Welcome to Darden School of Business!
By Winfred Hills
Winfred Hills is an MBA Prep alum who graduated from the program in 2017. He is currently pursuing an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business as well as a MS in Data Science.
As an MLT MBA Prep Fellow, I am honored to welcome you to the first gathering, albeit virtual, of the MBA Prep 2021 cohort!
After going through the MBA Prep program, I decided to attend the Darden School of Business as a dual MBA/MS in Data Science student. Classes began in June, and I was one of the first students to move onto campus.
The University of Virginia is incredibly peaceful in the summer. Nestled in the foothills of two mountain ranges, there is plenty to do for those who find their enjoyment indoors or outdoors. Some of the many activities in the area include numerous vineyards and breweries, as well as hiking trails and running paths. I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana and after college, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia. I never anticipated I would enjoy any of the aforementioned activities before coming here to Charlottesville. And, I never expected to be part of such a strong community that cares about my success as a part of the collective.
A strong sense of community is evident when students arrive on campus for orientation, and meet their learning teams. The 5-6 people on each team will be your nucleus; a combination of students with whom you will collaborate, collectively using your knowledge base to crack the cases.
Next is your section, about 65 people and several professors with whom you will spend the next three quarters. Notice, I mentioned that the professors are a part of the section. This is a true differentiator at Darden. The professors are genuinely embedded in the community. You may have noted that Darden often lands the #1 ranking in teaching and educational experience. What you may not know, however, is the impact professors and staff have on students outside of the classroom as well.
An important part of life outside of the classroom is a year-long series of extracurricular activities in which the five b-school sections compete to win the Darden Cup. Students and faculty build camaraderie by participating in athletic and artistic events—like soccer, trivia, bowling, a talent competition. You name it. Both students and faculty participate, and the opportunities for student-to-student as well as student-to-faculty networking are tremendous.
Through my time at Darden, I have also had the opportunity to take on many leadership roles. As a second year, I serve as VP of Technology of the Darden Student Association (DSA) and as Co-Chair of Diversity on the Student Admissions Committee. Through these positions, I have a great view on just how deeply committed students and the admissions team are to creating a transformational experience at Darden.
Important programming— such as the Darden Day of Service and One Darden Week, sponsored by DSA—takes place at the beginning of the year. The goal is to bring students from all backgrounds together and foster a mutual understanding and appreciation of the community that will form over a student’s two years on campus.
Diversity is an important element of programming. The Admissions team invited more than 80 people to the Darden Diversity Conference, last fall, for a multi-day event in which attendees had an opportunity to interview, and were introduced to life at Darden and in Charlottesville. As you know, the team at Darden was all set to host the in-person MLT MBA Kick Off event, before it was converted to a virtual event.
Darden’s Black Business Student Association BBSA) hosted a reunion in Washington, DC in February, attended by administration, alumni, current students, and prospective students. The Hispanic American Network and our Native American classmates also actively host community-building activities, like displaying the sovereign nation flags of classmates in the Hall of Flags.
University of Virginia is not only an original “Public Ivy,” it is arguably the best sports school in the country! And, the defending NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions aren’t the only championship team on campus. Besides the unforgettable wild ride of March Madness, our co-ed intramural team won the championship, and the basketball club team’s loss in a Washington, DC tournament was heartbreaking, but memorable nonetheless.
The diversity of experiences, inside and outside of the classroom—along with the students and faculty with whom I have made life-long connections—are the extras that make getting my MBA from Darden even more special. As you get ready to launch your MBA journey, make sure you make space for those enriching experiences and making memories with the people you will meet.