Meet Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA Class Of 2021

Nathan Farrar

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

Cave explorer and environmental scientist, an advocate for responsible stewardship of the natural world.”

Hometown: Christiansburg, Virginia, USA

Fun Fact About Yourself: In 2011, I was named a “Young Explorer” by the National Geographic Society.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Virginia; Environmental Sciences

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Plexus Scientific Corporation, Project Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Prior to Tuck, I was responsible for the remediation of environmental contamination sites on U.S. Military installations around the country.  I sought out and applied emerging technologies, maintained project profitability and schedules, and satisfied some of our toughest clients. For those achievements, I was awarded the company-wide 2017 Employee of the Year Award. Even then, I am most proud of having revitalized and chaired our corporate culture-enhancing committee. We made strategic recommendations to company management and implemented their decisions, including the initiation of charitable-giving events, preparation of internal guidance documents, and coordination of many after-hours social events. Upon leaving my company for business school, there was a tangible feeling in the hallway of increased satisfaction and morale among my coworkers—that is my biggest professional accomplishment to date.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I just returned from a pre-orientation trip to the Sacred Valley of Peru with 30 of my fellow Tuckies and their partners. We spent ten days together non-stop, away from the comforts of home and family, and through days of fatigue while hiking and camping at high altitude. Not once did anyone lose their calm. Rather, every single one of us got along well: we didn’t split off into cliques and were all there for one another when it was needed. Everyone took care to truly get to know one another. I’ve never been among a group of people so kind-hearted.

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? All students walk away from the top business schools with a fine education and a great job, but not all leave with an active and effective network to fall back on years after graduation. At Tuck, students are welcomed into the most dependable and engaging alumni network in the world. That may well have something to do with Tuck’s location and spending two years together here in the woods of New England. Thinking long-term, I not only wanted to get an excellent education and a rewarding job, but also to build a strong, lasting network. Tuck is the ideal place to get all three.

What aspect of the school’s culture or values resonates most with you and why? The compelling camaraderie within the community—unmistakable in the classroom, residences, dean’s office, career services department, you name it—resonates most with me. Almost every course assignment at Tuck, especially during first year, is given to out teams or for you to complete amongst your study group.  I thrive as part of an interdependent team, one in which we are all aware of our individual strengths and weaknesses and stronger because of it. Tuck excels in providing such an atmosphere of mutual support—one in which I’ll always have your back, and you’ll always have mine—both on campus and well beyond graduation.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m looking forward to helping organize the Tuck Gives week of fundraising, which raises money from various activities throughout the week, culminating in a large auction and party. The donations are used to supplement compensation for students who accept internships in nonprofit or public sector organizations, including environmental industries.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Halfway through my on-campus, student-led interview, I was thrown a curveball. The student asked, “Tell me about an odd conversation you’ve had in the past week.” It was the “in the past week” constraint that initially threw me, but I had thankfully already settled into a comfortable, back-and-forth discussion with the interviewer, so my response come out fluidly and moved the conversation along.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt that I had reached the peak of my junior career and it was time to take the next step. At work, I had focused on cleaning up the downstream consequences of decisions made with poor consideration of environmental impact. The job had been “reactive.” After some reflection, I realized that I wanted to be a “proactive” leader upstream, preventing potential environmental impacts. As a good friend said, “Industry sustainability is the fight of our generation.” With the world’s energy consumption skyrocketing, I figured that I could best apply myself to this cause in a general management role within the renewable energy sector and it was business school that could provide me with the means to make such a career pivot. Tuck, and Dartmouth as a whole, are heavily investing in educating the next generation of energy leaders, which made my decision to pursue an MBA here in New Hampshire that much easier.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I remember building my initial list of schools. On it, I put down Tuck as a reach school. After studying hard for the GMAT and achieving a 770 score, I felt more comfortable targeting Tuck. Ultimately, I applied to Tuck and a handful of M7 schools, all first round.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? When I first considered attending business school, I read about the culture at each of the top 20 or so programs, looking for my best fit. It took little time to deduce that perfect culture fit was at Tuck, with its small class size, cozy campus, tight-knit community, and rural setting where outdoor recreational opportunities abound.

That being said, I created quite the spreadsheet of evaluation metrics, as many applicants to top schools do. I attended more admissions events for Tuck than for any other school. Each had me more excited about the program. In turn, I kept increasing Tuck’s metrics in my spreadsheet; I was self-rigging my “objective” approach to follow my heart and I can’t foresee ever regretting having done so.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? In early 2013, I was elected a Director of the National Speleological Society, the world’s premier organization dedicated to the study, conservation, and exploration of caves, with around 9,000 members globally. During our first week-long Board meeting, we discussed hiring and firing employees thoughtfully, fundraising tens of thousands of dollars, seeking counsel when legal complications arose, and increasing funding for certain initiatives while cutting that for others. Serving on the board of this non-profit, I realized the power of adhering to a clear mission, vision, and statement of values. I experienced how effort driven by passion lends itself to making real-world, positive impacts; and, foremost, I found a calling in environmental leadership, to help move our society toward a more sustainable future.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I hope to have completed a respectable leadership development program and climbed into a leadership role within a renewable-energy company that has an environmentally-driven mission, working to fundamentally change the way energy is produced and consumed.

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