Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Jacob Eichengreen, University of Virginia (Darden)

Jacob Eichengreen (Jake)

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“I am a problem-solver, entrepreneur, and total nerd. I love people and reading Wikipedia.”

Hometown: Colorado Springs, CO

Fun Fact About Yourself: Despite years of trying, I still cannot touch my tongue to my elbow.

Undergraduate School and Major: Wesleyan University, College of Social Studies (interdisciplinary economics, government, history and political theory program)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Founding Executive Director, Quad Innovation Alliance at Colorado College

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The case method really forces students to be responsible for their own learning and to exercise judgement in the classroom. You must come prepared to answer every question and comment meaningfully on every topic. At the same time, you must also be strategic about when you contribute and when you listen in order to help advance the entire class through the material. This is a great growth environment for someone like me whose experience is primarily in smaller teams. I’m not very practiced at strategically rationing when I speak up and what I say. Additionally, since every student in the classroom is working off the same information, the case method affords everyone the opportunity to contribute meaningfully.

What word best describes the Darden MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Diverse and profound. The more I get to know both students and alumni, the more amazed I am at everyone’s depth of self, experience, and understanding. Everyone I have met so far has their own, unique goals and reasons for them plus insanely interesting and different experiences that add to their perspective. There are no shallow people here, and no two of us exactly alike. Everyone shares a commitment to do things that they find meaningful, contribute to each other’s advancement, and take their schooling seriously as a means to get there.

Aside from cases and classmates, what was the key part of Virginia Darden’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Darden’s overall classroom-community experience was the key differentiator that led me here. The famous Darden cold call reinforces an environment where everyone is very seriously committed to curricular learning. It incentivizes doing the hard work of mastering the material independently, before class, and working with peers to figure things out get over humps – just like real life outside of school.

At the same time, the atmosphere and culture are so positive and supportive. There is a shared “we over me” value and expectation for how Darden community members contribute to each other’s progress. Further, I value the classroom is so tied to every other piece of the Darden experience. Because we take all of our core classes with our section and the material is so relevant to our goals, success in the classroom supports success in everything from recruiting to friendships with peers and faculty alike. Everything outside the classroom is equally tied back to academics. I wanted to be in an environment where you couldn’t get away with slacking in class and must engage fully across the entire experience, and Darden is that.

Finally, I appreciate the humility of the student body. There are a lot of brilliant, big achievers here, and they share a level-headedness and grounded-ness that makes every conversation comfortable, welcoming, and down to earth.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Virginia Darden? I am most excited about Decision Analysis classes, which is not what I would have said before I got here. I don’t have a math background and know I’ll have to work hard on the modelling, but I can already see the immediate impact that those skills would have had in my past ventures. I’m excited about what these classes and capabilities will help me do in the future.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When I was 25, four college presidents recruited me to launch the Quad Innovation Alliance. The Quad was to be a new, collaborative initiative across their dissimilar institutions to better prepare students for professional impact. To achieve that vision, I designed and built a consulting business that hired students from different disciplines at each school to apply their curricular learning and generate both economic and social benefits for clients. When I left to start my MBA, the team had reached five permanent staff supporting nearly 70 student consultants.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Beyond demonstrating that sweatpants can be, in fact, functional work attire, COVID-19 helped me understand my professional “happy place” and ultimately led me to my MBA. I’ve wanted to go to graduate school since I finished my bachelor’s, but was unsure as to whether law school or business school would be a better fit. As my career progressed, I kept bouncing between options. Leading the Quad through the pandemic, however, led me to realize that I am happiest and most fulfilled in a professional position where I must make decisions based on limited information and then help a multidisciplinary team execute them successfully. I particularly enjoy fast-paced and time-constrained work – like helping an organization adapt to the fundamentally different reality of the pandemic. Through the pandemic, it became clear that an MBA was unquestionably the right choice for me.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? The pressures of the entrepreneurial environments I’ve worked in so far have often forced me to move from decision-to-decision and project to project quickly, with little chance to consider how my performance compared to best practice nor internalize growth. Pursuing an MBA is giving me the opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow in a more structured environment, surrounded by diverse and experienced peers, and with instruction from global experts. For me, my MBA is not only equipping me with new technical management and analysis skills, it’s also allowing me to mature as a leader. After graduating, I want to design and implement more environmentally and socially sustainable business models. I am open to several industries and evaluating paths in entrepreneurship, consulting, and general management.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HBS, GSB, Sloan, Ross, SOM

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Virginia Darden’s MBA program?  Be sure to emphasize what it is that only you can bring to the class, whether it be an experience, perspective, skill or identity – the diversity of the class is part of what makes Darden such a special environment for growth. Also, emphasize your natural curiosity and ability to contribute meaningfully to the academic experience. Prove that you have what it takes to succeed in the classroom here alongside your ability and commitment to support the growth of those around you.