Meet Virginia Darden’s MBA Class of 2019

Taylor Sheppard 

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less:  Made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Wish I had the patience to bake.

Hometown: Wailea, Maui, Hawaii

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once broke all the ribs on my right side when I crashed into some rocks while spearfishing in Maui. I didn’t realize it until the next day when I went to swim practice and couldn’t make it to the end of the pool.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Notre Dame, Mathematics

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: U.S. Navy Nuclear Submarine Officer – Weapons Department and Engineering Department Division Officers on the USS Georgia (SSGN 729).

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Whenever my sailors ask me to re-enlist them. This is a huge milestone in their careers and it is extremely personal for them – they get to choose how they want their re-enlistment done, right down to the location and dress-code, as well as an officer they admire to read them their oath. I’ve re-enlisted sailors on a water trampoline in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in a radiation laboratory, and in a bilge in our submarine’s engine room, all of which were fantastic ceremonies. Mentoring the sailors in my divisions and working with my crew makes all the deployments, shift work, and high-stress scenarios on the submarine worth it. Seeing them succeed, and getting to be a chosen part of their career advancement gives me the highest satisfaction.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Visiting the school is everything. The statistics are always impressive, but the fit of the program is what matters most. Each school visit I made drastically changed how I felt about each program. Some school visits even changed my decision to apply because I could immediately tell if the program “fit.” The best way to choose a program is to be able to picture yourself on a day-to-day basis at the school, which you can only do by interacting with the students and faculty and by exploring the campus.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? The case method – and not because I liked it, but because I was terrified of it. Darden was actually a late addition to my list of applications. When I started applying to MBA programs, I completely ruled out Darden because I was certain that I didn’t want to be in a program that was exclusively case method. I didn’t like the idea of being put “on-the-spot” or having to openly debate an opinion, especially with others whom I considered much more qualified to have opinions. As I got farther in the application process, I visited Darden, and the classroom experience completely changed how I wanted to approach business school. I knew that I could most likely succeed in a lecture-based curriculum; it would be very easy for me to sit back and take notes, speak occasionally, and work on projects. The case method, on the other hand, would be much more challenging because it would force me out of my comfort zone every single day. The challenge excited me and made me nervous, but I felt welcomed in Darden’s close-knit and supportive community. I knew that learning in this environment would be so much more developmental for me as a leader than if I just played it safe.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school?  A passport full of stamps, an address book that has tripled in size, a smooth tax season for all my family and friends, and probably a good tweed suit that takes me less than 5 minutes to iron.

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