• Obtaining your employer's support and sponsorship is an important part of the decision to pursue an MBA. While a company support letter from your employer is required for all matriculating students, there is a broad range of additional ways in which companies support employees through Darden’s executive MBA.

    At a minimum, your company support letter should show that your organization acknowledges your interest in participating in the program, the program's applicability to your career advancement, and your employer's support for the required time commitment. The letter is also an opportunity for your employer to address your accomplishments and potential as a manager and leader. If financial support is being provided, your letter should include that information as well. View a sample letter.

    Below you will find tips and advice to help you as you plan your strategy to obtain sponsorship.

    Advice on How to Obtain Support From Your Company

    While all students take their own path to obtain company support, below you will find examples of the approaches and actions several Darden students have taken to gain their company’s endorsement.

    In the following video, Sarah Henneberry, EMBA Class of 2013, gives advice on how to approach your employer to obtain company support for pursuing an executive MBA. She also describes the ways that Darden's Executive MBA provided an immediate return on investment for her and her company:

    Read additional sponsorship stories from these Darden alumni:

    Planning Your Strategy for Sponsorship

    Each organization is different and will have unique processes by which to seek sponsorship; some organizations have sponsored executive MBAs in the past, others have not. It is important to first know why you want your MBA. This is critical to your being able to make a compelling case for why the organization should support you. It is important to start this planning phase early because this process often takes longer than one expects.

    Know Yourself

    Throughout your application, in your essays and in your interview, we are looking to get to know you as an individual and as a professional; to understand what you will bring to the Darden learning community; and to learn what you are looking to gain from your MBA. The better you know your story, the better able you will be to articulate your goals. It is important that you present a clear vision not only to the Admissions Committee, but also to your employer.

    Know Your Organization

    Understand your company's policies and processes for this type of request and the expectations and timeline for submitting such a proposal. Beyond these important “nuts and bolts” concerns, consider your company’s short- and long-term business goals. Ask yourself how the skills and knowledge you’ll attain while earning your MBA can help your employer reach these goals. Understanding your employer’s perspective and its goals can help you shape your proposal.

    Ask colleagues from within your organization if they have completed the Darden Executive MBA program (or a similar program). You should also seek out alumni from Darden’s full-time MBA program within your company. As a Darden executive MBA student, you will earn the same diploma as our full-time alumni and study with the same faculty. The Darden community is exceptionally strong and close-knit, and you’ll find these alumni to be helpful resources. If possible, talk to these individuals about their experiences and ask their advice on making your request for sponsorship. You may also want to propose the idea of attending Darden to your work colleagues or mentors with whom you are closest and get buy-in, before presenting the idea to more senior managers.

    Some companies may be concerned that after getting your MBA, you will find a new job. Showing commitment to returning to the organization for a minimum amount of time can help make your case.

    Know the Value of Darden’s Executive MBA Formats

    In Darden’s executive MBA formats students and employers alike expand their capabilities and achieve a greater level of success. Being able to articulate the value of a Darden MBA for both you and your employer will be central as you make your case. When you are learning in real time, you are taking new ideas and theories back to your organization with great speed. While this is true of any top-tier executive MBA program, Darden’s program offers several distinct advantages:

    • Darden teaches via the case method, and that means that as a student you are being trained to have a bias toward action, and always with an eye towards the practical application of every technique and concept you learn.
    • Darden teaches via an integrated general management curriculum. The issues you discuss in class cross boundaries of function and cut across silos, just like the challenges faced by your organization.
    • Darden’s executive MBA formats are optimized for transmitting knowledge to busy managers. Blending in-person residencies with distance learning, Darden’s EMBA and GEMBA allow students to immerse themselves in a challenging course of study while staying on top of their professional responsibilities.

    Create a Strong Proposal

    Once you have done your research, it is time to draft your proposal. Your proposal should:

    Educate the Reader on the Value of an MBA and Specifically the Value of the Darden MBA for Executives Programs

    Keep your company’s perspective in mind. How do you plan to pass along knowledge, concepts and new ideas learned in the program so that your company receives a return on investment from your participation? How will the experience prepare you to be more effective in your current role? What makes Darden a better fit for you and your firm than other programs that might be less expensive?

    Provide Ideas on how to Minimize the Impact of Your Being Away From the Office

    Participating in any executive MBA program requires you to take time away from work. What can you do in advance and during the residencies to mitigate potential conflicts, demonstrate your appreciation to your co-workers, and bring back some of the program's benefits to your colleagues?

    Be Upfront About the Time Commitment

    Both Darden executive MBA formats take 21 months to complete.

    The core program structure is the same for EMBA and GEMBA: 10, 2-month long quarters, with roughly 2/3 of the program delivered in person and 1/3 through distance learning.

    Darden’s executive formats are built upon a once-a-month weekend residency model. Each quarter consists of 2 weekend residencies (or 1 global residency) as well as distance learning.

    In addition, all executive format students participate in 2, week-long leadership residencies. 1 leadership residency at the start of the program. 1 leadership residency at the conclusion of the program. Both of these residencies take place in Charlottesville on the Darden Grounds.

    Lastly, all executive format students have a required global experience. The Executive MBA Program arranges for 4 week-long global residencies (past locations include Brazil, Europe, China and India). EMBA students participate in 1 (up to 2 – space permitting) of these global residencies. GEMBA students participate in all 4 of the global residencies.

    Students generally report that during non-residency weeks, they spend about 15-20 hours on coursework and online classes.

    For additional details regarding the structure and design of our executive formats, click here.

    Get Started Early

    As previously mentioned, the process of planning for and gaining company support often takes longer than one might think. Allow enough time to plan your proposal and get the needed approvals. This process may also entail negotiating, so be prepared to negotiate an outcome that matches your goals and your employer’s.