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“Game-Changing” Gift Promises to Make Darden More Global, Benefit Every Full-Time MBA Student

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One major philanthropic gift unlocked a second matching gift, resulting in a new $30 million scholarship program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business that promises to make it possible for every student in the full-time MBA program to take part in a Darden Worldwide Course at no incremental cost. Announced earlier this week, the $15 million gift from the Batten Foundation triggered a matching gift from UVA’s Bicentennial Scholars Fund, which the school says places it in a unique position among top MBA programs in being able to send every student to another part of the world funded by philanthropy.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Batten Foundation for enabling this game-changing opportunity, which positions Darden to provide each MBA student funding for a global course through a scholarship,” Darden Dean Scott Beardsley said in a statement announcing the news. Its impact on Darden will be significant, Beardsley continued. “It makes the school more affordable and global and gives students the opportunity to explore the world in which they will be tomorrow’s leaders.”

The Darden Worldwide courses that the new funding will underwrite—led by faculty and lasting typically between seven and 10 days—have expanded significantly in recent years. In the past two years alone—since Beardsley joined as dean—student participation in courses outside the United States has more than doubled. The courses typically cost students approximately $3,000.

This spring, students can choose between 14 courses on five different continents. Options range from courses exploring Cuba’s transitioning economy or government’s influence on business in China to a deep dive into artificial intelligence and robotics in Germany or a focus on innovation and technology in Israel. As part of the global experiential learning opportunities, participating students visit local companies and meet with educators and officials, all with the guidance of a Darden faculty member.

If You’re Headed for Darden in the Fall, What Does It Mean for You?
The new scholarships will have an immediate impact for the MBA Class of 2020 that arrives on campus in August 2018. The gift, in combination with other philanthropy and Darden investment, will provide a scholarship covering the fees for a Darden Worldwide Course for every student in the class, if they are not already covered. Come 2020, when the Batten Foundation gift is fully funded, the scholarships will cover not only fees but also most travel costs for every Darden full-time MBA student to participate in a global experience.

“Thanks to the Batten Foundation gift and matching funds from the UVA Bicentennial Scholars Fund, Darden will have the support to fulfill its aspiration for 100 percent of full-time MBA students to complete a significant global learning experience outside Charlottesville during their time at the school,” Beardsley said.

This most recent gift from the Virginia-based Batten Foundation is the largest gift to the school since the Batten family established the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation through a $60 million gift in 1999.

The $15 million Batten Foundation gift was matched 100 percent by the University of Virginia’s Bicentennial Scholars Fund, a new giving initiative created through UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund. It is equal to the largest match to date from the fund. UVA’s Board of Visitors established the Bicentennial Scholars Fund to play a crucial role in making a UVA education accessible and affordable for students from all backgrounds, regardless of their financial situations.

The $15 million match from the Bicentennial Scholars Fund for the Batten Foundation gift is equal to the largest match to date from the fund. UVA’s Board of Visitors allocated a total of $100 million toward the fund to match major gifts supporting student scholarships.

UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan stressed the larger university’s commitment to the providing an education that is once excellent and affordable. “Darden fully embraces these principles, and with an infusion of energy from this generous philanthropic gift, Darden can continue to pursue its mission of preparing students from all walks of life for global leadership and service,” she said.

Affordable, Accessible Education a Focal Point for Beardsley

Darden Scholarships
Darden Dean Scott Beardsley

Beardsley has been on a bit of a campaign himself since taking over at Darden in August 2015 to make the business school more affordable and accessible. His resume notes that the Darden team has raised $13.7 million in scholarship funding for fiscal year 2017, a 700 percent increase over 2015. This has guaranteed full financial packages for all students for the first time; substantially increased scholarship funding for students, and introduced need-based aid. The net cost of tuition has also been reduced for first time this century. Beardsley, who would go on to lead the strategy practice of consulting giant McKinsey, was himself the recipient of an Eastman Kodak Scholarship while an undergraduate at Tufts.

The Batten gift and matching funding adds further to these significant strides. “With this inspired gift, thousands of Darden students will be able to personally experience and better understand the world,” the dean notes. “The Batten Foundation Darden Worldwide Scholarships will ensure that our students are prepared to serve as distinctive leaders defined by global sophistication, entrepreneurial orientation and action-based responsibility, in the workplace and beyond. This gift will make a world of difference.”