2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Franklyn Darnis, University of Virginia (Darden)

Franklyn Darnis

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Hard-working ISFJ who loves learning, fitness, music, games, dogs, and hearing about your day.”

Hometown: Simsbury, CT

Fun fact about yourself: On midnight the last night of a trip to Asheville, NC, I somehow convinced my four friends to wake up at 5 a.m. to do an 11-mile hike. We conquered the hike and had a great time, but the part of the story that my friends will never let me live down was how weird it was for me to have woken up at 4 a.m. to make salmon for us before our long adventure. In my defense, it was all that we had left to make!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Princeton University, B.S.E. in Operations Research and Financial Engineering, with minors in Computer Science and Finance

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked at United Technologies as a Financial Leadership Program Associate, where I rotated every six months through four different business units and functions.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? EY-Parthenon as a Summer Consultant in Boston, MA

Where will you be working after graduation? EY-Parthenon as a Consultant in Boston, MA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Second Year Coach – Coach six first-year Darden students through recruiting
  • Tutoring Program Chair – Administer tutoring program and tutor Darden students
  • Darden-UVA Mentor – Coach two UVA grad students through recruiting
  • CrossFit Level II Coach (and professional morning person) – Lead 10-20 athletes at a time through hour-long classes at local CrossFit gym
  • Building Goodness in April (BGiA) House Captain – Support BGiA, where we help fix up local Charlottesville homes and community group facilities in need

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the feedback I have received from the tutoring and coaching activities that I engage in at Darden. An initiative that I am particularly proud of was a collaboration with my friend Kyle Richards. In the spirit of upholding Darden’s strong pay-it-forward culture, we led several 3-hour coaching sessions around technical interviews, behavioral interviews, and the overall recruiting process for 25 first-year international students in the Asia Business Club at Darden (ABCD). Our goal was to help bridge whatever cultural gaps existed between U.S. norms and what each student had experienced in his or her home country. After a lot of hard work and many triumphs, ABCD hosted a celebration where they gave Kyle and me each a notebook with handwritten thank you notes from the ABCD first-year students. I am humbled and beyond grateful to have played a role in their Darden journeys.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to Darden, I am most proud of my work at United Technologies leading an untraditional consulting project for the legal team. Without being able to go into the details, I am proud of this achievement because it was outside of the realm of anything I had done before, the potential impact to the business was significant, and I went from knowing nothing about the problem to being trusted by leadership to give my recommendations. I was initially pulled in to spearhead the project due to my ability to derive insights from data. However, what ultimately allowed me to be successful was my ability to work with and influence stakeholders in Legal, Operations, IT, HR, and Finance. What the experience underscored for me was the relative importance of leadership skills over functional expertise in driving a project with multiple stakeholders to completion. This lesson has stuck with me throughout Darden, and I continue to pursue experiences conducive to developing my capacity for leading teams.

What was your favorite MBA Course? I’ll go off script on this one and give my top five because there are so many criteria I could use to define “favorite.” My favorite courses that allowed for introspection and self-improvement were Interpersonal Behavior and Negotiations, while my favorite courses that developed my technical skills were Global Financial Markets as well as Financial Management and Policies. A third category includes classes that improved my ability to communicate and transfer my existing competencies to others, and Decision Analysis was my favorite class here. Here is a key takeaway from each:

  • Decision Analysis – It is not enough to have the right answer; you need to be able to explain the solution and data in such a way that others will understand and agree.
  • Financial Management & Policies – All models are wrong, but the good ones are useful.
  • Global Financial Markets – Don’t believe everything you read or hear; use fundamental principles to reach your own conclusions about the economy.
  • Interpersonal Behavior – Difficult conversations are a necessary part of life; they might be daunting but can be extremely rewarding.
  • Negotiations – There are often opportunities for win-wins; the challenge is to understand each party’s fundamental desires, and the rest is creativity.

Why did you choose this business school? My goals for business school were to continue developing my leadership skills, close knowledge gaps with certain functional disciplines, learn enough to ask the right questions, and find a strong community that was consistent with my values.

Darden’s structure and principles are extremely aligned with my goals. The business school prides itself on having incredible professors and prioritizing the learning of its students. On the leadership front, the case method and tight-knit culture allow students to make decisions, take risks, and defend their stances. In terms of subject matter breadth, the core curriculum incorporates the central overarching topics relevant to running and leading a business. From a culture perspective, events such as Darden Cup (an intra-school Hogwarts-esque competition), mantras such as “always assume positive intent,” and UVA’s long-standing Honor Code all contribute to Darden’s strong community. Overall, Darden’s value proposition was exactly what I sought, and I could not be happier with my decision.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? If you have determined through research, talking to students, and perhaps visiting Grounds (Darden’s version of campus) that Darden’s value proposition aligns with your goals and values, then I would recommend just being yourself throughout the process. The nuance I’ll add to this age-old advice is one of my takeaways from business school, which is that perception is often the reality for all intents and purposes. Use a friend or family member to gauge how you come across in your application, and make sure that this reflects who you truly are and how that aligns you to Darden’s mission and values.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Darden has shaped my perspective, grown my confidence, and improved my business acumen. On the professional side, I have aimed to grow my knowledge across new facets of business by taking a variety of classes, attending guest lectures, and asking a lot of questions to members of the Darden community. The other significant professional change has been to my problem-solving approach. Darden’s case method and general manager mindset have taught me to take a step back and consider the big picture, make decisions that factor in all stakeholders, and defend my stances while being open-minded.

On the personal side, Darden has shaped how I form relationships through increased self-awareness, confidence, and desire to meet new people. Classes, feedback, and Darden-inspired mindfulness practices have improved my self-awareness. An example was discovering my subconscious assumption that listening is unequivocally good, which I have determined to hinder my relationships. As a result of over-listening, I under-share and do not make myself vulnerable to others. By striving to balance my listening and sharing, I am now creating better first impressions and forming deeper relationships. My eagerness to meet and learn from others has also increased through events such as Darden Stories and Darden Globetrotters, which emphasize that everyone has a unique story. Overall, I am very different from August 2017 Franklyn, and I have Darden to thank!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I would like to highlight Miguel Gomez Ramirez. What I admire most about Miguel is his ability to be humble and inclusive on top of being insightful and perceptive. His deep maturity, perspective, and love of life – paired with his sincere interest to learn more about and engage with others – makes conversation with Miguel unavoidably refreshing. In the classroom, what is immediately apparent is Miguel’s intellect; when he talks, everyone listens. In any interaction, more broadly, Miguel exudes warmth and draws in others. My only complaint is only having met Miguel in our second year and not benefiting from his wisdom and friendship sooner!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue an MBA? My parents planted the business school seed in undergrad as something to consider once I had some work experience under my belt. They spoke to the opportunities that an MBA could afford me; specifically, they stressed the impact that business school could have on my career in terms of technical knowledge, leadership skills, exposure to a breadth of industries, and opportunities to meet and learn from a variety of impressive students and professors. My parents’ combined wisdom, care, and overwhelming support have helped me to where I am today, and I would not be on this exciting path without them!

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? My MBA education has been well worth its cost. From a purely economic (and admittedly nerdy) perspective, even including opportunity cost, the payback period is relatively short, and the net present value is comfortably positive. From a personal growth perspective, these two years have been some of the most formative in my life; they have changed how I interact with others and with the world, and this is something on which I feel you cannot put a price.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

1) Reconnect with my French roots. I was born in Lyon, France and lived there for three years before spending the next four years in Paris. My dad and his side of the family are French, but I do not feel as connected to the culture or language as I would like to be. I plan to use some of my summer after Darden to start reconnecting.

2) Own a stake in a CrossFit gym. I love to coach, and I love the impact that CrossFit can have on a community, so playing a more defined and deliberate role in creating this community impact is a top bucket list item for me.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope that my peers remember me as someone who cares about others, acts with positive intent, loves to learn, and works hard.


  • CrossFit – I began CrossFit in 2011, have coached people in the sport since 2012, and have competed since 2013. I was fortunate to find good mentors in the sport early, and I love the sport because of its community, holistic mindset around health, continual challenge, and constant variety.
  • Games of all types – I love to play games. At Darden, I love opportunities to use games to introduce people from different worlds in addition to meeting new people myself. Currently, some of my favorite games include One Night Werewolf, Settlers of Catan, Nouns (a.k.a. fishbowl), Liar’s Dice, Puerto Rico, and Eclipse.
  • Sports – I played squash and golf in high school, and I love to play each when given the chance. I also started an intramural ultimate frisbee team at Darden, where my only two rules were 1) no injuries, and 2) have fun. I am proud to report that we stuck to the rules!
  • Singing – I sang from 6th grade through undergrad, where I performed in an a cappella group that rehearsed five nights a week and toured five times a year domestically and internationally. Though I am on a hiatus from organized singing right now, I look forward to opportunities to pick it back up in the future!

What made Franklyn such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Franklyn was a student of mine during his first quarter at Darden. Even though he was assigned to sit at the very back row, I was immediately struck by his strong, positive presence. Quiet at first, Franklyn quickly stepped into a thought leadership role with his intuition, hard work, a keen eye for detail and his deep care for those around him. As days passed, I would see Franklyn around campus, every time with a classmate who either needed help with the materials, preparation for an interview or was looking for some motivation to get up and go! Among his talents and efforts, I think Franklyn’s amazing work as one of the Chairs of the Tutoring Program that organizes second-year students to help first years achieve academic understanding and his dedication to consistently show up for his classmates for meaningful occasions stand out for me. Franklyn will be dearly missed after graduation but I am confident that he will make the world a better place wherever he chooses to go.”

Professor Lalin Anik