2022 MBA To Watch: Grant Guess, University of Virginia (Darden)

Grant Guess

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“My name is Grant, and I love breakfast burritos, fishing, and homemade ranch dressing.”

Hometown: Covington, KY

Fun fact about yourself: Current record holder for Charlottesville’s “Jack Brown’s Burger Challenge.” (10 burgers in 18 minutes)

Undergraduate School and Degree: UCLA (B.A. in Global Studies)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Kentucky for Kentucky

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? RxBenefits

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Business Innovation & Design Club – President
  • School Was Outstanding Today – President
  • Student Admissions Committee – Interviewer, Career Chair
  • Community Consultants of Darden – Project Manager
  • Building Goodness Foundation – Auction Co-Lead, Build-Day Captain
  • Prison Re-Entry Education Program – Entrepreneurship Instructor
  • MBA Program Advisory Committee – Board Member
  • Resilience Initiative – Bob Ross
  • Tri-Sector Leadership Fellows

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Dressing up as Bob Ross and leading a “Happy Little Accidents” painting class. First Year at Darden is known to be challenging, but the pandemic took it to a whole new level. In an effort to spark joy into people’s days, I worked with second year students Lee Gilbert and Cheyenne Johnson of the Resilience Initiative, Darden’s mental health and wellness club, to host a Bob Ross Paint Night over Zoom. We dropped off canvases, paint, and brushes at school for people to pick up after class and painted some “happy little trees” over Zoom later that night. It was such a hit that we hosted it again this year!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Being open with colleagues about mental health. I wasn’t in-tune with my thoughts and emotions when I graduated from UCLA. I didn’t know how to express how I was feeling to myself, let alone others. I opened up about my struggles with anxiety to some of my colleagues at my first job and while it was scary; it helped me to understand the value of being vulnerable. I have continued to be vulnerable about mental health whenever possible.

Why did you choose this business school? Location and people. I love the outdoors, so Charlottesville was a perfect fit. I can hike, fish, and kayak within 30 minutes of leaving my apartment. My favorite places to visit are Wintergreen and Sugar Hollow. As for people, every single person I talked to in the interview process treated me like a long-lost friend. From the receptionist at the front desk of the old Darden Inn to my second- year interviewer, I felt at home throughout the duration of the application process.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Bobby Parmar. He was my First Year Ethics professor and second-year Collaboration Lab professor. He knows when to push you, as well as when to pull back. He is kind, compassionate, and driven. However, what I admire most about him is his ability to juggle time between research, teaching, and family. I hope I can balance life’s priorities like him one day.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Going to Durty Nelly’s every Tuesday. Durty Nelly’s is a local dive bar discovered by my good friend, Justin Rumps. We started going at the end of last summer and continued to go every Tuesday the rest of the year. I hosted my birthday party there in the fall and invited my family there for dinner during graduation weekend!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Do less. It’s easier than you think to get sucked into the Darden vortex of classes, club events, social activities, volunteering, etc. FOMO is real and the events are never-ending. If I could do it all over again, I would invest more time in a few things as opposed to spreading myself too thin.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Everyone wants to be a consultant. I swear people want to do other things too!

What surprised you the most about business school? How much the professors care about their students. I think this is what makes Darden such a special place. I went bowling with Max Biggs (Data Analysis Professor), made gumbo and tasted bourbon with Paul Matherne (Healthcare Professor), cooked crawfish with Jeanne Liedtka (Design Thinking Professor), and ate insanely hot wings with Sean Martin (Leadership Professor) and Elena Loutskina (Finance Professor).

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I stayed true to myself. I didn’t change my responses to essays or interview questions based upon what I thought the admission staff wanted to hear. Rather, I leaned into who I am. This might have hindered other applications, but it was perfect for Darden.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Dave Junta. He is one of the most sincere, genuine, and family-oriented people I have ever met. He’s a walking example of the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” He may have been an Army Ranger, stand 6’6”, and have wicked-awesome tattoo sleeves, but he is an extremely smart, kind, and loving husband and father. I hope to be half the man that he is when I start a family.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My undergraduate mentor and advisor at UCLA, Romain Wacziarg. I took a personality test in 2019 and matched with careers in Organizational Behavior, so I thought the most rational (or in retrospect, irrational) decision was to apply for a PhD. I was in the process of applying to Ph.D programs in Organizational Behavior when I called to ask Romain, a professor of economics at UCLA Anderson, for career advice. He was the one who told me to apply for an MBA. Thank goodness I called him, because I was NOT meant for a Ph.D….

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

  1. Lead an organization supporting adults with disabilities.
  2. Treat my career as one grand adventure.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? Careers, like life, are fluid. They ebb-and-flow with events that are out of our control. We can either fight the tide, or ride the wave. Covid was a rip-current that upended a lot of careers, or at least what we thought careers should look like. I fully support more remote work, especially for working mothers or individuals who may be more introverted or more comfortable with Zoom. I think we fought the tide of remote work at first, but now we’re learning to ride the wave.

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

“I first got to know Grant through the admissions process.

It was the spring of 2020. Needless to say, it was a crazy time filled with so much uncertainty and trepidation about the school year ahead. Grant was a bright light during a time when it was easy to get discouraged. We connected over his home state of Kentucky and our mutual love of exploring Montana.  One of the things I so love about our work in admissions is getting to connect with people on a more personal level. Grant joined our first-year student admissions committee and continued to be that shining light, participating in numerous virtual events and helping admitted students learn about Darden while never having stepped foot on grounds. His enthusiasm and positivity radiated through Zoom! When I returned to my office in the summer of 2021 after working remotely for the year prior, I found a handwritten note from Grant thanking me for the opportunity to come to Darden and sharing how much he had enjoyed his first year.

Now in his second year, I have enjoyed working even more closely with Grant, as a student in our admissions interviewing elective. A year and a half in to his MBA and he still has that sparkle! I have grown to appreciate even more how he takes the time to really connect with people on an individual basis – he recognizes that everyone is special in their own way and are a valued member of our community.

Oh, and he wrote me another note before the holidays. Thanking me for doing what I do.”

Senior Director of Admissions Whitney Kestner


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