MBA Professor of The Year: Darden’s Greg Fairchild Interviewed by Poets & Quants


I’m John Byrne with
Poets and Quants. I’m on the campus at the
University of Virginia at the Darden School of
Business and I’m here with one of the most beloved
teachers at Darden, Greg Fairchild. John, great to be here. It’s really great to have you. Now, Greg, you’ve been voted
best teacher many times over. You teach Strategic Management,
Entrepreneurship, and Ethics and even have a
larger role than that. But I want to talk
about the teaching because it’s such a central
part of the Darden culture. Survey after survey,
year after year has shown that the quality
of the teacher at Darden is second to none. What is the secret? When we think about teaching
at this institution, we think about what
happens in the classroom. We also think about what
happens outside the classroom. And that involves
both our interaction that we might have with
students talking in the hallway. We have a tradition
called first coffee. Working with students on
individual research projects, having students into
your home for dinner, I actually do that a good bit. But it also involves the
way we as a faculty actually interact about teaching. There’s this environment where
we’re encouraging each other, challenging each
other, and there’s even just a little
bit of competition to be better at that. The professors take
a deep interest in the students in the classroom
and outside the classroom. Where does that come from? Well for me it comes from,
I was on the other side of that equation years ago. You were an MBA here and then
went to Procter and Gamble, and then decided you
want to be an academic. I did not enter
Darden thinking I would be sitting in front of
you now talking as a professor. And I was shocked during
the end of my first year when one of the faculty,
who is now one of my faculty colleagues, said, you know,
the way you ask questions in the room, you might
want to think about coming back and getting a PhD. The seed had been planted. And I point out to
you that that seed is because people knew me and
had a relationship with me personally. Now ultimately people
come to visit school because they want to have a more
fulfilled and enriched career professionally. How does Darden
prepare them for that? Here at Darden, we
build the discipline in how to make decisions
and how to use those tools and how to explain it
to a group of people that might not agree with you. There is that moment when the
person leading the meeting says, Greg, what do you think. And your ability to then
quickly, succinctly, directly answer the
question, ends up sometimes being the mark of
difference of who gets the second question
and the third question. And that is the
discipline we need to do to help a prepare
them for the next step. A lot of the strategy
like the vehicle’s different economic
logic looks different. Otherwise unattractive industry
for someone on the outside, attractive for incumbents. And then this incumbant– Greg, you teach
entrepreneurship. What resources are there here
to help nurture that sort of entrepreneurial mindset? You know the interest in
entrepreneurship courses at Darden is great. There absolutely are
many different ways that we facilitate these
types of opportunities. You know, we have an incubator. We have a set of
networks that people can tie into other entrepreneurs. We have extra
educational courses that people can be
a part of and we do research on entrepreneurs. We offer scholarships
to students who perform very well
in the first year and then can receive
entrepreneurship funding that helps them. But that funding really is
to allay some of the debts that they have in
the academic program. Right. And now Greg, you’ve
recently taken on a role that essentially
makes you an entrepreneur. You’ve become Associate Dean of
the Washington, DC initiatives. Talk a little bit about
what you’re doing in DC. You know, Washington, DC
is a place of ideas, John, where we talk about how policy
and business come together. We see that asset
is one that provides a wealth of opportunities for
students that could be looking at certain careers that could
be in Washington, literally in Washington. But for companies that
care about the way policy and business in interact,
they get a real insight that we couldn’t offer in
probably many other places on the planet. By us being there, we’re
in the midst of that. And it’s an opportunity
that, again, Darden is in the discussion. You know, when I think
of your career here. I think about how
transformative Darden has been to your life I mean
coming here as a student, and then coming
back as a professor, and having done all the
different things that you’ve done, including to go into
a penitentiary, a jail and to literally teach
prisoners about business and entrepreneurship. You know, there is a stereotype
that’s out there about business schools and businesses
that it’s about money, that it has little to do with
worrying about other than self. Well at Darden, we
don’t believe that. We teach ethics. We teach all those things. This is one example
of where it is real. It is clear. Students find themselves
going two nights a week to teach people who, I’m not
sure are going to benefit them directly in their
financial pockets, but they do so because they
feel like it’s benefiting them in terms of their hearts
and in terms of our society. You’ve been a
student here, you’ve been a professor
for nearly 17 years. What’s your advice to a
prospective student who wants to come here and why
should they choose Darden? I’d say that if you’re
interested in a place where you knew that your
professors were taking your acquisition
of the knowledge they’re trying to deliver in
a really serious way, that it wasn’t something that was a
necessary evil, but was really why they were there, then this
might be a good place for you. We are preparing the next
generations’ leaders, be they in business,
be they in government, whether they’re going to be. I take that as a really
serious part of the vocation and why I’m here. Greg, thank you so much. Thanks, John. This is John Byrne
with Poets and Quants. Thanks for watching.

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