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Darden Debuts MBA Application Tip Video Series Amid MBA Program Leadership Changes

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Sara Neher, long-time assistant dean of admissions at UVA’s Darden School of Business, recently announced the debut of a 12-part MBA application tip video series for the 2017-18 admissions season. The brief videos—each between three and five minutes long—cover individual components of the application and are designed so that applicants can watch them all at once and/or return to them one by one as they work on different parts of the application.

“I really encourage you to watch them because they will give you tips that will help you prevent mistakes and know what we are looking for,” explained Neher in an introductory video. “We do mean for the application to be pretty straightforward, but I think it always help to have a few extra tips and a little bit of thought behind what the questions are really asking.”

First up is an overview video on how to approach the application as a whole. One of Neher’s first tips is to read the whole application from start to finish before you dive in. She notes that the application is arranged chronologically, which is how she and her team will read it. While it’s fine if applicants don’t choose to complete it in chronological order, she does recommend going back and reading from start to finish before hitting submit. “You want to make sure that it makes sense, that things don’t contradict each other, that the dates don’t overlap weirdly,” she said. “Sometimes that just happens when you’ve filled out the sections at different times—so double check and read through chronologically before you submit.”

Several other videos in the series provide tips regarding discreet components of the application, including the essay, standardized test scores, the resume, and the interview. Additional videos are directed toward specific applicant groups, such as international applicants, those applying from the military, or those applying through the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. Still others offer advice on reapplying to Darden, visiting Darden, and how best to communicate with Darden over the course of the application process.

Neher debuted the video series both within the application itself, which is now live, and on the Darden website. Darden’s essay question this year invites applicants—in 500 words—to tell about a time their opinion evolved through discussions with others. Neher herself offers valuable insight on how to approach it, but those seeking even more in-depth advice should stay tuned for Clear Admit’s essay topic analysis.

Neher Takes a New Role, Interim Admissions Dean Appointed
Though she doesn’t allude to it in the video series itself, this may be Neher’s swan song in the role. Darden shared several new leadership appointments to its MBA program team in a press release last week. “At the conclusion of an outstanding year for Darden’s MBA program, during which we welcomed the most diverse full-time MBA class in the school’s history and launched a new section of Darden’s Executive MBA in the Washington, D.C., area, I am delighted to announce new leadership roles,” Darden Dean Scott Beardsley said in the release. “These leaders will continue to shape Darden’s MBA education experience, which provides unmatched and personalized preparation for an extraordinary career and a lifetime of meaningful work.”

After 11 years leading admissions, Neher will now serve as assistant dean of strategic initiatives, a role in which she will work collaboratively with the dean’s office on projects of strategic importance to the school, including helping to implement Darden’s facilities master plan. Whitney Kestner—who has served as director of admissions operations for several years—will serve as interim assistant dean of admissions while the school conducts an international search for a new executive director of admissions and financial aid.

Several other shifts in leadership were also announced last week. Professor of Business Administration Bob Conroy will serve as associate dean of the full-time MBA program, succeeding Professor Marc Lipson, who will return to the school’s finance faculty. Professor of Business Administration Martin Davidson—a thought leader in the areas of leveraging difference and global leadership—will serve as senior associate dean and chief global diversity officer.

Marc Johnson, who leads the Darden Center for Global Initiatives (DCGI), will also now serve as executive director for global affairs and enterprise initiatives. Under his leadership, the DCGI has doubled the number of days Darden students study abroad over the past two years and will work in this new role to help reach a place where every Darden student has at least one significant global experience during their time at the school.

Finally, Larry Mueller will serve in a new role as assistant dean for global advising, working with the DCGI. He will serve as a resource for international students at Darden and advise the MBA program and faculty leadership on ways to shape and expand the school’s global curriculum and learning opportunities.

Career Development Center to Unveil Innovations This Summer
Also announced last week, Darden’s Career Development Center will unveil a range of innovations this summer, following on a banner year of career outcomes that included a 100 percent placement rate for first-year internship seekers and increases in outcomes statistics for recent graduates.

Among the firms hiring the most MBAs from Darden’s most recent graduating class were technology firms Amazon, Google, and Microsoft; financial services firms JP Morgan Chase & Co., Credit Suisse, Evercore, and Goldman Sachs; consulting firms Accenture, Bain & Co., Boston Consulting Group, and McKinsey & Co. and Johnson & Johnson, E&J Gallo Winery, and Danaher Corp. in industry, among others.

To continue this momentum, the school will hire three new senior career specialists focused on the areas of technology, entrepreneurship, digital and consumer careersfinancial services careers (including private equity and venture capital); and consulting and professional services careers.

Clear Admit would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Neher on her new appointment. We’ll miss the close collaboration we have enjoyed with her over the years but look forward to working with Kestner in the year ahead.