Virginia Business School to Bolster AI Research After Record Donation

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business will increase research and instruction in artificial intelligence thanks to a record gift from an alum.
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Published on November 6, 2023
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  • The University of Virginia's Darden School of Business received the largest gift in school history, officials announced in October.
  • The record gift will be used to bolster artificial intelligence research.
  • David LaCross, an alum who along with his wife, Kathleen, gave the gift to the school, underscored the importance of AI instruction for business students.
  • Business schools are increasingly embracing AI and other technologies as demand increases among both students and employers.

A record gift totaling more than $100 million will help the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business embrace artificial intelligence (AI), school officials announced in October.

Darden alum David LaCross and his wife, Kathleen, gave the school $44 million in late 2022, which coupled with University of Virginia matching funds totaled $50 million. The LaCross family added significantly to that donation in October 2023, school officials said in an announcement, leading to a total donation that is "well over $100 million."

That's the largest gift in the school's history, according to the press release, and will serve to power the school's investment in AI technology.

Darden hopes to position itself as a "trailblazer in research, teaching, and deployment" of AI and other emerging technologies, according to the release.

David LaCross underscored the importance of artificial intelligence in the release.

"I am very interested in AI and have been since Fair, Isaac & Co. (FICO) acquired my company Risk Management Technologies in 1997, when I joined the FICO management committee," LaCross said.

"At that time, we studied extensively if neural networks could help improve Fair Isaacs's credit score propositions and credit card fraud detection software. While we did not believe AI was ready at that point, I felt it was only a matter of time before AI technologies would be ready for prime time. That time is now. Students need to be exposed to AI in meaningful ways, and there is no business school better positioned to teach managers how to work with AI in ethical and responsible ways than Darden."

The technology sector is already key to Darden graduates. More than 10% of Darden's master of business administration (MBA) class of 2023 found jobs in the tech sector. Darden's MBA class of 2023 scored an average starting salary of $167,899 — the highest in school history.

Tech fields, including artificial intelligence and digital marketing, are increasingly important to potential master's students, a survey from the United Kingdom-based consulting firm CarringtonCrisp found earlier this year. Another CarringtonCrisp survey found AI to be among the top interests for prospective MBA students.

A growing number of business schools are embracing artificial intelligence and other high-demand technologies in their specialization offerings.