2020 MBAs To Watch: Bryce Istvan, University of Virginia (Darden)

Bryce Istvan

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“I’m scientifically curious, business-minded, and looking to connect the two to better healthcare.”

Hometown: Issaquah, Washington

Fun fact about yourself: I grew up with 9 German Shepherds

Undergraduate School and Degree: Drexel University – BS Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Oncoceutics – Associate, Finance and Business Development

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Tarrytown, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? ZS Associates, Strategy Insights & Planning Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP of Community – Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club
  • VP of Community – Impact Investing Club
  • William Michael Shermet Award Recipient
  • Batten Fellowship for Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Technology

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  I was asked to be the leader of my section’s first-year review for finance, and then later asked to lead multiple reviews for first-year students. It was nice to be recognized for my abilities, and it made me feel good about giving back to the Darden community. One of the first years even gave me peanut butter cups as a thank you.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my work at Oncoceutics, I played an integral role in initiating clinical trials and single patient compassionate use studies for the brain cancer drug that the company is developing, called ONC201. Some of these patients experienced dramatically positive and life-saving results. This past summer, I had the opportunity to see some of these patients present their stories to the FDA, and see the faces of those whose lives I helped change.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is a hard question at Darden because the teaching faculty is remarkable. However, choosing one, I would say Shane Dikolli, a relatively new accounting professor. I had the opportunity to take Shane’s first class ever at Darden. His compassion for students shined through on the first day of class when he went through and named every single person (except one, whom he then sent a page long apology email to). Since then, he has continued to connect with every Darden student, ensuring that each person has a unique experience, and is always striving to improve it. At one point, I ran into Shane while walking my dogs around campus over break, and we started talking about some of his research and what an accounting Ph.D. really meant. Within an hour of getting home, Shane emailed me the current paper he was editing, along with links and detailed descriptions of several of the top accounting Ph.D. programs in the country. He had clearly spent most of the time between when we ran into each other and when I got the email, crafting it, because my interest was the most important thing to him.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Darden Cup, a year-long set of competitive athletic and other events is a great way for sections to bond throughout the year. The events are diverse enough – from football to cricket to a talent show – to encourage broad participation, forming a sense of community through competition. That community, with people supporting each other to achieve their best, is reflective of Darden’s overall environment.

Why did you choose this business school? Similar to my answer above, Darden is all about its community. Being in a small town, with a smaller class size, there is a chance to get to know just about everyone on a deep level and form life-long friendships. An emblematic story is, when my wife and I came to visit the school, she was treated as a community member, welcomed to everything, and even given a working space to camp out in for the day while I toured the school.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Know what unique perspective you are going to contribute to Darden’s community. With a small class, you’re going to be the person known for something, whether it be school, social, community, etc. Highlight what you’re going to be famous for.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think there is a myth about business schools broadly having less academic rigor than other graduate programs. That is absolutely not true at Darden. I worked harder than I ever had to academically, but have never felt more fulfilled and supported while doing so.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Balance taking advantage of all that Darden has to offer with everything else around you. I could have done a much better job, especially in the first year, getting out of the “Darden bubble” and getting to know UVA and Charlottesville. As diverse as Darden is, it’s still nice to get to know people in the world outside.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Vita Wu is the social chair for our section and was an incredible glue that holds everyone together. I have never been the “social butterfly” type. I admire people who are so good at putting themselves out there to meet everyone and forming relationships and friendships with everyone who crosses their paths. I know that I will never be that person, but I also know that I need at least one of that type of person around me in every organization I work in.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Robert Payseno was my high school business teacher. By that point, I was pretty sure that I was going to pursue business, but he and the opportunities that he provided shaped me in a way that it made my experiences possible. He provided leadership roles and mentorship as I was in those roles which, for the first time, put me in a position to effectively lead people to accomplish meaningful business goals (e.g. managing the entire student store and captaining the state champion Quiz Bowl team). I was sort of a misfit kid through middle school and early high school. It wasn’t until I had these experiences that I believed in myself that I could truly be a leader.

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

  • Bring a life-changing experimental drug to market, where it is in the position to change patient lives
  • Take my learnings (and hopefully profits) from goal #1 and reinvest them in projects and entrepreneurs working on the same thing, so hopefully goal #1 gets accomplished over and over

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A smart, caring individual who is someday going to have a major impact on the lives of patients.

Hobbies? Baseball (both playing and coaching), personal stock portfolio management, hiking, hunting, fishing, and dogs.

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

“There are students who truly invest in their learning and truly invest in their classmates. These students don’t just make the class a little better, they make the class remarkably better. Bryce is one of those students. He listens, he is incredibly patient, and he uses the language of his classmates to translate a difficult concept into something that resonates with others. When I think of Bryce’s contributions to class I’m reminded of the famous quote from a former Supreme Court judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”

Bryce regularly and reliably gets to the other side of complexity. The fall that Bryce was a student in my class, I taped all of the sessions to help me prepare for future classes. When I review those classes, it is clear the difference that Bryce made. His classmates view him with the greatest respect. He knew all the answers and his classmates knew that he knew. But they always appreciated when he spoke up because he articulates complex topics in a way that is meaningful to them, with great humility and empathy.

I have no doubt in my mind that Bryce will use business as a force for good and will be admired in the process. His ability to collaborate and bring out the best in others will be a signature of his impact.”

Professor Shane Dikolli



Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.