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Long-Time Tuck Admissions Director Returns to Darden

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The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia will welcome Dawna Clarke, who led admissions at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business for more than a decade, as its new executive director of admissions and financial aid on October 15th, the school announced yesterday.

It’s a return to Darden for Clarke, who worked there from 1990 to 2005 in a range of leadership roles, including five years as admissions director and as director of alumni relations. The offer to return to Darden drew Clarke away from her most recent position as chief MBA strategist and senior consultant for mbaMission, an MBA consultancy founded by Darden graduate Jeremy Shinewald (MBA ’03).

Dawna Clarke“The Darden School community is thrilled that Dawna is rejoining our team,” said Darden Dean Scott Beardsley in a press release. “She has an incredible track record of finding and cultivating global talent and a passion for leadership in the field of admissions.”

As Darden’s executive director of admission and financial aid, Clarke will oversee admissions for the full-time MBA and the Executive MBA, which is offered both in a global format and in sections in Charlottesville and Washington, DC. She will also oversee Darden’s deferred admissions program for top undergraduate students, Future Years Scholars, and help lead recruitment strategy for the school’s dual degree programs, including its recently launched MBA/Master of Science in Data Science program with UVA’s Data Science Institute.

“I am honored by the opportunity and excited to return to Darden,” Clarke said in a statement. “I believe deeply in Darden’s mission and values, and I look forward to bringing my experience and ideas for innovations to find and educate the next generation of business leaders from all over the world.”

Clarke replaces Sara Neher, who served as assistant dean of admissions at Darden moving into the role of assistant dean of strategic initiatives in July 2017. Neher helped Darden welcome the most diverse class in its history this year, which is 39 percent female and 20 percent U.S. minorities. Increasing diversity even further is a stated goal of the school, even more so in the aftermath of the protests in Charlottesville by white supremacists and activists who oppose them.

Under Clarke’s leadership, Tuck made significant strides toward greater diversity. When she started, the incoming class at Tuck was 25 percent female. The incoming classes both this year and last have been 44 percent female—placing Tuck alongside Wharton as having the highest percentages of women in their classes. At the same time, average GMAT scores have also increased. The average GMAT score for students in the Class of 2007, the first Clarke helped recruit, was 699. For the Class of 2018, her last class, it was 717. The average GMAT score for Darden’s incoming class this year was 713.

“In addition to drawing praise for clear quantitative gains, Clarke was frequently lauded for her customer-centric approach to admissions,” Ron Wilcox, Darden senior associate dean for degree programs, said in a statement.

From Admissions to Admissions Consulting, Back to Admissions
The path from admissions to admissions consulting is well worn—as Clear Admit Co-Founder Graham Richmond exemplifies. He worked in admissions at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, before co-founding Clear Admit, which started as an admissions consultancy before exiting the field in 2015 to serve exclusively as a digital media platform. Less common is the path that Clarke now takes, from admissions consulting back into admissions.

She says the time spent working for mbaMission will help inform the way Darden shapes its admissions strategy and processes moving forward. “Admissions consulting—and walking side by side with 20 applicants applying to multiple top business schools—has been a formative experience that has provided me with new insights and ideas that I will bring to my new role at Darden, which I hope will positively impact both the selection process and the applicant experience,” Clarke said in a press release.

She is certainly an expert in graduate management admissions, having served on the admissions team for three leading business schools over the course of her career. She served as an associate director of admissions at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School for three years before joining Darden in 1990, and she worked at Tuck from 2005 to 2016. While at UNC she completed her M.Ed. in higher education administration, and while at Darden she completed The Executive Program (TEP), Darden Executive Education’s executive training program.

Clarke has also served on multiple committees for both the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which owns the GMAT, and the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which owns the GRE. She also was a member of the board of directors for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management for 17 years. Both Darden and Tuck are Consortium member schools.

“No one is more qualified to lead the admissions team at Darden than Dawna,” mbaMission’s Shinewald said in a statement. “She is a proven leader in the field, and while my organization will miss her, as a Darden alumnus I am excited to see her leading Darden admissions and look forward to our continued partnership.”

Clarke shares that she was wooed back to Darden and to Charlottesville in part by Dean Beardsley, who came to Darden in August 2015 after a 26-year career at McKinsey & Company. “I am so impressed with the incredible, positive momentum that Scott Beardsley and his team have brought to Darden. I’m eager to be a part of this remarkable leadership team,” she said in a press release.

For more on Clarke’s return to Darden as executive director of admissions and financial aid, click here.