Tag Archives: Darden School of Business

The Case Method: Alive and Thriving or On its Way Out?

The case method approach has come under increased scrutiny of late. Established by Harvard Business School more than a century ago, it is still widely used at top MBA programs worldwide.  Harvard relies on the …

The case method approach has come under increased scrutiny of late. Established by Harvard Business School more than a century ago, it is still widely used at top MBA programs worldwide.  Harvard relies on the case method for approximately 80 percent of its instruction, and students at Darden School of Business are exposed to more than 500 cases in a variety of industries and functions during their time at the UVA MBA program.

By definition, case studies are authentic business or management scenarios that present executives with a problem or uncertain outcome. The case lays out the situation in the context of the players, events and issues that influence it, and enables students to identify closely with those involved. The next step is to perform the necessary analysis””examining the causes and considering alternative courses of actions to come to a set of recommendations.

If the case method approach is so useful, why doesn’t every top business school embrace it wholeheartedly?  In an article that created quite a buzz in management education when first published, Harvard Business School professor James Heskett pointed to concerns that the case method is too time-consuming, ill-suited to teaching quantitative techniques, and based on the idea that there’s no right or wrong answer””only some that are better than others.

Columbia Business School uses cases about 40 percent of the time, and in a recent interview with MBA Channel, Vice Dean Amir Ziv explains where he thinks the approach succeeds, and where the criticism is valid. For Ziv, the obvious advantage is that the case represents a real-life situation and forces students to solve it.

The second big advantage,” he adds, “Is that a case draws on everyone’s experience. If you have 60 students and everyone has four years of work experience that is many more total years than what I have myself. In the case method everyone benefits from the shared experiences of everyone else in the class.”

As for the downsides, Ziv agrees that sometimes the problem is efficiency. “In order to teach two plus two, I don’t need a case””I can teach that in a lecture, which is less time-consuming,” he says.

Another big problem: most cases are already too complete. When handed a 30-page analysis, students already have everything they need to know and don’t need to do any additional research. “That is artificial and doesn’t allow students to think what additional information they might need and how to get it,” Ziv notes.

In order to deliver a good case analysis you need lots of preparation from your students, Ziv adds. “If people are stressed or tired or do not prioritize academics, they don’t prepare, it shows, and all the benefits of the case method are absent.”

Columbia has come up with an alternative method called the decision brief that teach students to handle tough, real-world issues by providing them with incomplete data that forces them to become resourceful, and hence, better decision-makers.

“In one case we hand out two emails and one picture. You have to figure out what the issue is, who on the team should work on what, and what other information you need,” Ziv explains. “That’s how we overcome the weakness of the case method: by giving our students incomplete and unstructured information.”

The case method approach is considered a proven winner because it brings the subject to life, brings business back to reality, and allows you to benefit from the professional experiences of a diverse group of classmates. But judging by the interview with Ziv, and other media stories on the issue, this method may not be for everyone.

Are you applying to school that relies heavily on the case method approach? Or, are you looking for an MBA program with a broader teaching style that combines lecture and experiential learning? We’d love to hear feedback from our readers on the usefulness of this teaching approach, so please leave us a comment with your opinion below.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

UV Darden Offers Free Online Course on Smart Biz Growth

Come January, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection will be able to take advantage of Darden School of Business‘s first “massive open online course”, or MOOC, called “Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for …

Come January, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection will be able to take advantage of Darden School of Business‘s first “massive open online course”, or MOOC, called “Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses.”

Last month, the school announced the upcoming course, which comes as part of University of Virginia’s partnership with online-learning pioneer Coursera, a social entrepreneurship company that works with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. Dean Bob Bruner believes the course can advance Darden’s mission of developing principled leaders for the world of practical affairs.

Professor Ed Hess, the executive-in-residence at Darden’s Batten Institute who will teach the online course, says it will reach thousands of students and small business owners around the world who otherwise wouldn’t be able to come to Darden’s campus and learn.

“If we can help some of them be more successful as they face the common growth management problems, we can not only help people achieve their dreams but also help create jobs and have a positive impact in their societies,” Hess says.

Darden is one of the few business schools to offer a course in its MBA program focused solely on the challenges of growing existing entrepreneurial businesses. The course content will be offered free by Coursera in two “Grow to Greatness” courses, the first of which will begin on January 28, 2013.

Since the course was announced in mid-July, more than 15,700 people have signed up. Registration is available via Coursera’s course page.

Posted in School News | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Tuesday Tips: UVA Darden MBA Essay Tips

Continuing the trend started last year, UVA Darden again asks candidates to answer only one essay question. While you only have to write 500 words, you have to make those words count. Leadership is crucial …

Continuing the trend started last year, UVA Darden again asks candidates to answer only one essay question. While you only have to write 500 words, you have to make those words count. Leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Personal qualities are also crucial to Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community. Learn more about the school by visiting the Darden website, attending events and speaking with current students and alumni.

MBA Application Essay Question:
Share your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. How did this experience change your perspective? (500 words maximum)

In this question Darden is asking to understand how you behave in a challenging or complex situation and what such challenges have taught you about yourself. The best use of this essay space will use specific examples to illustrate how you handled the challenge or problem and how you arrived at your change in perspective.

Before you start answering the question it may help to brainstorm some of your best professional accomplishment stories. As you think about the areas where you have excelled you may find that many of your accomplishments were preceded by a challenge or problem you needed to solve.

Once you have a list of all of the potential experiences to discuss, choose the examples that will also demonstrate some of your personal qualities to the admissions committee. You have your career history submitted in your resume and your GPA, transcript and GMAT to demonstrate academic ability. This essay is one of your few opportunities to show how you think, what your leadership approach is, and how you handle teamwork and conflict. Think about the situations that showcased your best performance at work, or that were a turning point in your approach to problem solving.

Because you have only one essay question to present yourself, make sure you have a trusted reader to tell you if you are effectively communicating why you are going to be a strong leader who deserves a spot in the UVA Darden MBA class.

Looking for perspective in your approach to your Darden MBA application? Contact us to discuss how Stacy Blackman Consulting can help.

Posted in Application Tips, Virginia Darden Advice | Tagged , , , , , , ,

UV Darden Announces 2012-2013 Application Deadlines

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has followed up its previously announced single MBA application essay question with the release of the 2012-2013 admissions cycle deadlines. Round 1 Deadline: October 15, 2012 Notification: …

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business has followed up its previously announced single MBA application essay question with the release of the 2012-2013 admissions cycle deadlines.


Round 1
Deadline: October 15, 2012
Notification: December 19, 2012

Round 2
Deadline: January 9, 2013
Notification: March 20, 2013

Round 3
Deadline: March 28, 2013
Notification: May 8, 2013

 

Posted in School News | Tagged , , ,

UV Darden Releases Single MBA Essay Topic

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business has announced a single MBA essay topic for the 2012-2013 application cycle. Applicants must respond to the following question: Share your thought process as you encountered a …

Darden School of Business street sign

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business has announced a single MBA essay topic for the 2012-2013 application cycle. Applicants must respond to the following question:

Share your thought process as you encountered a challenging work situation or complex problem. How did this experience change your perspective? (500 words maximum)

Deadlines have yet to be announced, so stay tuned to this space for an update when these key dates become available.

Posted in School News | Tagged , , , ,

SBC Scoop: Making the Family Business Work For You

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client. Our client Bill came to us wondering if his atypical background would hurt his chances …

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Our client Bill came to us wondering if his atypical background would hurt his chances when applying to MBA programs. He had been working for the family business, a manufacturing company in Baltimore, for three years out of college. He worried that when compared to the many applicants coming from consulting or financial backgrounds, his story might not measure up. His consultant assured him that coming from a family business might in fact help him stand out, so long as they addressed a couple of specific concerns.

Bill hadn’t been planning to go into the family business in college, so he majored in philosophy, but when his father passed away unexpectedly he stepped in to help run the business alongside his aunt and uncle, who were partners in the company. He found he loved working in the company and his interest in entrepreneurship and the wider business world was sparked. Fortunately, since Bill was helping partly with the firm’s accounting, he was already taking math and accounting classes at night, which helped show off his quantitative skills. His consultant advised him to study and retake the GMAT to shore up his quantitative score, which he did as well.

That done, they turned their attention to his recommendations. Bill was most concerned here, since most of his coworkers and supervisors were his relatives. Bill and his consultant brainstormed some ideas for recommenders they could approach outside the company. In the last year, Bill had built a strong relationship with a retail vendor that had been supplied by his company for over a decade. Since this vendor was evaluating Bill on many similar criteria to a direct supervisor and was an objective, outside source, they thought it would be a good fit. Bill’s vendor was happy to help out.

Bill’s consultant also found out that he volunteered as an tutor for adult ESL students most weekends. Bill had started years ago and included it as a line in his resume, but assumed because it wasn’t a private business pursuit that it wouldn’t factor into his application. His consultant thought differently, though, and reminded him that long-term volunteering showed dedication and a greater social awareness. The program’s organizer was happy to help Bill out with a recommendation.

Bill felt confident that his family business-based app could stand up next to candidates coming from a corporate background, and he was right- he was admitted to Tuck and Darden and chose Darden to a be a little closer to home.

Are you wondering how to make your unique profile work in your MBA application? Contact us to learn more about Stacy Blackman Consulting services.

Are you more concerned about other aspects of your profile? Read our case studies to see how other applicants approached their MBA applications.

Posted in SBC Scoop: Client Case Studies | Tagged , , , , , , ,