Beyond the MBA Classroom: UVA Darden Partners Association

When you select an MBA program, you are not just choosing your learning environment, but are also committing to becoming part of a community. Each Thursday, we offer a window into life “beyond the MBA classroom” at a top business school.

The Darden Partners Association (DPA) at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Administration sponsors social and outreach events for students’ significant others and children year-round, from walking groups and book clubs to movie nights and dinners, with the goal of helping these members of the Darden community get to know one another and more easily acclimate themselves to their new home and lifestyle. The DPA also organizes community service projects in Charlottesville, such as blood drives and fund raisers for the local SPCA. It maintains a job list for current and incoming partners, supports international students in their adjustment to Charlottesville and, through its family committee, plans events for children, helps parents find babysitters, organizes family-friendly social events and serves as a general resource for parents.

Students’ partners and families are integral parts of the Darden community because of the support they offer the students as well as the active role they have traditionally played in the Charlottesville community. Representatives from both the Office of Student Affairs and the Admissions Office told mbaMission that more than 50% of the students in Darden’s recent classes have been either married or in long-term committed relationships. The 2011–2012 president of the DPA told mbaMission that anecdotally, that average still held true. Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions Sara Neher speculated that the number of these students is higher at Darden than at other business schools in part because the DPA is “incredibly active, committed, and fully involved in all aspects of the student experience” and also because “Charlottesville is so easy to live in, with a welcoming community and [low] unemployment.”

One alumnus told mbaMission that he chose Darden over other schools in large part because of the school’s strong support for students’ partners, declaring, “They are welcome everywhere.” He made particular note of Family Day, a kind of open house for students’ partners, parents, and other visitors. The visitors attend and participate in class (a special case is used) and then enjoy a dean’s reception and barbecue. This allows partners to experience students’ daily life, meet their section mates, see their professors in action and hear the dean’s views on the role of family and community at Darden.

For in-depth descriptions of social and community activities at Darden and 15 other top MBA programs, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.

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