Three people sit at a table discussing business.

Inaugural Commonwealth Fellowship Recipients Selected by Darden Foundation

“Today’s nonprofit leaders confront many of the same challenges as their for-profit contemporaries.”

That observation from Ashley Williams, CEO and CLO of Executive Education & Lifelong Learning at UVA’s Darden School, sums up the underlying premise as to why the prestigious graduate business school, whose executive leadership program is ranked among the top 10 nationally by FORTUNE magazine, decided to launch a new scholarship program exclusively for the commonwealth’s nonprofit leaders.

“These fellowships will help strengthen the organizational impact of two deserving nonprofit leaders from Virginia.”

Ashley Williams, CEO and CLO of Executive Education & Lifelong Learning at UVA’s Darden School

Darden recently announced the recipients of its inaugural Commonwealth Fellowships, which are full scholarships (about a $40,000 value) to the school’s executive leadership program called TEP (The Executive Program).

The Recipients

Selected from among about 100 applicants from throughout the commonwealth, the recipients – who, coincidentally know each other – are Ravi Respeto, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Charlottesville, and Athena Gould, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge. The two nonprofit leaders will be among TEP’s 2023-2024 cohort, which begins at Darden in October.

What do the two leaders expect to get out of their participation in TEP?

“I have a lot of personal goals as well as goals for United Way,” Respeto says. “I want to be more adept at thinking about business planning and financial planning and learning more about financial investment instruments. And I want to look into corporate structures – like social enterprise. But the biggie, the real biggie, is just getting some support on how we take an older, well-known brand and really help people understand how we’re working to modernize it.”

Gould has similar goals.

“For the past five or six months, I’ve really been focused on how to be a better leader, now to grow my agency,” she says. “In the same way that kids can’t do it alone, neither can adults. I’ve had excellent mentors and an executive coach. I was hungry for more exposure. That’s when I discovered the Darden fellowships and decided to apply right away.”

TEP is a six-month program consisting of two in-person modules – one two-week session in the fall on the Darden Grounds in Charlottesville and a second in the spring on the School’s Grounds in the Washington, D.C. area, UVA Darden DC Metro. In a virtual intersession, participants receive coaching and support on their business challenge project.

Both women say they look forward to the collaborative nature of TEP, of not only learning from Darden faculty but from their fellow classmates.

“I’m looking forward to the thought-leadership aspect of the program and the opportunity to meet other leaders who are solving complicated issues that face our society and culture today,” Respeto says.

“I think there is power in peer learning,” adds Gould. “I like that the program is not theory-based, and I’m really interested in hearing from others in the group and learning about their experiences within their organizations.”

At the date of publication, this organization is a client of The Hodges Partnership.

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