2018 Best MBAs: Devin Underhill, University of Virginia (Darden)

Devin Underhill

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Will drop anything for great conversation or a friend in need; third kid of four.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Fairfield, CT

Fun fact about yourself: Hiked the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Virginia, Socioeconomic Status – Interdisciplinary Major

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? University of Virginia Office of Undergraduate Admission, Admission Counselor

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Boston Consulting Group, Chicago

Where will you be working after graduation? Boston Consulting Group, Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Pride at Darden – VP of Admission, First-Year Liaison
  • Section D, Career Development Representative
  • Admission Committee, Fundraising Co-Chair
  • Community Consultants of Darden
  • Board Fellows – Charlottesville Pride
  • Mental Health Committee Member
  • Second Year (Career) Coach
  • Raven Society – Oldest academic honor society at U.VA

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As VP of Admission for Pride at Darden, I’ve worked to create a more diverse and inclusive student body at Darden. My main role has been to speak with prospective and incoming students who identify as LGBTQ in order to be another level of support in the application process and answer any questions that students might have about Darden. I’ve also worked with the Admission Office to increase Darden’s visibility at LGBTQ recruiting spaces – CHecK uS out and ROMBA, formalizing Darden’s partnership with ROMBA this year as a sponsoring school. We’ve also created LGBTQ specific resources for prospective students to answer common questions they might have about the Darden experience and redesigned demographic questions on event sign-ups and applications to be more inclusive.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Immediately after I graduated from college, I joined the Virginia College Advising Corps and moved to rural Virginia to serve as a college adviser in a public high school. I worked for two years helping to develop a college-going culture in this economically depressed area. I created programs for 9th-12th grades to begin thinking about their futures early; worked with local non-profits to connect with students transitioning to community college; eased parents’ fears and filing financial aid applications; and mentored at-risk-of-failing 9th graders to implement early interventions. Those two years were challenging and frustrating, but my relationships with the students were incredibly rewarding. I helped to change the conversation about college, changing it from an unlikely path into a valuable option for many students. That experience shaped much of my professional outlook and future goals.

Why did you choose this business school? As I reflected on my undergraduate experience, although I loved it and built incredible friendships there, I felt that I didn’t have lasting connections with faculty. When I looked at business schools, that became a top priority – I wanted my network to go beyond just my peers. At Darden, faculty are excited to engage you; whether in class, over coffee in their offices, or at dinner, they’re focused on understanding how you think and learning with you. That stood out almost immediately and became a differentiating factor that I didn’t find elsewhere.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Showcase your best self. That requires being authentic and true to your interests, but it also means reflecting on what makes you unique and different from other applicants, and highlighting those aspects. Take the time to craft your story, clearly outline your goals, and showcase your passions. In putting in work up front, talking about yourself in interviews will become second nature and you’ll feel more relaxed going through the whole process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Catherine Aranda is one of the more inspirational people that I have met in my life. She has overcome adversity, dedicated her life to serving others, and is incredibly talented musically. When she arrived at Darden, she struggled to adjust initially and felt discouraged. One year later, she started Resilience Week and helped the Darden community reflect on self-care and mental health, a topic that is often overlooked. She has changed this community for the better.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My colleague and role model, Macy Lenox, knew that I wasn’t feeling fulfilled in my previous job and pushed me to imagine what I wanted out of a future job. Through that conversation, it was clear that I had an interest in organizational behavior and strategy. Her husband, Mike, was a professor at Darden and so she connected me to him to talk through what I might gain from attending business school. From there, I was hooked and began searching all over the country for where might be the best fit.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? In the First Year, your section is central to your Darden experience. In Second Year, although you’ll see your section regularly at social events, there’s no academic opportunity to come together. I would create a course for 4th quarter that has everyone come back together in Second Year and talk about key takeaways and insights from the two-year business school experience.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Write a novel and visit every continent

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered as someone who knows where to focus his energy – whether as an intensely loyal friend or creative problem solver.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Pursuit of Happyness – there is never any excuse not to try for the things we want.

What would your theme song be? “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” by John Mayer

Favorite vacation spot: Ocean City, NJ (my family hosts a reunion there each year and I love reconnecting with cousins from all over the world.

Hobbies? I’m an avid hiker, board game lover, and aspire to write in my journal daily.

What made Devin such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“I met Devin when he was a first-year student in my business ethics course. Devin was never afraid to voice his perspective and took every opportunity to be inclusive and compassionate with his classmates. On several occasions, Devin was able to ask a powerful question to a classmate or share his perspective in a way that changed our conversation and make people think differently.

In addition to the class, I have had the pleasure of engaging with Devin on other important topics. One, in particular, is helping the Darden community cope with the tragic events of August, 11th in Charlottesville. Devin was keenly interested in what could be done to help students process and talk through their reactions and feelings of the NeoNazi March and subsequent violence. He was aware that not everyone in the community was affected in the same way, and was looking for ways to foster dialogue and better understanding among his peers. Devin reached out to other student leaders, and together they settled on the idea to write a case about how different Darden students were processing the situation, to help create consensus on what could be done going forward.

In my experience, Devin Underhill is a compassionate and caring leader who consistently reaches out and connects with colleagues with different experiences, ideas, and values. He firmly believes in the power of diversity to improve ideas and has repeatedly shown that he is willing to do the hard work of listening, empathizing, and constructively engaging to build bridges. In today’s increasingly politicized and fractured social landscape, Devin sets an example for all of us, by reaching across identity lines to connect, engage, and understand.”

Bidhan L. Parmar

Associate Professor of Business Administration


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