At Poets&Quants, we also like innovators and game-changers. That’s exactly what Virginia Darden second-year MBA Rachel Gibson is. This past March, Gibson became the first-ever woman to serve as CEO of the Darden Capital Management, a group of five endowment funds worth about $22 million. “My goal is to not only improve the longevity of the program but to also encourage more women to consider careers in financial services,” Gibson told Poets&Quants earlier this year.
Of course, it was no typical year to run an investment fund.
“DCM members, nearly half of whom are women, manage the five funds with different strategies,” P&Q contributor Riley Webster wrote earlier this year. “After Covid, they implemented hedging strategies in the Jefferson Fund, including reallocating capital previously invested in equities into fixed-income. In the global Monticello Fund, they had to adjust adroitly as the pandemic worsened in some places and improved in others. The Cavalier Fund, consisting of consumer staples and online retailers, saw a boost to share price performance benefiting from increased demand; the Darden Fund underwent a spring of turmoil as members examined the entire portfolio in the wake of Covid; and the Rotunda Fund, an Environmental, Social, and Governance fund, had an equally uncertain time as DCM managers worked to assess how companies that prioritize ESG initiatives would hold up during the market downturn.”
But, of course, besides leading the success of the funds, Gibson wants to serve as a mentor and inspiration for other women like others did for her after graduating from Bucknell University. “Each time I had an informational call with another woman in the industry, it helped me learn what would make me happy and what I’m motivated by,” Gibson says. “Sometimes, you’ll get advice when you weren’t looking for it, leading to opportunities that you may not even know exist.”
When the Coronavirus pandemic began to spread rapidly across the world, many experts predicted that while major portions of the economy would struggle, others would thrive. And it would be an opportunity for innovative people and MBAs. Siran Xu and Tammie Chen, who both graduated with MBAs from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business this past spring, innovated. They spent their quarantine time launching a not-for-profit organization aimed at helping healthcare providers across the globe.
“Tapping into their network in China’s healthcare system, Chen and Xu founded Coronavirusmatch to coordinate the matching of medical resources from China to hotspots on different continents. Since launching March 23, they have fielded requests from hospitals and other medical institutions for over 6 million masks and more than half a million testing kits,” P&Q Managing Editor Marc Ethier wrote last June. “Their supplies range from PPEs — KN95 masks, surgical masks, goggles, isolation gowns, shoe covers, and the like — to ICU ventilators. To date they have shipped more than 100,000 masks to Southeast Asia, Europe, and South America.”
Chen had a unique view of the Coronavirus as both of her parents work as physicians in northeast China and had been monitoring the spread of the virus since December of 2019. Both Xu and Chen spoke about how it’s interesting to run an organization built in this sort of way. That is, they are looking forward to when it won’t exist anymore because that ultimately means the Coronavirus is mostly in check.
“We sourced all these demands from all over the world during the day, and at night we’d have to talk with the Chinese suppliers — after midnight, given the time zone difference,” Chen told P&Q. “So it was very much, it took a lot of time, but now I think the good part is one, there’s less demand from across the globe. People have sort of figured out their own supply chain. And two, our platform is somewhat automated. We have a good network of suppliers that we can count on.
“Our project was really there to react to the increasing need during those moments. We are hoping that one day we can shut off as quickly as possible, which means people don’t need face masks anymore.”
Besides the pandemic and presidential election, the other major continuing national storyline of 2020 was the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. Like millions of other Americans, many MBAs were motivated to become active in the ongoing fight for racial justice and police reform. A group of those MBAs from across seven different schools came together in June to form a group called MBA Students Care to raise $100,000 for Color of Change.
When the fundraising efforts launched on June 3, the students wanted to raise $20,000. But within 24 hours, the fundraiser had already netted about $30,000. This sort of activism is something that MBAs should participate in, current Michigan Ross MBA Harshita Pilla told us last June.
“We need to do this,” she said. “MBA students do have a lot of hold on the corporations and business environments that everyone is going to be exposed to. We have a huge presence in those spaces and we need to be able to have those conversations.”
“How do we become better allies to those that need it and how do we start those conversations early? It shouldn’t always be in response to a tragedy like what has happened now. We should be able to see into the future and help our classmates and our colleagues.”