Amazon is certainly not alone in appreciating Northern Virginia’s prime location.
When the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business expanded its MBA studies in 2016, it chose to offer its Executive MBA program at a facility in the Rosslyn area of Arlington, overlooking the Potomac.
“We love this area. We were in Rosslyn before Amazon decided they were coming” to build a second headquarters, said Professor Gregory B. Fairchild, the first director of Northern Virginia operations for the university.
When the university began offering the executive MBA program in Rosslyn nearly three years ago, the first classes were held at a local conference center, said Sophie Zunz, director of media relations for the Darden School. Members of the Class of 2018 were the first students to take classes at the new facility when it partly opened in March 2018. About 135 students are now enrolled.
The Rosslyn location makes sense because of its proximity to the nation’s capital and to a number of corporate headquarters, said Fairchild, who is also the Isidore Horween Research Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School. “It’s a major media market. There are thought leaders and defense and healthcare industry clusters. The industry association business is here.”
Plus, the area has the highest concentration of both Darden and University of Virginia alumni.
The Washington area “is a rich market for education,” Fairchild said. “It’s a city with a high percentage of people who have higher education degrees and lots of people who are interested in getting future education. Other schools aren’t able to fill all the demand.”
The 21-month Executive MBA Program is available both in Rosslyn and in Charlottesville and consists of two formats: Executive MBA (EMBA) and Global Executive MBA (GEMBA). The classes are designed for professionals who have two or more years of full-time work experience and are held via a combination of weekend in-person sessions and online instruction.
All executive format students participate in two week-long leadership residencies at the Darden School in Charlottesville. All students also have a required global experience in Brazil, China, Europe or India. EMBA students participate in one of these global residencies, while GEMBA students participate in all four.
Another program, the new Master of Science in Business Analytics, also is delivered both online and at the Rosslyn facility. The 12-month program for working professionals is the university’s first joint-degree program, a partnership of the Darden School and the McIntire School of Commerce.
The Rosslyn facility also offers some academic programming for the MBA/Master of Science in data science dual-degree program, offered by Darden and UVA’s Data Science Institute.
The 40,000-square-foot space, on the top two floors of a 31-story LEED-EB Gold Certified building located at 1100 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, was made possible by a $68 million gift from Sands Capital Management Founder and Chairman Frank Sands Sr. (MBA ’63) and CEO and Chief Investment Officer Frank Sands Jr. (MBA ’94). The building complex is owned by Monday Properties and was formerly the headquarters of Gannett Companies/USA Today.
The facility, known as the Sands Family Grounds, includes two-tiered classrooms, flat classroom space, learning team rooms, open-study areas, a boardroom, conference rooms and office space. A large ballroom with views of the National Mall serves as a food service and conference space. The Darden facility also includes access to a 5,000-square foot rooftop terrace. Darden also has an office in the building, where several staff members work in the areas of admissions, executive education and alumni career services.
The Rosslyn site also hosts executive education programs and courses. Customized programs, in which the school contracts with companies to offer courses tailored to their needs, are popular, said Larry Murphy, president of Darden Executive Education and Lifelong Learning, particularly because many companies have employees based in the area.
The site is also home to the new Darden Ideas to Action Leader Series, workshop-based events designed to address the latest issues and emerging trends challenging managers and leaders today.
Last October, the UVA Tri-Sector Leadership Fellows program hosted a field experience there for its fellows from the Darden School, UVA Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and UVA School of Law.
Some events at the facility are open to alumni and the public, Fairchild said. “It’s meant to be part of the educational mission.”
The Darden School was established at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 1955.The Economist recently named Darden the world’s best education experience for the eighth year in a row, and the school’s full-time MBA program is in the Top 10 globally in rankings from The Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek.