Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Benjamin Friedlander, University of Virginia (Darden)

Benjamin Friedlander

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Lifelong learner, part-time home brewer, proud dog dad.”

Hometown: Mobile, Alabama

Fun Fact About Yourself: I coached track, football, and basketball for eight years. Over my coaching career, I’ve worked with teams at every level from elementary school to NCAA Division 1.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Oklahoma, Dual Degrees in Health & Exercise Sciences and Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Manager of Research and Data Analytics for Memphis Education Fund, a nonprofit education philanthropy and advocacy group.

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? I love how every case requires you to make a decision using data and information from real business scenarios. The variety in industries and company sizes that the cases come from keeps things interesting. I’m particularly proud that Darden professors write and publish almost all of the cases they use, and it shows in their teaching!

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? I was first drawn to Darden for its dual degree with UVA’s School of Education. The program is designed to equip future leaders in the education space with strong managerial and business skills, which is a perfect match for my goal to work in education finance.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Virginia Darden? I’m really excited to be a part of the Outdoors Club. I’m an avid hiker and lover of nature, and I plan to take full advantage of Charlottesville’s access to the mountains.

What has been your first impression of the Darden MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Darden story so far. Darden MBA students are unapologetic about working hard and putting in the hours to accomplish their goals, but they make the workload feel lighter by being extremely supportive and finding ways to help each other out. My best Darden story so far comes from a class where we were discussing Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I live on a cow farm just outside of Charlottesville with my fiancé, so I was really excited to share my newfound knowledge of dairy production during the class discussion!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: We had several Title I charter schools in Memphis paying exorbitant leases for their buildings. I helped negotiate a series of deals that allowed these schools to purchase their facilities outright, for significantly less than market rate, freeing up millions of dollars in capital for these schools to invest in serving their students.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast “Revisionist History.” Gladwell has a way of crafting compelling stories about familiar events by alternately focusing on the big picture and the most minute details, and I think it’s a great match for the kind of thinking required for decision making in business.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Virginia Darden’s MBA program? Darden rewards students who are authentic about their goals, so share your admissions essays with someone who knows you well and who can give honest feedback about how your personality is coming through. Also, just pay for test prep – a couple hundred dollars now is more than worth it to get access to a Darden education.


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