I feel like I'm walking on water and I'm not quite sure if this recap will do Day@Darden any justice. I've been home for a little less than 5 hours and I think I have caught up on all my email. So here it goes...
Thursday morning I caught a flight from SFO to IAD (Dulles), which was uneventful, but given that I didn't immediately receive a seat assignment, I was a bit worried about how the day was going to go. Luckily, this was not indicative of the rest of the afternoon. Avis rent-a-car was a breeze and by 5 pm I was on the road to C'ville. I chose to stay with a student host to get the full experience, though I was a bit concerned about how our personalities would mesh. My rational was, it's only two days. My student host, Elise, and I exchanged emails before I left home and I had planned to meet with a handful of current Darden students for dinner before heading over to her house. Dinner was at a local joint called Wild Wings. It's sportsbar-like and had plenty of room for the 30 of us there. I didn't meet a lot of admitted students, but spoke at length with a current first and second years. All had positive things to say about Darden and were willing to answer any questions I had, however I couldn't think of any.
After dinner I went to Elise's, which is located in Huntington Village. She had warned me that she'd have people over for pre-TNDC (Thursday Night Drinking Club). I walked in to a living room of about 15 people, the majority of them male. I was quickly informed that the diversity was not a good representation of Darden, but the male to female ratio was. Elise did not like the venue picked for TNDC, but her friend Steve would not let me miss the experience, so I left with a key and a handful of second years. We stopped by Buddhist Biker Bar (TNDC's designated bar for the night) where I met more people from various years as well as an admitted student and future classmate, Leah. After Buddhist, we ventured to Three, which is located on the Corner and included a mix of Darden and UVA undergrads. Dancing ensued and around 1 am it was time to head home as Friday would be a very busy day.
I wish I could say I jumped out of bed when my alarm sounded, but instead I continued to sleep on the comfy couch until Elise woke me at 7:30 am. I was on grounds (note, it isn't called campus) by 8 am where I quickly picked up my bag of SWAG and headed to the NAWMBA (National Association of Women MBAs) brunch. I sat next to a professor who seems to be a favorite of all and with 40 years under his belt, I'm sure he has some stories. An alumni speaker who works at the World Bank spoke of the work-life balance, females in the working world, and another topic I don't recall. Immediately following breakfast, we had learning team simulation. None of us had opened our bags, so we were surprised to find we had a case in our packet. We took a few minutes to read it and shared our thoughts. Our second year coach showed us how we would crack the case together, though without a computer we simply had to envision the result. (It was financial/Excel based.)
Next, we attended First Coffee, which is where I started to bond with fellow classmates. Rongling, another admitted student and I hit it off. It's amazing to hear the backgrounds of future classmates, born in China, grew up in Africa, or living in London - I know I have my own story to share, but as someone who has lived the majority of her life in SF, it's a different experience. But as I say, I'm collecting couches and these are the people I plan to visit. The rotunda was filled with people from all years including faculty for First Cofee. It reminded me of homeroom or recess from HS. Plus, free coffee, tea or hot cocoa is not a bad reason to congregate in the rotunda.
DA (Decision Analysis) class followed where we got to witness case study in action, not just any case study though, the one we had reviewed in our learning team simulation. The person who was asked to present the case came ill prepared, which definitely irked the professor, though he didn't let up. I definitely wouldn't have wanted to be in student's shoes. It was very interesting and the conversation was intriguing, yet had to be cut short as they chose the candidates for Darden's Luckiest Student. We learned that students do not talk about cases between classes even though someone may have DA at 8 am and another person at 10am. This further enforces Darden's honor code. Exams are also take home with an allowed 8 hour window in which you're only allowed to use 5 hours for completion. Again, all on your honor.
We had a SHORT 15 minute break to sign up for brunch on Saturday morning and speak with financial aid officers and the like. This is where I finally met Rahul, who I had exchanged messages with before C'Ville. I think we're going to be good friends.
Next up, Strategy Class visit, which was a presentation by Dean Bruner discussing the difficulties Darden has in conjunction with globalization and competing with other top MBA programs, of which none were specifically named. This is the most transparent you will likely ever see a school. The Dean asked the student perception on the challenges that Darden faces as globalization ensues as well as what the community can do about it. How does Darden become more recognized around the globe instead of just well respected in the MBA world? We were asked for a story placed in 2018 on how Darden has evolved in the last 10 years and what steps Darden took to get there. Absolutely incredible and definitely hits a lot of admits and future applicants reservations on matriculating into a lessor known program in the world.
The day didn't stop, subsequently, we had lunch with Darden faculty. I'll admit, I didn't talk much as I was extremely hungry at this point. It was time to simply listen. Good conversation and great insights continued. I also ran into Michael Woodfolk, the alumni coordinator for Darden who I met at the SF reception in September of last year. He was extremely excited to see me in C'ville!
The Question and Answer session following lunch hit on subjects such as financial aid, student affairs, career development, and an introduction by the associate Dean. I'll admit, I was ready for a breather by the end of the presentation and thus, was given an entire hour before the next scheduled event. I took the time to purchase a ball cap from the student store and change into business attire for dinner. By the time I returned, Cold Call was in full swing. Cold call is where they have snacks and beer in the PepsiCo Forum. Again, more time to socialize and attempt to connect faces and names. I met so many people and I can only recall a small handful. At 7:15p the bus picked us up for dinner, which was held at Boar's Head Inn.
Boar's Head Inn had an open bar in the back, of which we all took advantage. At the close of this long day, a cocktail was welcomed. Seating for dinner was open, so everyone grabbed a friend and chose a table. Our table quickly bonded and the lot of us discussed the night's activities. Dinner was delicious and we all left with our bellies full and a few new friends. I was happy that dinner encompassed more prospective students than current students. It gave us a chance to get to know each other, which is what this day was about in my opinion. I attended Day@Darden because you never know who you will meet or how you will sway their decision one way or another. Each person often asked where you were in your Darden decision and seeing I turned in my deposit on Friday, you could say, I already signed the dotted line. Rahul said he was 98% sure he'd attend, but I quickly corrected him and told him he wasn't allowed to go anywhere else. ;)
Some went home immediately after dinner to catch up on sleep they had yet to get. The other group headed to X-Lounge for the LASA event. It was all Darden students and again a very friendly atmosphere. A group of 6 of us shared stories for a while. I also hung out with my new found 2Y friends, however they will be gone next year. Jim, a Colorado Grad who I met during my interview was happy to see another Colorado Alum at Darden. If you've read my small world stories previously, here's another one for you. Jim lived with a guy in Boulder in the same complex in which I lived for 3 years. Granted, we were there at different times, but the guy with whom he lived, Craig, owned the place next door to my condo and thus was also my neighbor for three years. Turns out they're still good friends and so I passed on a Hello. Small world!
I decided to forgo brunch on Saturday and was happy seeing I slept in. Elise, her roommate Chun, and I spent a good hour gabbing about Darden - the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is nothing that turned me off about the program or the people. They simply mentioned relationship logistics (or the normal gossip - who is together, was together, is married, was married etc), which you'll likely find in any MBA program. Elise said this was the best decision she's ever made, and I believe it. I slipped out shortly before 3 pm and headed to DC for the rest of my weekend festivities, which will be in another post. A wonderful 2 days in C'ville.
My novel is now complete. I'm very excited for the upcoming months and the next two years. I have found my fit at Darden. Please feel free to ask any questions, I'll answer them to the best of my ability. I can't explain how much help the current students have been and every time they hear you're an admitted student, they give you a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS! Dean Bruner even mentioned that for each seat in round 1, there were 9 applicants competing. Very competitive this year.
Off to bed, work will be early tomorrow.