2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Peter Lee Hamilton, University of Virginia (Darden)

Peter Lee Hamilton

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business (and School of Law)

“Community builder and entrepreneur interested in the intersection of law, business, and service.”

Hometown: Vienna, Virginia

Fun fact about yourself: I have been to at least one game of each varsity sport at UVA (25 total).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Georgetown University, BA in Government

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Cooley LLP

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? Co-Founder and CEO of External Memory Archive, Inc. in Charlottesville, Virginia

Where will you be working after graduation? In the process of discovering!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Darden Representative to the University Judiciary Committee, Vice President of the Darden Catholic Student Association, Co-Commissioner and Co-Founder of Fun Club, and Co-Organizer of the Lawlympics. Previously served as the Chairman of the Board of the JD-MBA Society and editor of the Virginia Law & Business Review. 1st Place in the Darden Venture Capital and Investment Competition. Recipient of the Raven Scholarship and the William Michael Shermet Award.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? There isn’t one particular achievement that I look back and reflect on with deep pride, but something that I am really proud to be a part of was fostering spaces for communities to develop that allowed people to engage and grow with one another. In our First Year, Nick B. and I coordinated weekly Wednesday Night Wind Down sessions as a way for our classmates to come together and relax during weeks of hard casing. In Second Year, this manifested through weekly Friday morning sauna sessions for the more health-conscious and bi-weekly Saturday morning “Sandbox Sessions” for the more entrepreneurial folks. Across both years, I also organized small group lunches with almost every Professor I had at Darden – they would graciously offer up several times for different groups of 5 students to join them for a meal. Professors met with 347 students through these lunches. Contributing to the Darden community through these efforts is one of my proudest business school achievements.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of co-founding and leading the National Korean Student Alliance, a 501(c)3 dedicated to positively impacting Korean American college students. Working in this role allowed me to develop and apply entrepreneurial and leadership skills, serving as an incredibly valuable leadership experience. It also helped me identify and work closely with a young team of volunteers committed to making a difference who I have loved working with every step of the way. Most importantly, we have been able to drive to impact and turned a fully remote, all-volunteer organization into a vehicle that is tangibly impacting students for the better by providing functional resources and building stronger communities.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Darden because of its commitment to the case method and community-driven learning. As someone coming from a legal background, it was important to me to join a program that emphasized academic rigor in its approach to teaching the fundamentals of business. On top of that, I wanted to be surrounded by classmates who also cared about being part of a community-driven education experience where we each had to bring our best to get the most out of the class. The case method, and especially the use of the Socratic method, creates a super-charged environment that promotes student engagement and learning. Due in large part to both my classmates and professors, Darden’s case method lived up to expectations!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It’s impossible to pick a single “favorite” out of the many great professors I’ve had at Darden because so many of them have approached teaching in a way that I both respect and also deeply enjoy. To pick just two that stand out I’d highlight Gaurav Chiplunkar (Global Economies and Markets) and Elena Loutskina (Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity). Although they have very different styles, both are masters at leveraging the case method to engage students and teach complex topics in finance. Going to class with them meant I knew I had to be ready for anything and to present my answers with confidence, while also maintaining flexibility in the pursuit of the right solution. At the same time, their personalities shine through in their teaching in a way that made the content that much more exciting.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course has been Maximizing Leadership in Sports and Business. As a seminar class, the opportunity to have space to step back and learn about personal development and leadership through reflective sessions with my classmates was invaluable. Not only that, being able to take a seminar class physically located in a historic Pavilion classroom on the University of Virginia’s Main Grounds (a UNESCO world heritage site) was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The reflective setting combined with the insightful comments and questions from classmates and professors, has made the course one whose lessons impacted me far outside the bounds of the class.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I had a fairly unique path to business school in that I began my experience at law school before transitioning over to Darden to pursue a dual-degree. One way in which I would have supplemented this experience with the benefit of hindsight is that I would have pursued more part-time opportunities to gain diverse industry experiences during the school year.

What surprised you the most about business school? I had not heard about Darden Cup before stepping foot on Grounds for First Year. Darden Cup is an inter-section competition where students across both years represent their First Year Section in a variety of sporting, charity, and spirit events. It’s been a really fun way to build community with my classmates in a festive and competitive environment.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Similar to the professor question, I can’t pick one that I admire “most” as I am surrounded by such an incredible collection of people that I really admire both professionally and personally. One peer that I would highlight though is David Armstrong. Throughout our time at Darden, David was not only involved in building and serving our community through student initiatives like Darden Stories or directing our section’s (go Section A!) talent show performance for the Darden Cup competition. He was also a consistent and thoughtful contributor in class while supporting classmates through their recruiting journeys – and just a great friend. David is one of many wonderful and terrific people that I was blessed to meet during my Darden experience.

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

1) Successfully launch and sell a company

2) To build a vision and environment in my work that attracts the best talent for impactful work

What made Peter such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“Peter has enriched the Darden community through contributions in and out of the classroom during his time in the program. In class, Peter is one of the students who respectfully and thoughtfully asks the ‘tough questions,’ encouraging open debate and dialogue rather than accepting the status quo or dominant viewpoint in a discussion. His ability to bring out diverse perspectives enriches the class dialogue, and he is an advocate with his classmates for working together to create a classroom environment where all feel comfortable sharing their opinions and thinking. His questions in class always probed beyond the surface, pushing everyone in the dialogue to think about the implications as leaders and how to take the insights from class into actionable ideas.

Peter has invested in connecting the Darden community in meaningful ways, including his tradition of organizing informal lunch series for all of his classmates with his faculty each term. At a school where faculty-student connection and engagement is already a hallmark of the experience, his efforts to foster additional opportunities to bring people together stand out. He has engaged with students across the school and sought to bring people together through a variety of leadership activities and roles.”

Marc Johnson
Associate Dean and Chief Innovation and Student Engagement Officer

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