Second Year of Darden Fellowships for Nonprofit Leaders Announced

The Forum Hotel at Darden school of business at the University of Virginia. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff Photography, LLC

Deadline for applications is May 15

When UVA’s Darden School Foundation announced that two fellowships for its prestigious executive leadership program would be available for a second consecutive year to nonprofit leaders working in Virginia, Ashley Williams, the CEO and CLO of Executive Education & Lifelong Learning at the school, drew a parallel between organizational leadership in business and nonprofits.

“These Commonwealth Fellowships are directed to a category of often unheralded leaders in the commonwealth, nonprofit executives whose management and leadership challenges closely mirror those of their for-profit colleagues,” she said. “The experience of last year’s fellowship recipients underscores the multi-dimensional and enduring value that The Executive Program (TEP) provides to leaders in the nonprofit sector.”

Applications for the 2024-2025 fellowships are due May 15, 2024.

That connection between business skills and nonprofit leadership rings true for Ravi Respeto, the president of the United Way of Greater Charlottesville and one of the recipients of the inaugural TEP Fellowship.

“Coming from a community-based nonprofit where it’s difficult to access real leadership coaching, let alone world-class business professors, the TEP experience has been a game changer, especially when you’re in a cohort of other leaders of organizations from various backgrounds – there’s a lot of peer learning,” Respeto says. “It’s not just mind-expanding; you’re getting real tools and ways to be able to operate your business that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before or you didn’t even know existed. So, it’s really been an amazing, amazing program for me.”

Kathy Rogers, the executive director of the Penn-Mar Foundation, a Maryland-based nonprofit that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, echoed those sentiments. She was part of TEP’s 2021-2022 cohort and found that what she learned during TEP – along with the relationships she formed – continues to pay dividends in how she approaches her nonprofit leadership role.

“I think what you learn in these classes is just as applicable to nonprofit management as it is to for-profit management,” she says.  “We still have to be fiscally responsible. We still have to be strategic.  We still have to know how to lead.”

She also appreciated how TEP allowed her to bring a specific project related to her work to the program – both in the formalized environment of a classroom setting as well as part of the social interactions with professors and fellow students.

“I will say that the connection and the bond to the professors is bar none better than any experience I’ve ever had,” she says.

Her experiences with fellow classmates – particularly the six other women in her cohort – also have paid dividends.

“I developed great relationships with my class – we call ourselves the ‘magnificent seven,’” she says, referring to her female classmates. “It’s friendship, it’s comradery, and we find ourselves talking about different opportunities and challenges that we have within our own organizations, and it becomes a very safe place.  We’re coming from a mindset that we learn together and help each other solve situations at work. It’s like we have a group in which we leadership coach one another.”

“A Fresh Perspective”

For Samuel Thompson, the executive and CEO of Circle 10 Council of the Boy Scouts of America – a territory that spans Northeast Texas and Southeast Oklahoma and serves 40,000 children – TEP challenged him to think differently about age-old protocols.

“A lot of my time at TEP was spent trying to think of things from a fresh perspective and how to implement change at my organization,” he recalls. “What I found was that I saw a lot of similarities – not only through the case studies but in the sidebar conversations that I was having with others. Everybody’s dealing with the same things, and TEP brought all that to light for me and allowed me to see that by embracing the education and the experience of your cohort, you can bring about change.”

Perhaps it was a coincidence – though likely not – but Thompson believes his TEP experience helped catapult his organization into among the nation’s most successful.

“We ended last year as the number two council in the nation, out of more than 240 councils,” he says. “We had a 14 percent increase in our traditional membership, and it’s been a long time since we’ve had a membership increase in scouting. So, we’re excited about where we’re going, and how we’re growing.”

Would Thompson recommend TEP to other nonprofit leaders?

“I would say for those like me who are coming to TEP, like I did, 30 years after any kind of formal education, and as someone who didn’t have formal business training but evolved into a leadership role, TEP is one of the best programs out there for you,” he says. “They’ve created a welcoming environment to learn, ask questions and a safe place to embrace change and make it happen.”

Athena Gould, the second recipient of the inaugural Commonwealth Fellowship, is now deputy director of Virginia Humanities but served as the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge at the time of the award. She believes nonprofit leaders not only benefit as much as their for-profit counterparts from the program, but she has also found that their unique perspective enriches the experience and discussion for all.

“What I didn’t realize coming into the program is the impact the two nonprofit leaders would make on the rest of the class. I think we underestimate the value nonprofits have and the contributions they can make to business discussions,” she mused.

About The Executive Program (TEP)

Darden’s The Executive Program has been named by FORTUNE magazine as one of “10 executive leadership programs that should be on every business leader’s radar.” Led by top-ranked faculty,

TEP is a six-month program that consists of two in-person modules – the first an immersive two-week session in the fall on the Darden Grounds in Charlottesville, where students reside at The Forum Hotel Kimpton, and the second during the spring on the School’s DC Metro Grounds in Rosslyn, Virginia, and the Charlottesville Grounds. A third module, which focuses on individual instruction and takes place virtually over the four months between the in-person sessions, employs Metaverse technology with the use of VR goggles, putting students virtually into classroom and social environments.

Fellowship Details

The Commonwealth Fellowships cover 80% of the tuition fee, valued at $43,350 for the 2024-2025 session beginning this fall.

To apply for the fellowship or for more information, visit https://connect.darden.virginia.edu/ee-tep-fellowship. The application deadline is May 15, 2024. Fellowship recipients will be announced on May 30, 2024.