What’s it like to earn an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business?
In the above video, three current MBA students at Darden reflect on what drew them to Darden and their MBA experience at the school.
After a four-year stint with General Motors, including a year as a senior manager for emerging technologies, Alexandra ‘Allie’ Medack came to Darden to transition into management consulting. She returned to campus from a summer internship with McKinsey & Co. with a full-time job offer in hand and will be joining McKinsey after her graduation in 2020.
Alexander Gregorio is a JD/MBA candidate at UVA. Prior to entering the dual-degree program, he worked for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division on such issues as antitrust enforcement, intellectual property, and healthcare. He will graduate with both degrees in 2021.
Chawit Rochanakit came to Darden after spending four years with Nielsen as a senior executive in its retailer services unit in Bangkok, Thailand, where he managed the relationship with two of Tailand’s largest consumer packaged goods supermarkets.
What follows is an edited transcript from the above video:
Alexander Gregorio: Really, what I was interested in is figuring out the problem of what can we do, not just what should we do, but what can we actually accomplish.
Alexandra ‘Allie’ Medack: How do these big companies make decisions? Corporate America can be a force for good for the U.S. internationally. What does that look like?
Gregorio: How do businesses think? How do businesses interact with, how do businesses drive their decisions?
Chawit Rochanakit: I didn’t just want to learn about business, but wanted to learn about who I am as a person. It was important for me to learn about how to find my own voice and learn how to deal with ambiguity.
Gregorio: I’m a JD MBA here at Law and Darden. I grew up outside of Philadelphia.
Medack: Originally from a small town in Texas.
Rochanakit: I’m originally from Bangkok, Thailand. Born and raised.
Gregorio: Learning how to think like a business person is a really useful skill. How can I further develop that?
Medack: And I knew in order to be a true corporate leader, you had to understand finance and marketing and operations. And so I wanted to really broaden my aperture, my knowledge base. Darden is exactly the place for that.
Rochanakit: I spend four or five years in marketing before coming to Darden and I was thinking about an MBA and Darden stood out because of the case method.
Gregorio: You want to make sure that if we’re building a trench, we’re able to take advantage of that market.
Medack: I went to Darden admissions and I said, “Hey, I want to work in consulting in Washington D.C. Show me alums who work there.” And honestly, within hours I was connected to 15 alumni doing the work that I wanted to do in the city that I wanted to be in, who all set up coffee chats with me.
Gregorio: You’ve got people who are willing to go, you know, into the trenches with you who are willing to work late nights and who are willing to take time out of their day and help you. They’ll teach you the difference between a debit and credit or discounted cash flow analysis? I was a poet. There was no quant in me before I came to Darden.
Rochanakit: After all, you can get technical stuff anywhere. I mean even online you can think about contribution margins, an income statement, how to build it, how to get through operations in your factory. I mean, you can find that knowledge everywhere but it’s not common for you to find a group of people that can influence you to become a better person.
Medack: I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard at times. It is hard to be in the classroom, to be accustomed to not being the smartest person in the room.
Rochanakit: We take three courses per day. There’d be recruiting on top of that, there’d be learning teams. There are social events that you don’t want to miss out on.
Medack: But over time you get comfortable with your classmates, you get comfortable raising your hand saying, ‘Hey, back up, like I’m totally lost. Can you explain to me again what networking capital even means?’ And people don’t laugh at you. You kind of see the sigh of relief and people are like, ‘Oh, I also didn’t know what that meant.’
Rochanakit: My classmates, they are amazing. Like they really want me to succeed. We care about each other. There are a lot of genuine people here and the professors really care about the success of the students. It’s that kind of thing that makes Darden so special.
Gregorio: If you really enjoy that discussion of learning from your peers, of engaging with topics and being disagreed with and disagreeing with others in a friendly way and walking out with each other, this is the place to be. There is no better place where you can learn, be challenged, and grow as an individual so that when you walk out of Darden, you’re ready for whatever the real world’s going to throw at you.
Medack: This will be overwhelming at times, but a wonderful experience, whether it’s experiencing classes but also hiking through the Shenandoah mountains or going to a football game. There’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Rochanakit: Being in a college town, you get to go to a football game or to the vineyards. This is a beautiful area and so you are also getting a new lifestyle that you’ve added into your repertoire.
Gregorio: Come to Charlottesville, come to Darden. You can’t get the real experience of this community from just a website, from just what you read online. You need to come here and feel the energy in the air, to feel the exuberance of the student body. To see faculty interacting and talking to students, not just about business concepts, but about life during first coffee. You need to come and see everyone at the Darden Cup cheering on their classmates, supporting each other. I think you need to see that to really understand that that is one important, essential aspect of what makes Darden such a unique business school.
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