The entrepreneurship program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is one of the best in the nation, according to The Princeton Review, which released its annual ranking Sunday. The education services company ranked Darden No. 5 on its list of the “Top 25 Graduate Entrepreneurship Programs for 2014,” which is featured in Entrepreneur magazine.
“Building and sustaining a world-class educational experience for aspiring entrepreneurs who come to Darden is one of our core goals,” said Philippe Sommer, director of Darden’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, part of the school's Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
The Princeton Review previously recognized Darden as No. 1 in the category of “Best Campus Facilities.” In 2013, Darden expanded its W.L. Lyons Brown III Innovation Laboratory, or i.Lab, creating an oasis for entrepreneurship and innovation learning and practice at the University.
“Darden's approach to entrepreneurship is deeply multi-disciplinary,” said Michael Lenox, the Batten Institute’s executive director. “By expanding both the physical space and the institutional reach of the i.Lab, we are maximizing opportunities for cross collaboration across University of Virginia schools, departments and ways of thinking. We've long observed that our students in business benefit immensely from others in the University. Bring together a medical, engineering and business student, and great things can happen.”
This year, the i.Lab opened its Business Incubator program to members of the local community, fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Charlottesville, which nurtures promising ideas from Darden and U.Va. students, faculty and staff, as well as from members of the local community.
Since its founding in 2000, the incubator has hatched 126 ventures. Half of the companies remain active – a rate well above the national average. Notable ventures include PluroGen, Global Cell Solutions, Hemoshear and Husk Power Systems.
In addition to expanding the i.Lab, Darden introduced a new strategy for the school’s competitions over the past academic year. The startup competitions are based on the principles of design thinking, taught by Darden professor Jeanne Liedtka, and effectuation, a logic of thinking discovered through scientific research by Darden professor Saras Sarasvathy and others.
“By translating Darden’s leading-edge research into discrete experiential programs, we are providing our students the knowledge and practical foundation to innovate and build dynamic businesses,” Sommer said.
The Princeton Review survey of entrepreneurship programs, published in partnership with Entrepreneur Media since 2006, is based on surveys sent to school administrators at more than 2,000 institutions from April to June. The list, posted on Entrepreneur's website, recognizes 50 programs – 25 undergraduate and 25 graduate – for their excellence in entrepreneurship education.