Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Kevin Gillespie, University of Virginia (Darden)

Kevin Gillespie

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“I am using my life’s work to uplift historically marginalized people in our global economy.”

Hometown: Louisville, KY (I grew up in Baltimore, MD, so these are interchangeable for me)

Fun Fact About Yourself: I played bassoon for 8+ years and am a symphony orchestra aficionado.

Undergraduate School and Major: Dartmouth College; English and Government

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Google – Executive Recruiter

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? At Darden, the case method moves business management from textbooks, theories, and top-down lectures into a medium where business challenges are alive, ambiguous, and evolving. It prepares us to address the realities we will face as ethical leaders in business and society.

What word best describes the Darden MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Collegial. In my experiences interacting with the Darden community, I have felt undeniable respect for one another, a desire to help each other however possible, and pride for Darden and UVA that manifest in proactive, mutual support, and long-lasting relationships.

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 is serious about career outcomes. Even in pre-matriculation I was able to work extensively and intensively with my Darden career coach and a host of Darden-provided mentors to access and engage with several leading firms in my target industry post-MBA.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Virginia Darden?  I am most excited to be part of The Consortium ecosystem at Darden. My cohort, the various Consortium advisors at Darden and the second-year Consortium fellows, have given me a sense of family and belonging. That began over a year ago when I was an applicant attending the Darden Diversity Conference. I am excited to participate and help plan this year’s Diversity Conference, given its pivotal role in my journey to Darden.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Being promoted twice during my time at Google is my most significant career accomplishment to date. I say so not to brag, but because promotion at Google is a particularly daunting and ambiguous journey particularly for Black employees. In both instances, what was transparent to me was the team effort and advocacy that went into helping me achieve the series of accomplishments that justified my promotions. The milestones themselves are a testament to the incredible community and team I had around me during my time at Google.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? I navigated my first attempt applying to business school during the COVID pandemic. Sitting on two waitlists, holding a series of rejections, and navigating the virtual world of MBA admissions made my pursuit of an MBA seem out of reach on several occasions. My second attempt was motivated by the doubling-down in support I received from my partner, family and friends, and my recommenders. I worked to make sure their support was not in vain, wasting no time presenting my authentic self flaws included and my desire to make a difference in the world. I am lucky to have convinced Darden to help me along the way!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation?  After 5+ years as an executive recruiter, I am pursuing my MBA to hone the change management & leadership skills to pivot into Consulting and ultimately lead an HR Function.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? In addition to UVA (Darden), I applied to Cornell (Johnson), Dartmouth (Tuck) and Yale (SOM).

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Virginia Darden’s MBA program? As you work through the qualitative components of Darden’s application, be sure to clearly articulate the professional and personal moments when you have helped others. Whether your teammates, someone in your community, or a stranger. Darden cares deeply about developing a community of future business leaders who are intentional about helping those around them.