Monday, October 10, 2011

Don't Stop the Party

Charlottesville has always held a special place in (and disproportionately large portion of) my heart. As a University of Virginia undergrad, I am what is known as a Double Hoo. After graduating from UVA the first time, I took a job in Washington, DC, working as a consultant for a variety of defense clients. More recently, I moved to Accra, Ghana (about the same time Ghana beat the United States in the World Cup). While there, I served as a business instructor for high-potential Ghanaian university graduates at a school/incubator. Yet despite moving across the globe, I couldn’t seem to stay away from Charlottesville. I now find myself in my first year as a student at Darden. And so the teacher became the student.

I am happy to say that I have successfully completed my first term at Darden. And in my short time at Darden, I’ve quickly adapted to my new lifestyle. After my first month, I’ve come to some preliminary conclusions.

Curriculum: It is safe to say that I have never worked harder. That’s not to say that I haven’t worked hard before. Absolutely the contrary; Darden doesn’t admit students that haven’t demonstrated a strong work ethic in the past. I attribute the academic rigor to Darden’s case method style of learning. This means that as a first-year student, along with my amazing learning team (more on this later), I am responsible for preparing three cases each day. I used to use Wikipedia’s Randompage to ensure continual learning. Needless to say, this is no longer necessary.

Faculty: Having just come from a role as a business instructor, I have mammoth respect for educators. Having successfully completed my first term at Darden, I know that the faculty is unmatched. To illustrate the point, let me use my managerial accounting class. Managerial accounting has never really tickled my fancy. And I haven’t conducted a survey of my classmates, but I suspect that it doesn’t tickle many fancies. That being said, when I look around the room I notice that everyone is smiling and laughing. Really. To take a group of twenty-somethings at 8am and get them laughing about cost allocation is a remarkable talent.

Classmates: I have never been surrounded by a more talented peer group in my life. The diversity of experience is overwhelming. While some people come from traditional roles in investment banking or consulting, my classmates have a spectrum of experiences. Some Taught for America, others were professional athletes. The one unifying characteristic is that everyone is smart and driven.

My time at Darden is just beginning, but I can already tell that I am in a one-of-a-kind environment and enjoying every minute of it. Perhaps my Darden mentality is best stated by the words of the Black Eyed Peas. Don’t stop the party.

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