Listening at Darden

Firstly, a very belated congratulations to everyone admitted to Darden in Round 1, and best of luck to those about to interview for Round 2! I have been notably absent after a brief break over the holidays in Paris and then the very busy interviewing month of January. As all that begins to settle, though, I’ve been able to reflect on the past few months and the choices that have led to quite significant lessons.

I sat in on Dean Bruner’s town hall meeting this past week, an open forum in classroom 120 in which the Dean answered questions from students and faculty on his views about Darden. One thing that particularly struck me was the Dean’s assertion that as members of the Darden community, as well as whatever else we become, in many facets of our lives, “we can’t listen enough.”

Inevitably, Term 4 starts, for a lot of us, with a multitude of interviews. Listening in these can be tough, but it’s important. Not only do you have to listen so that you answer questions in a way that effectively conveys your experience, but you have to listen so that you learn about who is interviewing you. Doing so helps, especially in the long run.

I’ve also found that Term 4 brings a unique opportunity to listen in class, mainly as a result of the inclusion of Business Ethics in our course load. This is a class where we at times will discuss controversial issues, and where we will always discuss topics that people can disagree on. Many come to class with clear views on an issue, and the reasoning to support it. The point, though, is not always about supporting your own view. Darden encourages us to learn from one another in all classes and interactions, but in a course in which business decisions’ impacts outside of business are the focus, the need to listen stands out as paramount. It is also a reminder that while we take specific classes or pursue specific careers, we are not operating in silos.

A lot of our cases deal with events or issues outside the United States. We’ve discussed situations that include the effects of oil exploration in Africa, publishing of literature that could be viewed as offensive to Islam, and creating a non-profitable drug to cure disease in developing economies. These conversations force us to modify the US-centric point of view that can naturally develop in an American business school classroom, and think more critically about the potential impacts of our recommendation in other countries.

This is also an opportunity to listen more. We are lucky to have peers from all over the world; sharing the richness of each other’s experiences, particularly when discussing such important and global issues, should be a priority. As we enter the final weeks of Term 4, I look forward to more listening.

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