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[转帖]BW:Sojourner's Travels Darden

发表于 2003-5-30 01:59:00 | 显示全部楼层

[转帖]BW:Sojourner's Travels Darden

For those Greater China applicants who are familiar with American history, please bear with some of the things that seem obvious . . . for those who are not familiar with American history, this might be worth reading even if you're not interested in Darden.

Sojourner's Travels, pt. 3 ¡V Charlottesville

Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia

The single most impressive class visit on my trip;  small, close-knit community; fiercely loyal alumni; connection to Virginia and Washington D.C.

Total distance traveled: Approximately 600 miles (960 kilometers)

Key attributes of school:  Case-method school;  arguably the most intensive first year among all MBA programs; small, tight-knit community; fiercely loyal alumni; superior faculty, superior career placement.

After spending the previous day in Michigan, I drove in 10 hours from Ann Arbor to Virginia, crossing the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia along the way.  For some reason the US-522 in northern Virginia suddenly turns into a local road, going from 45 mph to 25 mph.  As a result, I got nailed by the police.  Well, I guess after about 3,000 miles (4,800 km) I was due for a ticket.

To understand Darden, or to understand the University of Virginia, you almost have to understand Virginia first.  When I first drove through the state, I couldn¡¦t but help get a sense of history.  Make no mistake about it.   This is the state that the United States of America was originally born in.  And this was the state that the United States as we know it was reborn in.  

Four of the first five American Presidents are from Virginia.  The key architects of the United States: Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, were from Virginia.  This was also the state where much of the Civil War was fought, and where the United States started to become the country that we know today.  Before the Civil War, everyone referred to the United States in the plural saying ¡§the United States are,¡¨ it was only after the war that it became ¡§the United States is.¡¨  During the Civil War, as an insult to General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederacy (the south), it was ordered that a cemetery for Union soldiers (the north) be built on his ancestral home in Virginia.  Today, that cemetery is America¡¦s most sacred burial ground - Arlington National Cemetery.  In addition to the many national sites, Virginia is also home to numerous military academies and businesses serving the U.S. government.  There are moments in Virginia where you feel as if the whole state was one giant suburb of Washington D.C., full of agencies, foreign services, companies and infrastructure serving government or the military (and in particular the navy).  The Virginia Military Institute, Newport News, the CIA ¡V all institutions that are part of this great state.

And when you finally arrive at the University of Virginia, the school founded by Thomas Jefferson, and when you talk to the people at Darden, you realize just how much the school is part of that larger history.  There really is that connection between Darden, the state of Virginia, and the United States.  Not surprisingly, about 20-25% of the students at Darden in any given year are from Virginia.  A large number of them are ex-Navy and ex-Annapolis (the U.S. Naval Academy).  

When I first entered the Darden school grounds, I was pleasantly surprised.  I knew that it would new and therefore quite nice, but I didn¡¦t realize how nice it would be.  Everything was clean, beautiful, traditional, but also hi-tech.  The buildings at Darden have a classic American style that¡¦s both elegant and unpretentious.  The interiors of the school though, were exceptional ¡V it had a look that made me feel like I was visiting the White House or Congress.  The Doric columns, the classic furniture (with network ports in them), and the well-manicured lawn all invoke a quiet sense of early colonial American charm

My visit, as it turned out, was pretty short.  The tour of the school and the look around was brief but adequate, and really centered around the class visit.  The class visit though, turned out to be the most impressive class visit I had on my entire trip.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the single most impressive class I have ever encountered in my LIFE.  I have never seen every member of a classroom so focused, so well-prepared, and so ready to discuss the subject.  Everyone was right on top of the case, and ready to discuss it eloquently.  They knew all the details, where to find all the data, and asked questions that I would have expected out of at least a second-year or even a PHD student.  What made it so impressive was the fact that this was a first year class only 3 weeks into class.  I think the professor talked for less than 12 minutes over the course of the entire class.  The rest of the time, he just called on students to introduce sections, discuss concepts, talk about the shortfalls of the concepts, and debate over methods.  The professor cold-called the students at random all the time, and the students always had the answers, had supplementary points to the answers and could tell you about the possible problems within the answers.  There just wasn¡¦t any comparison between my Darden class visit and my other class visits.  Darden was a clear cut above everyone else.  The students at no other school really even came close in terms of preparation.  After the class, I couldn¡¦t help but ask the students in the room ¡V ¡§how long did it take you guys to prepare all this?¡¨  It was then that I realized why in the brochures they put the schedules for a typical three-case day or a typical two-case day.  To understand the dynamics of what goes on at Darden, you need to see the case method and look at the case-days for yourself.  

Another thing I asked was about how the learning teams worked.  As I understood, while students were organized in various sections, the learning team members were not from the same section.  This was very different from all other schools. I knew that everyone went through the same core, and that there was no testing out allowed, but I didn¡¦t understand how learning teams could work if people were in different sections taking classes with different instructors.  As it turned out, the reason why the learning teams work, was the fact that everyone in the school is doing the exact same case at the exact same time!  All 300 students across all 5 sections are coordinated, studying exactly the same things and debating the exact issues.  Impressive.  It¡¦s little surprise then that Darden students are so loyal to their school.  Everyone has quite literally, a common experience.  In fact if you look at the endowments (which is like the market capitalization for a school), you¡¦ll see quite a picture:

Endowment (as of 1999, $ in millions)

Harvard Business School

MIT Sloan

Stanford GSB

Northwestern Kellogg

UPenn Wharton


Virginia Darden

Yale SOM

Chicago GSB

Dartmouth Tuck

For a school that has traditionally had only about 240 students per MBA class (nearly 1/2 ¡V 1/4 of other MBA programs), this is impressive. (Note: the new classes, starting from 2002, have 300 students).  Many schools talk about being small or close-knit.  Or they talk about having fiercely loyal alumni.  But when it comes down to it, the numbers speak for themselves. Out of all the schools with 300 or less students, this is one of the top 3.  Darden is easily one of the premier small schools.  

In terms of weaknesses, the most obvious one for a program like this is the fact that it isn¡¦t very well-known internationally.  The school just isn¡¦t known outside the United States, especially to Chinese or Asian applicants (Europeans though, especially the British seem to be well-aware of the merits of the program).  This is a problem that the Dean is well aware of, and is countering by hiring some great professors and initiating various international exchanges.

Overall, Darden¡¦s a great place if your goal is to attend a small program that is very structured, disciplined, well-organized with fiercely loyal alumni and great supporting staff.  It¡¦s also the place for you if you¡¦re a strong believer in the case method.  It¡¦s not an easy place, and for Chinese and international students, Darden would simply be too hard if your English is mediocre.  It would probably be impossible if you haven¡¦t had extensive practice articulating arguments in English.  Alternatively, if you¡¦re goal is to get as much practice as possible speaking and articulating arguments in English, Darden would be the perfect.   

Next Stop: Durham (Duke University ¡V Fuqua)
发表于 2003-5-30 17:17:00 | 显示全部楼层
发表于 2003-5-31 05:01:00 | 显示全部楼层
A series of great insightful articles, Thanks xun jie.

BTW, I did not see U of Ch GSB, did you have it?
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