2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Isabel Fortuño Seitzer, University of Virginia (Darden)

Isabel Fortuño Seitzer

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“A lifelong student looking for opportunities see the world and learn from those around me.”

Hometown: Dorado, Puerto Rico

Fun fact about yourself: I have worked at three different coffee companies, but did not start drinking coffee until this year. That might say more about the nature of business school than my own palate!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Cornell University, B.S. in Hotel Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Publicis Sapient

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? MBA Intern in Global Growth & Development at Starbucks Coffee Company

Where will you be working after graduation? Global Growth & Development at Starbucks Coffee Company

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Vice President of Leadership for the Darden Student Association, William Michael Shermet Award, The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management- Fellow, Forté Foundation- Fellow, Hispanic Scholarship Fund- Scholar.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being on the Darden Student Association during a rebuilding year has been a true honor. Coming out of a hybrid school year and having to recreate traditions without having ever attended the events has been a challenge, but one that has yielded great results. I have greatly enjoyed working with this team and having the opportunity to shape the Darden culture.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At Publicis Sapient, I had the opportunity to help co-lead their PRIDE employee resource group. It can be a challenge to stand up in front of your peers and openly share parts of your personal life, particularly at such a visible level. However, working to grow this group within the company was a lesson in strength and vulnerability. I am proud of our team’s influence on the conversations we had with each other and our clients when it came to inclusion and support as well as the way we think about the customers we are ultimately serving. We realized that many people had questions about things we take for granted as a part of the LGBTQ+ community and therefore are exposed to more frequently. In that moment, it became clear that our team could be a resource for others as they sought out answers to these questions and made positive changes to their language and general processes for work and life. It was a reminder that allowing myself to move past my original fears had a positive impact on the lives of others. 

Why did you choose this business school? The Darden community is well known in the MBA world, and it did not disappoint upon arrival. Even with a first year full of event size restrictions and many virtual events, I have never felt so connected to a group of people. I feel constantly supported and encouraged by these folks and will genuinely miss them having them as a part of my daily life when I leave Charlottesville.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would push myself to take a few more classes outside my comfort zone. The few times I did were strong learning experiences and I met people that were pursing wildly different career tracks. This expanded my overall experience at Darden.

What surprised you the most about business school? It was the way everyone’s background can have an impact on the conversation and ultimate lessons learned from cases we cover in class. Some students start the MBA experience with some trepidation because they feel that their nontraditional background may hold them back or put them at a disadvantage. I have found that to be wholly untrue. In fact, many times those from nontraditional backgrounds have the most insightful comments to make. It’s this diversity of thought and experience that makes me enjoy each day here.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Cory Spera. There are classmates who are excellent students, others who are the most supportive companions, and some who are inspiring leaders. Cory Spera is all three of those and more. He is one of the most prepared students at Darden and always willing to help guide you through confusing material. His contributions in class are insightful and help push the conversation forward. Most importantly, he is one of the kindest and most genuine souls I have ever met. From running every Section A intramural sport as a killer coach (#FEBs Forever) to helping us raise funds for Building Goodness in April, Cory is always looking for ways to bring the community together.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I find specificity in these types of goals unhelpful given what we have all experienced in the last two years of the pandemic. The world around us changes and so do our goals. Professionally, I want to do work that helps make life better for the people that I am tasked to serve and I want to do work that brings me personal joy. The activities that help me achieve those goals might change over time, but the sentiment will hopefully ring true throughout my career.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? It has been a strong reminder that my career is only one aspect of my future success and happiness. For many, coming to business school is an opportunity to help build out your career and set you up for a strong future. Essentially, your career is at the center of your time in school. Pursing an MBA during a global pandemic meant that I was thinking about my future using a much more existential lens than I anticipated. I think the chaos of the world around me meant that I deviated from my original plan, but it also pushed me to find a role that I did not even know existed.

What made Isa such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Isa is impressive on many fronts. I came to know her through a small seminar whose enrollment is limited to not more than 12 students. Through her writing and our class discussions, I was struck by her depth of thought and insightfulness. In our discussion-based classroom, her enthusiasm for sincere engagement with others became readily apparent, as did her passion for meaningful causes. These characteristics enhanced not just our classroom, but also all of those in which Isa participated. She has made a strong impact on the learning of her peers, which requires intellect, sensitivity, and the courage and willingness to engage. This form of contribution is the hallmark of a top student at Darden, of which Isa certainly is one.

Similarly, Isa’s peers have enhanced her learning, something she is glad to acknowledge. This combination of strength and humility has earned her the regard of her classmates, who elected her to a student leadership position in which she served as the leader of and liaison to all club presidents. In this role, as well as all of her activities, Isa was oriented toward action—the ultimate measure of any leader. Working with the administration as well as classmates, she dedicated herself to helping Darden’s clubs return to in-person activities as COVID restrictions eased, creating a new playbook to navigate an unprecedented situation.

Isa spent her summer with Starbucks’ Global Growth and Development division, working on accessibility and inclusive design. She dove in with vigor, researching and understanding needs, and proposing and assessing options to make spaces more accessible to people of all abilities. We are excited to see the fruits of her work and to follow Isa’s career beyond Darden, where she undoubtedly will make a difference.”

-Darden Professor Jacqueline Doyle


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