full potential,” Beardsley said.

“Success is individualistic and can only be defined — and redefined — by you,” he continued. “Success comes from meaning, and the search for meaning is meaningful itself.”

In addition to Beardsley, the Class of 2018 heard from elected representatives from the full-time MBA and Executive MBA.

Full-time MBA class speaker Whit Abraham (MBA ‘18) called on his classmates to make the change they wanted to see in the world.

“We venture into a great deal of uncertainty: climate change, food and water scarcity, poverty, inequality, and injustice. If any of that stuff makes you angry, then do something about it,” Abraham said. “The world needs you, so summon the best of your energy and skills.”

Abraham, a former pilot with the U.S. Navy, encouraged his classmates to “find a mission” for which they are needed.

“I hope that we find a calling in this world, something greater than ourselves, and that we pursue it with unrelenting passion,” said Abraham.

Executive MBA speaker Christine McLean (EMBA ’18) recounted starting the program when she was eight months pregnant with a two-year-old child at home and a husband stationed four hours away.

The mutual support of her classmates was critical to helping her get through the program, and McLean, a legislative liaison action officer in the U.S. Air Force,  said the “significance of our relationship and the constancy of the program became the rock that allowed us to weather some of life’s biggest challenges.”

Said McLean: “It would have been much more convenient and comfortable to continue along on our life’s path without returning to school, but the decision to reflects in each of us a character, determination and resilience that — instead of diminishing our desire to change the world — will only fuel our fire to make a difference.”

New Grads See Strong Employer Demand

While some new graduates are continuing the recruiting process, preliminary numbers from the Class of 2018 show roughly 84 percent of the Class of 2018 full-time MBA have accepted offers of employment.

The numbers are tracking higher than those at the same time in 2017, suggesting Darden students are finding the jobs they want earlier in the recruiting process.

Consulting (28 percent), financial services (26 percent) and technology jobs (22 percent) have attracted the most Class of 2018 graduates, although the new Darden alumni are heading to a wide range of sectors and companies.

Top employers include (17 students), McKinsey & Co. (16 students), The Boston Consulting Group (15 students), Bain & Co. (14 students) and JPMorgan Chase (12 students).

The Class of 2018 is currently reporting an average base salary of $128,180, and 12 percent of students have accepted offers for employment outside of the United States. Both figures represent increases compared to the same time in 2017.

“Top companies continue to seek Darden graduates year after year for the problem-solving, collaboration and communication skills they bring to the table,” said Jeff McNish, assistant dean of the Career Development Center. “Darden produces leaders who are able to make an impact at the companies they join to drive growth and innovation. My team looks forward to seeing the incredible things they do in their careers.”

Standout Students Honored With Awards

As part of the graduation ceremony, a number of Darden students were recognized for their contributions to the School.

  • Sam Kramer earned the Frederick S. Morton Award, which recognizes a student for excellence in leadership
  • True Overholt earned the EMBA Faculty Award
  • The C. Stewart Sheppard Distinguished Service Award was awarded to:
    • Olamide Alli
    • Catherine Aranda
    • Paloma Romero
    • Kristine Campbell
    • Jessica Ching
    • Griffin Dassatti
    • Adam Doyle
    • Lydia Hackert
    • Lauren Hansen
    • Tatsuya Hasegawa
    • Thanh Le
    • Shawn Le
    • Daniel Nickerson
    • Christopher Schenkkan
    • Ryan Slevin
    • Alyson Yarris

The Top 10 percent of the graduation class was also awarded the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence.

Watch the full graduation ceremony below.


About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.