2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Vita Wu, University of Virginia (Darden)

Vita Wu

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“An energetic former teacher who plans social events and talks about diversity and inclusion.”

Hometown: Naperville, Illinois

Fun fact about yourself: I have seen the movie Interstellar 15 times

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kinesiology/ Currently pursuing a Masters of Education at the University of Virginia

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Unión de Cooperativas de Enseñanza de Trabajo Asociado de Madrid, English Language Assistant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? EY-Parthenon in Los Angeles

Where will you be working after graduation? EY-Parthenon in Chicago

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: C. Stewart Sheppard Distinguished Service Award, President of Humans of Darden, Consortium Liaison, Section Leadership- Social Chair, VP Communication of the Education Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of building up a new organization called Humans of Darden. Humans of Darden was started by two students the year before as an initiative to create a stronger community at Darden. During my tenure as president, awareness of the organization has reached 100%; conducting focus groups and surveys from scratch have helped us better understand our positioning and we have formed partnerships with about 10 different Darden clubs. I hope this building year sets Humans of Darden up to become a staple for every student to form new and deeper connections in their time at Darden.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After my first year of teaching, I was awarded the Rising Star Teacher of the Year. The award itself was not the source of pride, but the effort and passion that went into earning the award. Getting through that year and trying my hardest to be a good teacher – while still learning the ropes – trained me to develop skills that will be invaluable for the rest of my career. They include:

1) Innovation: Creating different, new, and engaging lesson plans (when you have no idea what you’re doing) started out being the bane of my existence. Now, creating something from nothing can be a fun challenge.

2) Perseverance: Trial-and-error was grueling, especially when it was in front of high schoolers. However, having the commitment to figuring out a solution and eventually getting there is a rewarding moment.

3) Love: I never would have gotten through that first year if I did not want the best for my students with all my heart. This taught me there has got to be love in the job, whether it is for the work itself, the people you serve, your coworkers, or all of the above.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Darden for two main reasons. First, It is one of the few schools in the country that has a dual degree MBA/M.Ed program and is part of the Consortium. I knew business school was going to be unknown and uncomfortable territory, so having the M.Ed program and my Consortium cohort would bring me back to my roots. Second, Darden has a reputation for having an academically rigorous curriculum. As someone coming from a non-traditional background, I had never heard of a margin or WACC. I wanted to be pushed in my learning to gain business knowledge quickly and effectively. Darden has not let me down in that regard.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Know your story. Darden cares about where you come from, where you have been, and where you want to go…they want to know the whole picture of who you are. Darden is full of smart, humble, and interesting people. Community matters at Darden; in order to be a fit for the community, you must show all three of those criteria. The “smart” you can gather from a GMAT score or other accolades, but the “humble” and “interesting” is exhibited through your story.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest “myth” about Darden is not a myth at all because it is true: we are a nerdy school. People should and do come to Darden because they want to learn and work hard. Our core curriculum (the first semester and a half of your first year) is known for being intense. Even beyond that, students take electives they are genuinely seeking to gain something from. We have a “work hard play hard” mentality here at Darden where we go to class and the bars.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Peter Nguon. He has, time-and-time again, impressed me with his thoughtful approach to his studies, career, and building relationships. Peter is never one to say, “Oh, I haven’t read that case” and always has detailed notes before and after class. Being the generous person he is, he will not hesitate to share those notes or spreadsheets. During recruiting, it is at times hard to keep a level head. Peter has not only maintained his composure but was an uplifting spirit for everybody else. He is cognizant about the decisions he makes when it comes to his career instead of following the shiniest object. If you lined up the friends that Peter hangs out with on a regular basis, it is a truly diverse set of friends. He is not only friendly and approachable to everybody, he actively reaches out to meet new people and wants to know the entire Darden community (he may or may not have a list…). Peter is one of the most well rounded, true to himself and true to the people around him human beings I know.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Jake Dreier was my coach during my first year in Teach For America and planted the seed of business school early on. He attended business school the year after he was my coach and he remains one of my mentors. After I tackled my first couple of years of teaching and was thinking about the next step, Jake would tell me, “I know you would thrive in business school.” I did not realize how many former educators attended business school until Jake started connecting me with classmates and friends which encouraged me to see myself at business school.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1) Work in a head strategy role in an Educational Organization. This is the whole reason I came to business school, to marry my passion for education and develop the skillset to make a high-level impact.

2) Achieve the mysterious and coveted “work-life balance.” This is a probably a bad bucket list item because it is not something you necessarily check off the list once and you are done. Still, it is one of the most important metrics as I think about my career. An alumni guest speaker once said in class that life is about juggling balls; some of those balls we deem are rubber and some of those balls are glass. Inevitably, we will drop a ball sometimes and it better not be a glass one. If I never drop a glass ball, then I consider that successfully accomplishing a work-life balance.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? That energetic former teacher who planned social events and talked about diversity and inclusion.

Hobbies? Dining out and playing volleyball. I did the latter to compensate for the effects of the former. However, I tore my ACL during the first year. I have Yelp elite status (which admittedly sounds so pretentious and millennial) but who doesn’t enjoy taking a break from school and exploring a city’s restaurant options (especially in a city like Charlottesville) with friends?

What made Vita such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Vita Wu is the “glue” that holds our tight-knit Darden Community together. Through her gregarious and outgoing personality, warm and welcoming demeanor, she makes Darden students feel like they belong. She empowers students to show off their true selves by sharing their diverse narratives through our Humans of Darden initiatives. She also supports diversity and inclusion efforts as a Consortium Liaison. Vita embodies the tight-knit community in the bright light she brings to the Darden Grounds.”

Marc Paulo Guzman
Associate Director for Diversity Recruitment


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