Saturday, March 9, 2013

Second Year Electives

While the first year is often described as mastering the core curriculum the second year is all about smoothing the edges.  In my second year, I have had the good fortune of being able to take a set of classes that I will look back upon with fond memories.

Leadership Ride:  The first few class meetings are facilitated by Gary Gallagher, a leading Civil War historian who communicates information on the Confederate and Union forces as well as provides context leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg.  In a partnership with the United States Marine Corps University, we then travelled to Gettysburg for a two day field experience.  Over the course of two days we would walk to a specific place on the battlefield, be placed in the situation of a specific leader, and discuss the actions we would have taken in that role.  The most fascinating aspect of the class was the ability to make parallels between the military leadership, both its successes and failures, at the Battle of Gettysburg to leadership in the contemporary business environment.  Far and away, one of the coolest classes I’ve ever taken.  Ever.

Character Traits and Success:  Professor Colley has assembled a list of 200 character traits and each week, we read a piece by Plato or Emerson.  The idea is that through reading these great works, we are able to relate the reading to our own personal character traits or to character traits exhibited by various leaders.  One of the things that makes this class so unique is that it is a ten-person seminar made up of five Darden students and five undergraduate students.  If that isn’t cool enough, it meets in Professor Colley’s Pavilion on the Lawn, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the conversation is accompanied by wine and cheese.

General Managers Taking Action:  Another very different class that operates as more of a speakers series.  Each class session a Darden alum comes to present caselets, or situations that they have found themselves in as business leaders.  The experiences of the alumni vary greatly, from the CEO of a quarry company to a Managing Member of a private equity group, but the one common thread of each class is that the students come prepared to take action and discuss the decisions we would make.  After class, many of the alumni are available to go to lunch with interested classmates.  Not only has the class helped develop my decision-making process, it also presents a great opportunity to network with some of the most impressive Darden alumni.