University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business announced this week a $3 million donation that will go toward a new set of scholarships for military students. The donation comes from Darden board member Thomas Watjen, a Class of ‘81 alum, and his wife Nanette.
Thanks to the University of Virginia’s Bicentennial Scholars Fund, Watjen’s donation will be supplemented with a $1.5 million matching gift. Those contributions will be added to a previous gift from Watjen, bringing the Edward A. Watjen Military Scholarship Fund to about $6 million.
The fund is named in honor of Thomas Watjen’s father, who became a first-generation college graduate after serving in the Navy during World War II.
Watjen says that he has “always been inspired by the powerful example set forth by my father” and that he wants to help ensure “others with a military background have the same opportunity to achieve their educational pursuits.”
In that vein, the scholarships will go to Darden students who arrive on campus with a military background. According to Darden, the highest priority will be given to students who have graduated from the Virginia Military Institute.
Thomas Watjen received an economics degree from Virginia Military Institute before going on to enroll in Darden’s MBA program, with scholarship support.
The Watjen fund complements several other military scholarships offered by Darden, including the Yellow Ribbon scholarship, which is “designed to help to bridge the gap between the GI Bill tuition allowance and actual tuition.”
According to Darden, about 1 in 10 incoming students annually have military experience. Darden dean Scott Beardsley noted that “our military students bring unique skill sets and leadership perspectives to the school” and expressed gratitude for the Watjens’ “longstanding support” of military students.
Indeed, as Beardsley points out, a military background can provide strong preparation for an MBA. Many skills developed in the military transfer well to the business world, and veterans are now a major presence at top MBA programs – thanks in part to scholarships like those provided by the Watjens fund.
As an applicant with a military background, the key is knowing how to make it evident to adcoms that you have developed leadership skills that make you a strong candidate to top business schools.
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