Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Saturday, my first year section reunited for a Thanksgiving feast.  The Thanksgiving potluck was a great way for some of us to share our culture with the international students, particularly after they put so much effort into the International Food Festival earlier this fall.
It was a beautiful fall day filled with four of my favorites Fs.  Friends, Food, Fire, and Football.  Happy Thanksgiving!
Hanging out by the fire pit
AJ, the turkey king!

Section B

The Thanksgiving spread

Two five-month-old-puppies!  The black lab is named Edgar, after Edgar Allen Poe, who lived on the historical Range and attended the University of Virginia.  The yellow lab is named Ginny, another reference to the University of Virginia.
Delicious food

Dessert.  A Virginia apple pie and a Section B Bird!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween!  The University of Virginia is a historic institution steeped in tradition.  One of my favorite traditions is an event known as Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn.  The Lawn is living history.  It is the original University that still houses students and faculty in the rooms and pavilions that line the terraced grassy court.

For Halloween, student organizations typically sponsor a Lawn Room and distribute candy to eager children, dressed in adorable costumes.  This afternoon, I walked around the Lawn with many of my classmates and enjoyed the atmosphere and of course, a Reese’s Cup.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

From Friday to Monday

Is it already second year?  For the past few months, I have been interning with a consulting firm in Washington, DC.  The experience was challenging, but I felt fully equipped from day one to be a contributing member of the team all thanks to the preparation of the Darden first year curriculum.  My summer engagement was heavily analytical and I found myself thankful that I was paying attention during the quant-heavy cases of my first year.
The last day of my summer internship ended on Friday, so that evening I packed up my apartment and prepared to hit the road to Charlottesville on Saturday.  I was in a hurry to get back to Charlottesville because I wanted to attend the Darden Community Picnic that Saturday afternoon.  I remember being a first year at the Picnic, feeling only moderately overwhelmed.  I was in a new environment, making new friends, meeting new faculty.  Most of that afternoon as a first year was a blur, but what I remember more than anything was how excited the returning second years were to catch up with one another after a summer away from Charlottesville. 
Remembering that was motivation enough for me to make it back to Charlottesville.  And it was well worth it.  It’s hard to describe how I felt at the picnic; excited to be reunited, thrilled to hear about my classmates’ successful summers, and afraid that this year is going to pass too quickly. (Is this what my second year has succumbed to? Am I really talking about my emotions at a picnic?)
If Saturday was all about catching up, Sunday was all about ramping up.  Sunday was my day to get organized.  I figured out what classes I was taking and made sure to prepare the cases for my first day as a second year.
Monday afternoon, my class assembled in Abbott Auditorium for a Welcome Back address.  The strangers I sat among at my Welcome address as a first year are now some of my best friends and principled leaders at our Welcome Back address to start off the second year.  What a difference one year can make.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Here's to Section B

During the core curriculum at Darden, students are randomly assigned one of five sections, lettered A through E.  For the first seven months at Darden, you will attend three classes a day, four days a week (that’s 300 cold calls), with the same 60-65 peers in the same classroom, while the faculty rotates in and out.  Your section becomes your family.  Your section becomes your life.  I remember when I first arrived at Darden, a wise second year forewarned me that I would quickly fall in love with some people in my section.  Over the course of the year I would fall out of love with some of them, but by the end of the entire shebang, I would be enamored of them once again.  And sure enough, the year unfolded just as predicted.

Fortunately for me, I was assigned to Section B.  It is one steeped with tradition.  We have a song that we sing after the final class of every week; a song that has been passed down through the section for decades.  But perhaps the most unique tradition in Section B is the bird.  Each week, as a section, we award the bird to the classmate who made the most ridiculous comment that week.  Bird-worthy comments include:

1.     During an Operations case that focused on improving the effectiveness of a hospital, a classmate suggested that the hospital upgrade to bunk-beds for the patients.

2.     When asked during a class on Managerial Accounting what was the most important four letter word, our classmate’s response was “Love.”  This at least garnered him a hug from the professor.

But Section B doesn’t stop in the classroom.  Each year, Darden sections compete in athletic and philanthropic events in an attempt to win the annual Darden Cup.  This year, Section B won in Softball, Soccer, and Cricket.

And of course, there have been no shortage of social events.  When all is said and done, Section B has helped define my first year experience.  We’ve learned a ton, we’ve struggled through tough cases together, we’ve pushed one another, and most importantly, we’ve laughed a lot.  So here’s to Section B!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Learning to Think Like a Manager

Darden is well-known for its focus on developing general managers.  Darden is also well-known for having arguably the best teaching faculty among MBA programs.  Combining these two elements results in a curriculum that really challenges students to think like managers.  But what does that look like?

Take my accounting class as an example.  I could spend hours working on, say, determining what the differences in accounting were for inventory using FIFO or LIFO accounting methods.  Yes, I would feel a sense of accomplishment, but in truth, this is only the start.  After reviewing the math in the first ten minutes of class, the majority of the time is spent discussing the managerial implications of the different techniques.  In my finance class, it was very common for the professor to come in and lead with the cold call Brian, what is your recommendation?  This is a very different question than Brian, what answer did you get?  To make a recommendation, you have to put the numbers into context and, like a manager, use the analysis to shape strategies and recommendations.

More recently, the faculty have been teaming up to facilitate a more robust class discussion.  The Ethics and Decision Analysis faculty led an energy case on hydraulic fracturing.  By team-teaching, the class is forced to think about how decisions-making actually plays out in the real world.  The Marketing and Operations faculty co-taught another class.  They did a great job of demonstrating how managerial decisions can have competing consequences for marketing and operations personnel, and again, forced students to think more broadly through a decision.  Another example is a finance negotiations case led by the Finance and Decision Analysis faculty.  In each of these classes, you are challenged to bring together material covered in each class independently to make more informed strategic decisions.

Having just completed the first-year core curriculum, I am convinced that it is the faculty's dedication to continually push students to think about the managerial implications of our decisions that is one of the largest catalysts for our future success.  By teaching in a style that closely mimics the decision making process for general managers throughout the world, I am not only developing essential functional skills.  I am also applying techniques for decision-making and communicating these decisions three times a day.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Brazil: Global Business Experience

Each spring, Darden students have the opportunity to enroll in a Global Business Experience (GBE). This year's opportunities led Darden students to India, Spain, South Africa, China, Brazil, and Argentina and continued the strong Darden tradition of experiential learning.

I had the privilege of travelling with thirty of my peers to Brazil. With stops in the Amazon, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, it was definitely learning-by-doing-and-seeing at its finest. Layer thirty inquisitive and bright minds on top of face time with academic professionals and corporate executives within Brazil and you have a recipe for a wholly unique global experience.

While the GBE was distinctive in many ways, it was during this trip that I really recognized the value of the Darden core curriculum. In one day in Sao Paulo, we had a discussion on Brazil's opportunities and challenges that aligned perfectly with what I learned in my Global Economics and Markets class, followed by a dialogue on cultural differences reminiscent of my Leading Organizations class. This was capped off by a tour of a manufacturing facility, bringing to light many of the kaizen concepts we'd covered in our Operations class. The Brazil GBE provided a great avenue to synthesize the core curriculum.

Of course, education doesn't always have to be visiting companies and sitting in classrooms. I've included just a few of the items from the Brazil itinerary below, but suffice it to say words (and pictures) are a horribly inadequate substitute for the experience.

Meeting of the Waters (confluence of Amazon River and Rio Negro):

Municipal Market Negotiations Activity:

Exploring Rio de Janeiro (view from Christ the Redeemer):

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fun and Games

As a first year student at Darden, this week has been a whole lot of fun and games.

Earlier this week, we had a class facilitated by our Operations and Marketing professors. The class was divided into competing teams to participate in a beer distribution simulation. Individuals within each team assumed various roles throughout the distribution process from manufacturer through retailer (no, nobody was assigned the role of consumer). The purpose of the game was to meet customer demand for beer while managing the entire supply chain. The winning team walked away with Darden beer steins.

Outside of the classroom, this week was the official start to the Darden Spring Bowling League. On Tuesday evening after learning team, Kegler's Lanes bowling alley was the place to be for Darden students. Our team ended up losing the first two games in a best of three matchup, but we still had an amazing time.

The weather has been an adventure as well. The week got off to a good start with the first actual snowfall of the year. On Sunday, a few of my classmates and I were working at Darden when it began to snow. For some of our international peers it was the first time they had witnessed snow falling! Of course, we had to take a break and enjoy the beautiful scene in Flagler Courtyard.

Snow accumulation on Sunday, high of 70°F today. Even the weather decided to get in on the fun and games this week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Building Goodness in April

Those unfamiliar with Building Goodness in April, or BGiA as it is commonly referred to throughout Saunders Hall, may be wondering why January just ended and I’ve moved on to discuss April. You may feel like February has just started and that I’m not giving any credit to the month of March. Well, contrary to the name, here at Darden, Building Goodness in April is a year-long philanthropic undertaking aimed at strengthening the local community.

Each year, come April, the Darden community dedicates itself to rehabilitating low-income homes throughout the greater Charlottesville community. The largest fundraising effort, a set of auctions (in which the items donated are from students and faculty members) followed by a black-tie holiday ball, occurs at the end of the fall semester -- this year raising $65,000.

The Auction: I was the lucky winner of a handful of items, including a Mexican fiesta thrown by two of my classmates, a round of miniature golf and jello shots “caddied” by two of my classmates, and one week’s worth of Whole Foods groceries delivered to my doorstep. This weekend, I cashed in my on my week’s supply of Whole Foods and now my refrigerator is overflowing with fresh produce. Choose My Plate would be proud.

The Holiday Ball: The Holiday Ball for BGiA has been hands-down, one of my favorite events to date. Not only was it an incredible social event, but it was a friendly reminder that it’s not all about “increasing shareholder value” (gasp). Having had so much fun at the last charity ball, I am excited about another upcoming charity gala. Tomorrow evening, Darden’s National Association of Women MBAs is throwing the 22nd Annual Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE) Gala and silent auction. The proceeds go to support SHE, an organization that provides a variety of services in support of domestic violence victims. Here at Darden, it’s April all year round!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Time for Term 4

I always suspected that Charlottesville abided by its own weather code. And now I have proof. The other day, I was driving down to Charlottesville from Washington, DC and when I was ten miles outside of town, this was the view from my car:

Spending the past few weeks away from Charlottesville with family and friends outside of the Darden community was healthy and rejuvenating. After the amount of time and effort I put into the first semester, I felt like I had earned a winter vacation. Returning reenergized to Charlottesville, it’s time to kick off my fourth term as a Darden first-year.

Of course, an abrupt cold-turkey separation from Darden would have presented its challenges, so here are two ways Darden played a role in my winter break.

Job Trek in Washington, DC: Thanks to the effort of one of my classmates, Darden students interested in consulting had the privilege of visiting nine different consulting firms in Washington, DC. This was a fantastic networking opportunity that provided us with great insights into the inner workings of various consulting offices.

Interview Preparation with Classmates: While many might not find this fun, I really enjoyed setting up Skype sessions with my classmates to assist in our interview preparation. After spending nearly every waking hour of a semester with Darden friends, it was a good excuse to catch up with my classmates scattered around the world for the holidays. Over the next few weeks we'll be putting this preparation to use as we interview for summer internships.