The first-year (FY) at Darden focuses on the core curriculum, like most other top business schools. It’s not until the last term of FY, term six, that students start the elective period. Elective offerings differ significantly by student, as one would expect: I’m trying to take multiple courses in economics and marketing, while also looking out for those “can’t-miss” courses across a variety of subjects. I won’t claim to have enrolled in the “best” electives to date: because of scheduling conflicts, bidding popularity, or different interests, I’ve missed out on several great classes like Developing New Products. I’ll also note that some of the classes I’m most looking forward to (including the Thomas Jefferson reading seminar) take place during the next two quarters. Without any more caveats, here are a few of my favorite electives at Darden to date:
1. Global Financial Markets (“GFM”). Building on fundamentals in Global Economies and Markets (“GEM”, the core economics class), GFM takes a much deeper dive into the problems facing the global economy. Speaking intelligently about economics is something I sorely lacked entering business school, unable to articulate much beyond the Fed Funds rate. The course, and its popular professor, force students to understand the fundamentals in order to support a view on an economic / financial market topic (the future of price of gold, the AUD / USD exchange rate, capital flows into China, etc).
2. Managing Consumer Brands. I’ll admit I felt a little out of place in this popular marketing class, filled predominately with women who had great marketing internship experience at consumer product companies or other organizations. As a student entering a career function other than marketing, the course was extremely valuable in developing my understanding of marketing tools (which can be applied in consulting) and the consumer and retail industries more broadly. My group project included an examination of UVA’s brand, specifically focusing on the connectivity between professional schools and the larger UVA community. Our group worked directly with UVA’s Senior Vice President of Development and Public Affairs, an extremely senior person I felt privileged to chat with. Beyond the group project, I found Managing Consumer Brands to be a lot of work but extremely rewarding.
3. Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity. Another class that demands a lot from students (most days required modeling as advance preparation), but definitely worth it. The guest speakers in the course are among the best I’ve had at Darden (the professor has great relationships across the UVA community, a university with investment professionals like Paul Tudor Jones amongst its alumni base). Further, while I won’t be working in private equity next year, I’ll be working for a consulting organization that does a lot of private equity due diligence. The course lessons, whether focusing on valuation techniques or just general industry know-how, should be extremely applicable after graduation.
4. Real Estate Finance. I’d highlight this class not only because I enjoyed it, but because the subject matter is probably underserved at business schools. As with many other classes, the industry expertise and practical experience that the professor lends really adds to the experience. I found the cases to be among the most interesting I’ve had: while business school students can sometimes get bogged down with pie-in-the-sky ideas that lack specificity, that is definitely not an option in evaluating a small real estate investment in Charlottesville. For students interested in a career in real estate (a smaller but definitely developed career interest at Darden), this class has to be that much more valuable.
To reiterate my initial point, I think each SY student might come up with a different list of favorite electives. Hopefully the above gives some insight into one student’s perspective.