Meet Virginia Darden’s MBA Class Of 2020

Lauren Sless

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

Scientist-historian, aspiring country girl, contagious laugh, perpetual optimist, try-anything-once athlete, dog lover.”

Hometown: Phoenix, MD

Fun Fact About Yourself: I rowed crew for six years, and it’s something of a family tradition. In fact, I won my first 1st place trophy at 3 years old with my dad in a father-child lifeguard rowing competition in Sea Isle City, NJ.

Undergraduate School and Major: MIT (2012), Major: Biology; Minor: History

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:
EUROIMMUN US, National Accounts Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Being promoted to National Accounts Manager after two years at my company. It was an amazing opportunity at this point in my career to be able to contribute to key accounts strategy, sales team continuing education, and the evolving culture of our growing business.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Grounded. They know where they’ve been, why they’re here at Darden, and what they want to do in the future. Not just in terms of their jobs after graduation, but how they want their lives to end up, and how they want to change their corners of the world. They know their “true north.” In every conversation I’ve had, my classmates have clearly articulated their strengths, shortfalls, and passions. I have already learned so much about other cultures, economies, career tracks, and even my own field as a result of meeting only a few of these impressive men and women.

Aside from your classmates, 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?  From my first informational visit to the campus to the on-campus interview to preview weekend, every time I met or interacted with a Darden Admissions officer, career counselor, financial aid advisor, or professor, it was clear to me how genuinely dedicated the entire school is to the success and happiness of its students. Right away I knew this type of environment would give me the freedom to sculpt my own MBA experience and the support and expertise that I would need as I start the next stage of my career.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Interestingly enough, the School of Brew at Darden is one of the many student clubs that caught my eye! I am always one for a new hobby, and lately I’ve come to have an appreciation for the complexities of the craft beer and brewing industry. Not only am I excited to share what I’ve learned, but I also have heard how rich the craft brewing experience is both in and around Charlottesville. I think this club will be a great opportunity for me to get to know the city and my classmates, while potentially learning a new skill!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? It just felt like this was the right time. I was comfortable with where I was in my career and personal life, and so I found no reason to delay pursuing a degree that I knew would only add to my professional success and personal development.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? At the end of the day, an MBA is both a financial and temporal investment in the future. The choice I was faced with was, do I stay on my current career path, or do I invest these two years and my financial savings in a graduate degree? I researched a number of alternatives, including other professional degrees. After much self-reflection and career planning, I came to the firm conclusion that an MBA provided an education experience that would allow me to maximize my professional potential while also opening doors in the immediate future, post-graduation. I am convinced that the freedom to construct my own path is worth every penny and minute spent earning an MBA.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? MIT Sloan School of Management and Columbia Business School

How did you determine your fit at various schools?
1. Quality of career advising
2. Campus culture and class dynamics
3. Financial aid
4. Graduating class employment profiles

In order to explore each of the above, I visited campus, spoke to current students, and met with as many admissions and academic officers at the schools as possible. In the end, I had to go with my gut and choose the program that felt right to me. I knew that wherever I felt at home, I would be in the best position to achieve each of my career goals.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? The ink was still wet on my diploma when I began applying for what I thought was the logical next step in my scientific career as a Biology major – medical school. I spent two years working, preparing, and applying, only to be faced with the reality of rejection. The defining moment in my career can be summarized by a single choice: do I spend even more time, emotional energy, and money on a second application cycle, or do I take a risk and respond to the InMail message burning a hole in my LinkedIn inbox? Well, I responded to that recruiter and began a position at a company that transformed the way I thought about the business of medicine and the way I saw myself. I learned how to adjust to change on every level, how to navigate complex, sometimes stressful situations with professionalism and poise, and how to develop the nuances of my communication skills. I took a risk and as a result felt empowered to do more, be more. Every experience since has only compounded my passion, drive, and confidence in my personal and professional life.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Before returning to work full time, I want to travel. Top of the list are Ireland, Greece, Italy, and of course, Disneyworld!

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself starting a family and pursuing a career in marketing, brand management, or business operations, most likely in the Northeast. I also would like to have at least a few more stamps on my passport!