Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Yonah Greenstein, University of Virginia (Darden)

Yonah Greenstein

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Unbridled enthusiasm for closing opportunity gaps. Love connecting with others through their passions; mine is basketball.”

Hometown: New York City, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I (very briefly) played in the Palestinian Basketball Association under the assumed name “John Green.”

Undergraduate School and Major: Bard College, Sociology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: iMentor, Associate Director of Program and Partnerships

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The case method is such a stimulating and inclusive way to learn. It transforms every lesson into a story, with each member of the class playing a key character. I know that, for me, hands-on learning and listening create an environment where my classmates and I will be continuously developing through active engagement with new concepts and challenges. Having to prepare meticulously, work collaboratively, and never knowing what to expect is similar to the impact-oriented team structures I truly love. Lastly, I would honestly be bored out of my mind sitting in lectures all day.

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 sold on Darden as soon as I heard that professors and students gather each morning for coffee together, a tradition called “First Coffee.” I’m a New York City native, and love the energy, pace, and competitiveness that’s a become a part of my DNA. For my MBA experience, though, I was looking for a true community filled with care and encouragement.

As Corey Spera (Darden ’22) generously shared with me during my application process, “Don’t underestimate the power of Darden’s structures in building community.” First Coffee is part of Darden’s larger emphasis on building supportive and transformative structures that foster togetherness. Each step of the Darden experience comes with a team – a Learning Team, a Section – that builds lasting relationships and deepens each of our experiences.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Virginia Darden? There are so many amazing initiatives that take what makes Darden special and share it with local and global communities – Community Consultants of Darden, Building Goodness in April, and PREP are just some examples. I’m excited for these, but am most thrilled and humbled to be part of the Oculus Fellowship. Oculus Fellows create or support a project that utilizes Darden’s resources to make a lasting impact at the intersection of business and society. As someone pursuing an MBA to understand how business principles can be leveraged for the greater social good, it’s incredibly meaningful to have this work be an integral element of my Darden experience, and to be part of such a purpose-driven community.

I also want to shout out the Consortium community at Darden. We’ve grown extremely close over the past few months, and I can’t imagine a more fun, kind, and exceptional group of people. I’m excited to work together to further DEI initiatives across all fronts at Darden.

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 students are extremely genuine and welcoming, almost overwhelming so. The hospitality of the Darden community was on full display to me during an impromptu visit this January, in the middle of a snowstorm. I reached out to a few students I had been in touch with, and all agreed to meet me on very short notice. Rafa Rivera (Darden ’22), invited me over to his apartment in Ivy Gardens, where he generously shared his experiences and advice, all while covered in lotion in preparation for getting a tattoo! It was completely sincere and unplanned, and a larger sign of the warmth of each Darden community member I encountered. These interactions made me realize how Darden encourages everyone to be their most authentic self, which is the best way to reach our untapped potential.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As an undergraduate, I started a non-profit called Dream To Achieve (DTA) that leveraged the game of basketball and resources of Bard College to create educational opportunities for historically marginalized young people. Our programming was primarily based in the community of Hudson, NY. My last week in Hudson, I stopped by the local park where everyone played pick-up basketball. On this random night, over half of the 50+ kids there were wearing some type of shirt from DTA programming. We had grown significantly over six years, reaching over 250 young people annually, but it was this moment that made me realize how many lives our work had positively impacted.

I’ve stayed in touch with so many of amazing people who were DTA participants- celebrating graduations, the birth of children, and other life events. Just recently, one reached out to me as they’re beginning a new mentoring program in Hudson, and another reached out as they’re interested in pursuing their MBA. It’s inspiring to know that I played some small part in supporting this next generation of transformative leaders.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I recently read an article and watched a short documentary in the New York Times about Jack Powers, who was recently released after 33 years of being incarcerated, including over 20 years in solitary confinement. The documentary captured his first day as a newly free man. It was incredibly powerful

As an incoming MBA student, especially one pivoting from the social sector, I’m very aware that I’m entering a world of extreme prestige, privilege, and opportunity. Watching Jack’s story was a reminder of how important it is to remain aware of the inequalities and injustices that afflict our society, and that in many ways are growing even more severe. It’s important for all of us to remain cognizant of these realities, and to use the newfound power we will access and wield to make society a better place.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Cornell Johnson, Emory Goizueta, NYU Stern, UNC Kenan-Flagler, Yale SOM

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Virginia Darden’s MBA program? A few things. First, depending on where you are coming from, visit Charlottesville if possible. For me, coming to the Grounds was the best way to get a feel for Darden as a community, place, and institution. Visiting was the final piece that helped me completely understand why Darden was such a great fit, and therefore lead to a more genuine and impactful interview. I fully acknowledge being able to visit entails a certain level of privilege, resources, and flexibility.

Second, reach out to Darden students. More than any other program, I found Darden students genuinely excited to share their experiences and connect me with others. It was a great way to learn about many amazing aspects of Darden and the larger UVA community. It was also just a lot of fun.

Lastly, be yourself in the interview. Darden’s interview consists of one question, essentially, “Tell me your life story.” Share it the way you would around a campfire. By the end of my conversation (with the incredible Kristian Robinson), I felt like I was speaking with an old friend.

I imagine this advice might be valuable for any MBA program, but it was especially helpful for me as I got to know Darden.

DON’T MISS: MEET VIRGINIA DARDEN’S MBA CLASS OF 2024