Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Elsie Zhang, University of Virginia (Darden)

Elsie Zhang

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Landscape designer during the day and ballroom dancer at night.”

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am the US National Champion in pro/am division in American Smooth Dance in 2021.

Undergraduate School and Major: Tongji University, Bachelor of Engineering in landscape architecture; University of Michigan, Master of Landscape Architecture

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Jerry Pate Design, Design Associate

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The case method throws a situation at you and asks you to make a decision, which pretty much is what the real world will be like for a manager. Oftentimes, there will be some ambiguity in the case, and the case method really teaches you to think from a manager’s perspective and make business decisions with the information given.

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? The supportive community led me to choose Darden. Business school to me is not only about career change. It is also a journey for me to meet great people and build life-long friendships. A supportive community will make the challenging two years more fun and memorable.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Virginia Darden? The 100-case Party and Darden Cup excite me the most because they are great opportunities for us to build bonds and create lasting memories.

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. Everyone is so smart, nice, and fun! I have only been with Darden for over a week. The International Student Orientation Program and Darden Before Darden are such well-planned programs. Faculty and staff really paid attention to every single detail (food labels, international food choices, balance of session vs. fun event, getting people mingled as much as possible). I am impressed with the efforts Darden put into everything.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Influenced City Council to rewrite road width regulation with a downtown improvement project to make downtown more pedestrian-friendly and walkable.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I highly recommend the Moth podcast. It showcases great story telling, which is a fundamental skill for MBA students.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Ross, Kellogg, UCLA Anderson


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